As I started to revisit the fourth Yama, brahmacharya, or lack of excess, I reread what I had written in my blog last year.I I started to read articles finding myself drawn to several I had already read. I also revisited T.K.V. Desikachar (in my fave book The Heart of Yoga).
This Yama is one that can get a lot of yogis excited. Some believe the most traditional definition as “celibacy”. Most take a more holistic view. Translating and living the Sutras can produce as many opinions and interpretations as the bible does. There are the literalists who think of the bible as a black and white manual for living and there are others who think of it as a series of writings which can be taken in the context of modern times. Still others think of the writings as fables or metaphors on life. I do not think there is a wrong answer.
This week we focus on the fourth Yama, Brahmacharya. It has many definitions ranging from the most traditional translation on in the Sutras of celibacy or a more generally, moderation or the lack of excess. Iyengar and Desikachar spoke about the practice of brahmacharya as being a true and honest partner in a monogamous relationship. When the “mind is freed from domination by the senses, sensory pleasures are replaced by inner joy” (Rolf Sovik).
One of the translations I read says brahmacharya translates to “walking in God-consciousness”. This can mean turning our mind inward, balancing the senses and leading us away from negative dependencies or cravings. It can mean the wise use of energy.
T.K.V. Desikachar in The Heart of Yoga talks about brahmacharya saying the “word is composed of the root car, which means “to move”, and the word brahma, which means “truth” in terms of the one essential truth. We can understand brahmacharya as movement toward the essential”. He later says that brahmacharya “suggests that we should form relationships that foster our understanding of the highest truths”.
I attach some readings below, they range from the most strict to the most open definitions. Interesting to discuss.
Nurturing Our Mind - Meditation on Brahmacharya – Lack of Excess
“Many illnesses can be cured exclusively by the remedy of love and compassion. These qualities are the ultimate source of happiness, and we need them in our innermost being”. – Dali Lama
“Rest when you’re tired. Take a break when life stales. Take time to recharge your batter. Energy isn’t something you have it is something you are. To give and give and give, to put out without taking in, depletes your battery. It drains you, runs you down.” – Melody Beattie
Our Practice – Child’s Pose - Balasana with Prana Mudra
I still love child’s pose to invoke brahmacharya. Interestingly, it is one of the hardest, and most uncomfortable asanas for me to practice (if practiced the traditional way) since my hip surgery. This week we will focus not only on the traditional approach, but will explore some modifications. I have mentioned before many people do not find this pose as nurturing and comfortable as others do (even when not recovering from injuries!).
Come into the pose:
Knees wide apart or together.
Possibly place a folded blanket under your hips if it is not comfortable to sink all the way down on your heels.
Perhaps place a block under your forehead if it does not comfortably come to the mat.
Breathe, sinking down and relaxing further
Add the Prana Mudra by extending your arms forward and bringing your thumb, ring, and pinky fingers on each hand to touch while lengthening the index and middle fingers. This gesture of Prana Mudra elicits the vitality that resides within our prana, or life force.
Many days this pose is enough. This inward insular posture activates the parasympathetic nerve system and can be calming and restorative. This is enough. We do not need more, there is no need for excess, right, here, and right now all is good.
Child’s pose is restorative and restful, it also gently stretches the hips, thighs and ankles. The pose can also be calming and help relieve stress and fatigue.
I loved an article about balasana by Renee Marie Schettler in Yoga Journal. In it she says:
“I didn’t understand Child’s Pose for the longest time. That is, I understood the mechanics of the pose, but I misunderstood its intent,” In my early years of practicing yoga, Child’s Pose was something the teacher told us to do when we were exhausted. I took it to be something that was an alternative option, something ‘less than’ the more challenging poses. While in Child’s Pose, I remained tensed and ready to pounce on the pose that followed. Only in recent years, after practicing more Yin, have I started to comprehend the innate and exquisite value in quiet and stillness and surrender, as well as the release and strength that proceeds from that.”
Nurturing with Food – Minestrone Soup
Soup is nurturing and warming and pairs well with thoughts of self care and child’s pose! We have been on a soup roll this winter. My husband went to Florida for a few weeks and, while I am a perfectly capable cook, he made the roasted root vegetable soup from last week’s blog before he left so I wouldn’t starve. This week I am making my old favorite, minestrone.
See you on the mat,