Moderation, self-restraint, the middle road; they can sometimes feel rather boring. Living for extremes in sensual pleasures could be fun in the short term, but will not ultimately bring happiness; wanting, wanting, wanting leaves us unsatisfied. This area of yoga philosophy relates to the Yama Brahmacharya. Orthodox yogis interpret Brahmacharya to mean celibacy or exercising appropriate sexual moderation. Ancient yogis found that they had more energy and focus when they remained celibate like modern athletes abstaining from sex before their event. In Australia now we could include food obsession, sugar addiction, over-consumption of alcohol, problem gambling and internet addiction into the pool of sensual pleasures taken too far. Beyond simple health considerations, moderation is very much about energy conservation rather than being a goody-goody for the sake of it. When we are less at the mercy of our senses we swing around less in our emotions. We are focussed on being present, rather than searching and consuming and searching again. Moderating the extremes, reminds us that our life is precious and if we use our energy wisely we’ll have a greater chance of peace and contentment.
As usual applying the Yamas in their wider interpretation is easier said than done. For many of us it’s so much easier to go cold turkey (increasing the chance of relapse), or not try at all.
Has this ever been you in a yoga pose? Go to the extreme of a pose (even though you have been given progressive versions), attempt to hold it for as long as everyone else while wobbling, tensing, gritting your teeth, holding your breath, only to fall out of it and come out of it in a little huff. Doing a pose in this way means it’s over faster, you haven’t had to think or explore, and you have just reinforced to yourself that you can’t do it. By taking the middle road, testing the pose bit by bit, holding the “easy” version and then exploring some extension you will grow in your ability…you have progressed from exercise and party tricks to yoga.