vinyasa yoga teacher trainingBy: Virginia Iversen, M.Ed

Although Brahmacharya usually refers to sexual abstinence, it can also refer more broadly to the conservation of one’s energy. Within this Yogic framework, the spiritual seeker is guided to focus all of his or her energy towards the ultimate goal of knowing God. By necessity, this entails letting go of thoughts, emotional states and actions that pull us away from the pulsation of divinity within our own beings. Negative thoughts and states of being dampen our energy, create physical tension and prevent us from feeling the bliss of being alive.

The practice of energy conservation or Brahmacharya is one of the foundational restraints espoused by Pantanjali in his Yoga Sutras. If a Yogi or Yogini follows Pantanjali’s recommendations with focus and dedication over an extended period of time, he or she will begin to release layers of darkness and negativity that often separate one from the experience of the divine. One of the very first rungs on the ladder of Brahmacharya is to refrain from all self-harming behavior, both physical and emotional.

For example, in the context of a Yoga class, a student may feel an inner insistence to practice postures that are beyond his or her current level of ability. This could lead to an experience of frustration, failure or even injury, setting the student several steps further back in his or her Yoga practice. On the other hand, pressure to practice postures or pranayama exercises that are beyond a student’s ability may come from the Yoga teacher. If you are teaching a Yoga class, it is very important to be aware of your students’ physical and emotional limitations and refrain from pushing them past their current level of ability.

By honoring your Yoga students’ edge, you will be engaging in the ancient practice of Brahmacharya. You will also be modeling this profound practice of energy conservation for your students. In turn, this honoring will allow your students to feel safe, protected and honored during class. This will create an atmosphere that will allow their bodies to relax and open more fully during class. From this vantage point, a Yoga practitioner can more freely choose to walk the razor’s edge between engaging in a challenging asana practice while simultaneously refraining from self-harming behavior, even in its most subtle forms.

The awareness and discipline of Brahmachary