The 3 Pillars of Life: Brahmacharya

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Over the last few months I have been exploring the theme of the 3 Pillars—right diet, sleep, and brahmacharya—in my classes and personal practice to help ease into this new fall season with a stronger commitment to my self-care and Ayurveda. My first article in this trilogy emphasized diet and introduced you to the Ayurvedic term agni, which describes your digestive fire; it included a few recipes to enhance your digestion if it is weak or irregular. The second article highlighted sleep and offered some practical tips on how to improve your sleep with self-care practices and diet.

This month, I will shed some light on brahmacharya as well as creativity and their role in upholding the three pillars. Brahmacharya is traditionally a practice that emphasizes management of one’s sexual energy. From the yogic perspective, excessive sexual activity will weaken or exhaust your vital energy. Now just to be clear, the idea of brahmacharya is not to make us all monks or withdraw completely from all sexual activity—it’s actually to raise your awareness that engaging in too much sexual activity will reduce your shukra (sexual energy, reproductive fluids), which is necessary to build ojas. Ojas is the word Ayurvedic practitioners use to describe the most refined by-product that is created by the food we consume after it is digested to build up our tissues (dhatus: fluids, blood, muscle, fat, bone, nervous system, reproductive fluids). Excessive sex and stress will deplete ojas in the sperm and ovum as well as curtail ojas from entering the heart. Ojas is technically not considered a tissue of the body; it’s more like the strength or quality intrinsic to a tissue that gives you vigor, strengthens your immune system, provides stability to the body and mind, and keeps you juicy and plump like a newborn baby.

The Ayurvedic yogis believe that reproductive fluids are the final step in a 30-day process that creates the dhatus; as noted above, these fluids are one of the dhatus and are the ones that are produced last. Unfortunately, during the thirty days, many factors can compromise the production of the dhatus; if this occurs then it will lead to a depletion of ojas, contributing to the reduction of vigor, immunity, radiant glow, and longevity we naturally desire. Yet, if all goes well through the stages of food to dhatus transformation, our tissues will be strong and we will feel a surplus of energy that moves us to create or be creative on a regular basis.

What creative outlets do you have in your daily life? What do you love to do in your free time? In my opinion, responding to the urge to create when it arises is one of the most loving things you can do for soul. If brahmacharya is part of your regular practice, there will be a surplus of energy to explore in life, perhaps to ignite your next poem, photograph, or song. With too much sexual activity or stress it’s not uncommon to lose your libido or urge to be creative. As daunting as it might sound to add one more practice to your already busy life, I find that the rhythm of daily creative practice becomes its own habit and therefore grows easier over time.

As we head into the cooler, darker fall and winter seasons that invite us into the warmth of our homes, we’re provided with a great opportunity to evaluate our relationship to brahmacharya and creativity. Trust that whatever amount of creative time arises each day is the right amount. It’s the intention that counts. Trust that there is room in your day to practice and that you deserve this creative time. Antoine de Saint-Exupery has said, “A single new habit can awaken within us a stranger totally unknown to us.” This was my personal experience as I discovered and danced with this beautiful new stranger, who was truly none other than creative facets of the unexplored me. If you are ready to meet and embrace the creative divine in you, I invite you to undertake a daily creative ritual. Just as much as we need good food and sleep to be healthy and productive, I believe we also need to have space to do what we love in order to feel our best.



Yoga for a Broken Heart

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I have spent the past two years using yoga alongside therapy to heal my emotional wounds. Suffering from pelvic pain, my asana practice revealed to me that my physical pain was a manifestation of my emotional pain. Once I released that, my pain subsided and I was able to cancel an impending surgery. I have seen numerous times in my practice and in my teaching that pain in the heart and the body can be helped or healed through yoga. Through my healing journey, my teaching has evolved to a more heart-centered approach; one that focuses on the connection between the mind, body, and heart and the belief that they are constantly striving toward wholeness.

Here are a few of the techniques that I’ve used in my own life and teaching.

  1. Use affirmations with Sun Salutations

Bathe your body in the truth of who you are. Each inhale say “I am”, each exhale say the affirmation (silently or aloud). Do one Sun Salutation per affirmation below.

  1. Imagine red light at the base of the pelvis and say the words I AM SAFE
  2. Orange at low abdomen, I AM CONFIDENT
  3. Yellow at upper abdomen, I AM POWERFUL
  4. Bright green at heart center, I AM LOVING
  5. Pale blue at base of throat, I AM TRUTHFUL
  6. Deep blue between eyebrows, I AM WISE
  7. Violet above the head, I AM WHOLE
  8. White in the space slightly higher above the head, I AM FREE
  9. Soak in the effects of washing your body and mind in truth
  10. Talk to Your Pain

When you feel physical pain, silently ask the pain what it is trying to tell you. Give it a chance to speak – tell it you’re listening. Sometimes it helps to practice asana, journal, draw, or go for a walk during this process.

  1. Ground the feet down and open the heart up

Use standing and balance poses to help you feel grounded and present. Practice chest openers to help you keep your heart open. Interlace your fingers at your back, hug your shoulder blades and elbows together, reach the knuckles toward the floor, and lift the sternum and side ribs up. Do this as often as possible to help you keep your heart open to life and joy.

  1. Keep your heart soft

Pain can cause you to close up. To help you stay open, place your right middle finger on your heart center and gently and slowly massage. In that spot, imagine a beautiful ray of light breaking through the clouds. Choose a quality of love that resonates for you, and imagine that quality shining brightly. Any time you need to remember this place of love and peace deep within you, put the right middle finger there gently.

Brokenness and pain are part of being alive. Owning that pain and dropping into it is how we begin to heal.

What to Do When You’re Not on Your Mat

Gaia’s The Yogi’s Heart series can help you open and heal your heart.

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