Brahmacharya Yoga Flow: Yoga Class Plan for Moderation
By: Steph Ball-Mitchell, E-RYT-500, RPYT, RCYT, YACEP
This Brahmacharya Yoga Flow is designed to teach the importance of the fourth yama, moderation. Brahmacharya is all about the concept that too much of a good thing is a bad thing. It is our fourth yama from the eight-limb path of yoga.
You may have come to yoga through the physical practice of yoga, but it is likely the yoga philosophy that hooked your interest and drew you in a bit deeper. In yoga philosophy, we know that this practice is based on the eight-limb path as explained to us in Patanjali's Yoga Sutras. The first of the eight limbs are our yamas.
The Yamas are the first limb of the Eight Limbs of Yoga, which is a framework for living a more meaningful and fulfilling life. If you'd like to have the yamas explained, we recommend reading our article on the yamas. The Yamas consist of five ethical principles or moral guidelines that are intended to guide us in our interactions with others and the world around us. They include:
Ahimsa (non-violence): This Yama encourages us to avoid causing harm to others, whether it be physically, emotionally, or mentally. It also includes refraining from harming ourselves, whether through self-criticism or unhealthy habits. Be sure to try our Ahimsa Yoga Flow.
Satya (truthfulness): This Yama encourages us to speak and live in truth. It includes being honest with ourselves and others, and avoiding deception or falsehood. Check out our Satya Yoga Flow when you have time.
Asteya (non-stealing): This Yama encourages us to refrain from taking that which is not freely given. It includes avoiding theft or deception, as well as being respectful of others' time, energy, and attention. We think you'll enjoy our Asteya Yoga Flow.
Brahmacharya (moderation): This Yama encourages us to practice moderation and self-control in all areas of life. It includes avoiding excess, whether it be in food, drink, or other pleasures, and cultivating a sense of balance and harmony.
Aparigraha (non-attachment): This Yama encourages us to avoid clinging to material possessions or attachments, and to cultivate a sense of contentment and gratitude in all aspects of life. It includes avoiding greed, jealousy, and the desire for power or status. Try our Aparigraha Yoga Flow to learn more.
The Yamas are intended to guide us in our relationships with others and the world around us, and to help us cultivate a deeper sense of inner peace and harmony. By practicing the Yamas, we can create a more harmonious and balanced world, and cultivate a greater sense of personal and social responsibility.
Brahmacharya is the fourth of the five Yamas, which are ethical principles or moral guidelines in yoga. The word "Brahmacharya" is derived from two Sanskrit words, "Brahma" meaning "ultimate reality" or "God," and "charya" meaning "conduct" or "practice." Together, they translate to "conduct that leads to the realization of the ultimate reality."
In the context of the Yamas, brahmacharya is often translated as "moderation" or "self-control." It encourages us to practice restraint and moderation in all areas of life, including physical, emotional, and mental pursuits.
Brahmacharya includes avoiding excess in food, drink, and other physical pleasures, as well as cultivating a sense of balance and harmony in our relationships and interactions with others. It also involves practicing self-control and mindfulness in our thoughts and emotions, and avoiding excessive indulgence in sexual activity.
The practice of brahmacharya is intended to help us cultivate a greater sense of self-awareness, discipline, and inner peace. By practicing self-control and moderation, we can develop a greater sense of clarity and focus, and avoid being distracted or overwhelmed by our desires and impulses. By practicing brahmacharya, we can develop a greater sense of self-awareness and live a more balanced and fulfilling life.
When I think about creating a yoga sequence for Brahmacharya, a few things come up for me. Brahmacharya is all about moderation and not overindulging. It's the concept that no matter how good something is, too much of it can cause it to work against us. It seems a Brahmacharya Yoga Flow should be all about practicing in a way that is gentle, and not maxing ourselves out in every posture. Just because we can doesn't mean we should. Sometimes it might be ok to skip that last vinyasa and opt for child's pose instead.
These are some of my favorite yoga poses for Brahmacharya that help me to appreciate the right use of energy:
From plank pose or downward facing dog, step the right foot in between the hands and lower the left knee to the ground. On an inhale, lift the torso and send the arms up overhead. Keep the chest lifted and the shoulders rolling open and send the gaze up. As you exhale, you may choose to bring the hands to Anjali mudra at heart center or bring them onto the right thigh for support. Hold the posture for 3-5 breaths and send your awareness to the hip flexors as they lengthen. Keep the chest open. When you're ready to come out of the pose, drop the hands back down to the ground on either side of the right foot and step back into downward facing dog pose or high plank. Be sure to repeat on both sides.
To modify the pose, you can place a block or cushion under your knee for support, or use your hands to support your weight rather than lifting your arms up overhead.
From low lunge with the right foot in front, bring the hands to heart center. Twist towards the right and bring the left hand to the outer right knee/right thigh area as you place the right hand on the right hip. If you feel an urge to go deeper, you can hook the left elbow over the right knee if that feels good. Remember that we are practicing this yoga sequence for Brahmacharya and you don't have to go as far as you can. Lengthen on the inhales and twist the tiniest bit deeper on the exhales. Come back to center to release, returning to low lunge. Be sure to repeat on the other side.
As we move through this Brahmacharya Yoga Flow, we want to take things slow and not bite off more than we need in our practice. Once you've moved through low lunge and twisting low lunge, you may be ready to rise into high lunge. From low lunge with the right foot forward, tuck the back left toes and begin to lift the back knee away from the earth. Keep the right knee bent at about a 90 degree angle, making sure that the knee does not pass the toe. Stay strong through both legs, with the weight equally distributed. Send your awareness to the legs, your foundation, and know that you are strengthening the front leg while lengthening the back leg. Send the arms up overhead and keep the chest open. Bend the front leg only to your own degree, practicing the right use of your energy. Be sure to practice on both sides.
From High Lunge pose, begin to shift the weight forward into the front foot and a little light in the back foot as you get a little buoyancy in the pose. Begin to shift forward and lift the back leg away from the ground to your own degree. Keep the spine long and straight. Start moving the body towards parallel with the earth, to whatever extent feels right in your body. Remember that we are practicing moderation and the correct use of energy in our Brahmacharya Yoga Flow so there's no need to push yourself too far. You can bring the hands to the heart, send the arms out in front of you or extend them to the sides. Hold the pose for about 5 breaths before dropping back into High Lunge. Be sure to practice on both sides.
From Low Lunge, step back to downward facing dog and drop down on the knees into tabletop. From tabletop, bring the big toes together and spread the knees wide apart. Begin to sit back towards the heels. Let the forehead rest on the earth and extend the arms out long in front of you. If you feel unsupported, you can always bring a block or a stack of blankets underneath the hips. You can also bring a block underneath the head, or even a blanket. Some people prefer a more restorative version of child's pose with a bolster.
Pranayama can be used to cultivate a sense of moderation in several ways. First, it helps us develop greater awareness of our breath and our body. By paying attention to our breath and its rhythms, we can begin to tune in to the subtle sensations in our body and become more attuned to our physical and emotional states.
Second, pranayama can help us cultivate a greater sense of calm and balance in the mind. By focusing on the breath and slowing it down, we can calm our thoughts and emotions, and cultivate a sense of inner peace and stillness.
Here is one of my favorite pranayama practices for Brahmacharya:
Kapalabhati is a breathing technique that involves quick, forceful exhales through the nose, with passive inhales. There's a bit of a snap in the belly as you exhale. This practice can help energize the body and mind, and cultivate a sense of focus and clarity. We get to choose our own pace and use of energy in this practice which helps to bring about that sense of using our energy correctly. To learn more about Kapalabhati and other breathwork practices, try our Pranayama Teacher Training Online.
I really like Prana Mudra for Brahmacharya. Prana Mudra is a hand gesture or "seal" used in yoga and other spiritual practices. The word "prana" means "life force" or "vital energy," and this mudra is believed to help activate and balance the flow of prana in the body. How appropriate for a Brahmacharya yoga sequence because we are working to moderate the use of our energy.
To practice prana mudra, find a comfortable seat. Keep your spine straight, and relax your shoulders. Bring your tips of your thumb, ring finger, and little finger together, while keeping your index and middle fingers straight. Hold the mudra for several minutes, focusing on your breath and the flow of energy in the body.
Prana mudra is believed to have several benefits for the mind, body, and spirit. It is said to help balance the flow of energy in the body, enhance vitality and stamina, and boost the immune system. It is also believed to help calm the mind, reduce stress and anxiety, and enhance mental clarity and focus.
Prana mudra can be practiced by anyone, regardless of their level of experience with yoga or meditation. It can be practiced at any time of day, and is particularly useful for those who feel fatigued, stressed, or emotionally imbalanced.
Om somaye namaha is helpful for Brahmacharya because it summons the soma, or the nectar that drips from the moon in yoga mythology. This nectar washes off any tension or stress that we're feeling and gets rid of all that makes us feel drained, leaving us revitalized. It helps to balance out our energy.