This fall I was named as the very first ambassador at the yoga studio where I practice. Sure the free swag has been a pretty cool perk, but the most meaningful part of being has been the blogging requirement. I was asked to write about the yama or practice that the studio was focusing on each month. In wanting to live up to the expectation that my blog posts would be both amusing and informative, I resorted to doing a little bit of research each month. November’s practice was Brahmacharya, which translates to “going after Brahman (Supreme Reality, Self or God). Naturally when I read this, I was all like “huh?” So I continued to read and discovered that this practice is rooted in the idea of celibacy. Oh boy. Apparently, yogis are expected to remain celibate so as to repurpose all that sexual energy into energy that propels them along their yogic path. Yikes. Furthermore, I read that any use of energy for fleeting pleasures is strongly discouraged. Um excuse me? Now that’s just going too far…or so I thought. How in the world could I possibly endorse that month’s practice with a straight face? Me – the chick who loves junk food (fleeting pleasure), irreverent sitcoms (fleeting pleasure), scrolling through memes on Instagram (fleeting pleasure). I’m like the poster child for fleeting pleasures!
I knew that I had to continue my research. I had to find a more abstract way of approaching this topic. Finally I found something, an article that helped it all click for me.
In this article titled The Yamas: Brahmacharya: Right Use of Energy, Emma Newlyn attempts to explain that, “regarding Brahmacharya as ‘right use of energy’ leads us to consider how we actually use and direct our energy. Brahmacharya also evokes a sense of directing our energy away from external desires – you know, those pleasures which seem great at the time but are ultimately fleeting – and instead, towards finding peace and happiness within ourselves.” Hmmmm. I was starting to feel like I could get on board. I continued to read as she explained that slowing down, “will not only allow your body and mind to take a much needed break, but you’ll be much more aware of how you’ve been using your energy that day. As we mentioned earlier – listen to your body! Think about where you’re directing your energy – is it helpful or hurtful? Be aware of how you feel physically and energetically when you’re in certain situations – do some people drag your energy down? Do others make you light up? Is there something you love doing that really gives you a boost? (For most of us yes, it’s probably yoga!) Whatever your day-to-day schedule includes, become aware of not just what you do, but how you do it, and how it affects you.” DAMN! Ok Emma; I hear you guurrrl. Apparently focusing on Brahmacharya is exactly what I need and perhaps exactly what YOU need too.
So here are my two big take aways after reading this article that I highly recommend.
1. Mindfulness is so incredibly important. We could all stand to be more mindful when it comes to eating, drinking, working, playing, socializing, exercising, interacting – EVERYTHING! Now I personally don’t think a full blown mindfulness overhaul of my life would go particularly well. I think I’d more than likely be left naked and afraid, quite literally. However, baby steps. I am currently working on being more mindful with how I spend my free time. Specifically, I really want to cut back on my screen time. So, instead of having my phone attached to me at all times, I have started leaving my phone in one set location when I’m home so that I am not constantly drawn to the dings, lights, and that unrelenting magnetic force that pulls my finger to the screen to SCROLL.
2. When things are getting a little tumultuous, try first searching inward for what it is you need (to be happy, to be healthy, to be successful, to be whole), before immediately looking to something outside of yourself. I will be the first to admit that I’ve spent pretty much my whole life doing the opposite. Whenever I feel anxious, sad, or some other unpleasant feeling I rush to someone or something to try and get rid of the feeling. I am really going to try to start sitting with those unpleasant feelings now, and listen to myself and have faith that I have everything I need inside me to heal.
I find that one of the most comforting places to be when you are trying to be mindful and trying to look inward is on your yoga mat. Anyone who talks to me on a regular basis knows that yoga has absolutely changed my life, and is still changing my life. It is because of yoga that I have the confidence to travel down this road of mind/body/soul transformation. The more time I spend on my mat the less time I spend worrying, fretting, distracting, avoiding, self-sabotaging, and a myriad of other nasty habits I’ve picked up along the way.