To accomplish anything we want in life we need focus, willpower, and self-control to stick with our intention. The Yoga Sutras tell us that by being ‘dedicated to self-control, great energy is gained.’ (Sutra ii.38) Let’s look a little deeper at how we can develop this essential life skill.
Brahmacharya has often been translated as renunciation or celibacy, and for those who have chosen a monastic life, this form of restraint is still their practice. The reason for restricting life force energy (prana) in certain categories of life, such as sexuality, is to have more available for one’s growth in another, such as spirituality. But for the householder yogi or average practitioner, the first step is simply to bring awareness to the habits and desires that deplete us on a daily basis so that we may become more self-controlled in our lives. This ensures that we will have enough inner resources for all that we want and need to do both materially and spiritually. Employing balance to find the right levels of work, play, creativity, and service, we moderate the exchange of giving and receiving energy with the world around us.
This Sutra on self-control (Brahmacharya) describes how our storehouse of life force energy will expand exponentially when we cultivate a moderate and balanced approach to life. We utilize prana differently for various activities. In our studies or creative pursuits we use mental energy. For exercise and household chores we need physical energy. For relationships and child rearing, we expend emotional energy. To harmonize all of these different ways of engaging with life, we need both vitality and temperance.
More is not always better. If we over spend our energy in any one of the above categories, remaining imbalanced for any length of time, we burn out from the accumulated stress that literally turns the internal nature of the body from alkaline to acidic, making it a breeding ground for disease. To maintain health and prevent physical imbalance, it is essential to learn not to deplete ourselves in useless ways, and to let go of unnecessary activities or relationships. By consciously monitoring the expenditure of our life force energy, we will be able to make wise choices for personal balance.
Try these exercises to increase your self-control today:
- Like your money, your energy account needs a budget. Notice where your personal energy management system needs re-balancing. Set appropriate boundaries.
- Check in periodically during your daily activities and ask yourself if what you are giving your time and attention to will matter in ten years. Prioritize the use of your precious life force energy.
- Make a list of all the projects you have that are incomplete. Decide whether you still wish to complete them. Commit a specific time frame to those that you do. Mentally delete the others. Employ self-control to accomplish your goals.
- Set a small goal and stick to it no matter what.
Excerpt from my book True Yoga: Practicing With the Yoga Sutras For Happiness and Spiritual Fulfillment © 2016 by Jennie Lee