Yama – Brahmacharya

The Yama’s and Niyama’s offer essential blueprints for any practitioner of yoga, quite simply they outline yoga’s moral and ethical codes for living. Patanjali codified this series of ethics very succinctly in his classic treatise ‘The Yoga Sutra’. Quite simply Yama’s are things you shouldn’t do (restraints) and Niyama’s are things you should do (observations)

The Yama’s comprise Ahimsa (non-violence), Satya (truth), Asteya (non-stealing), Brahmacharya (chastity, marital fidelity or sexual restraint) and Aparigraha (non-possessiveness)

The 4th Yama (brahmacharya) is quite pertinent at the moment considering revelations of sexual misconduct by some high profile men, the world of yoga hasn’t been spared. Photos of Pattabhi Jois indecently assaulting students under the guise of “alignment adjustment” have been well documented, the deeds of Bikram Choudhury are sickening. 

The concept of brahmacharya is very wide. It forms part of the ashrama or age based stages of human life, a component of this stage is celibacy. Another connotation of brahmacharya is the principle of celibacy when unmarried and fidelity when married in conjunction with leading an honourable and simple life. 

All very virtuous concepts and certainly not unreasonable behaviours. Undoubtedly when the principles of brahmacharya are not adhered to every other yama is breached. How can you possibly be considered a truthful and non-violent person if you’re not practising brahmacharya or being unfaithful in a relationship

Who sets the standards? Who judges? Society sets certain guidelines of acceptable behaviour but does the standard of society match the individual. Does karma play a role, it certainly has a balancing affect. Is self-assessment an adequate bench mark to determine yama compliance, probably not particularly if you don’t have a discerning mind. Individual thoughts and paradigms are developed over years of nature and nurture experiences. The mind’s “inner” critic with it’s cycle of negative and soul destroying dialogue can take people into a spiral of depressive thoughts and feelings of inadequacy. An over inflated ego can lead to feelings of superiority and a sense of entitlement, as the saying goes “Do what I say not what I do”. A person who berates and accuses the loudest and most often is usually doing the exact thing their accusing others of doing. Self assessment can be flawed due into individual belief systems.

The concepts of YAMA and NIYAMA will be just one topic of study offered in our upcoming yoga teacher training.

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