Yoga, as described in the yoga sutra, is made up of an eight fold path , each limb is meant to guide us to living a happier, more purposeful life in the now. The first limb of the eight fold path, yama, deals with one’s disciplined integrity in behavior, the ethics of cleaning up one’s act. Yama is social behavior, how you treat others and the world around you. These are moral principles. Sometimes they are called the don’ts or the thou-shalt-nots.
The fourth of the yamas is sometimes mistranslated to celibacy, making it feel a bit unnecessary and old-fashioned. Ancient Hindus (the rishis) divided life into four parts, the first one covering the first 25 years of your life when you were meant to focus on your studies, mainly studies of the self. This was called Brahmacharya, a part of this included celibacy and when you reached the age of 25 your family and married life would take over and sex would be natural in this part of life.
However, ‘Brahma’ translates to infinity, and ‘Charya’ means moving. Meaning that you are moving in infinity, you are not just your body, the more in tune you are with yourself, your mind and nature the less you feel the tension of your physical body.
Have you ever heard that if you are trying to overcome a craving, for example sugar or cigarettes, a quick walk in the fresh air or just waiting five more minutes before giving in might help curb the need?
Brahmacharya is all about ‘the right use of energy’. So in
stead of giving in to our bodies cravings, like junk food, alcohol or even sex we focus our energy on improving and getting to know ourselves.
Take some time to figure out what you are spending your energy on, do you worry or over think things? Or do you spend a lot of time trying to present a perfect life to everyone else? The stress that this gives us is wasted energy that we could have spent on working on ourselves, becoming healthier and happier.
When we’re unhappy or fearful, our bodies respond by switching onto our ‘flight or fight mode’, which heightens our blood pressure, lowers our energy levels and weakens our immune system. When we’re happy and relaxed however, our nervous system switches on our healing mechanisms, which helps to keep our bodies in a vibrant and powerful state.
In yoga, we know that we should do what is right for our body, but sometimes we forget to listen to what it is telling us. If somethings felt great yesterday we obviously want to do the same today, but as our bodies changes from day-to-day we should adjust our practice accordingly.
It can be hard to know what is our body and what is our brain speaking (what is the actual truth, satya, and what is your opinion). A good way to find out is to ‘surprise’ your body and see how it feels.
In most yoga classes, there are a lot of different experience and energy levels in the room, so to accommodate everyone the teacher usually gives a few different options to the poses. If you for example always take the extra vinyasa, maybe rest in childspose once and see how your body responds. Was it just your ego telling you that you needed to flow or did your body prefer the movement?
On the other hand, if you usually take the childs
pose, see if you can step out of your comfort zone and take one extra vinyasa, just once and see if it feels like the right place to direct your energy.
This week’s classes will start off quite dynamic with a more yang practice, we will flow with our breath and warm up the body, and second half will turn into more of a yin practice. Even though the physical benefits from the slower paced yin yoga are greater when our muscles are cold, the psychological ones from slowing down at the end of our day and practice will last a long time.
Both practices might feel good or maybe one of them just won’t respond to what you want that day, and this will be the first step in learning to listen to what your body wants. By trying different things, we are basically asking our body what it wants and if we spend a couple of seconds we might even hear what it says back!