The Holy month of Ramadan is just a few days away. It is a month of introspection, devotion, self-discipline and fasting.
The Arabic word for “fasting” (sawm) literally means “to refrain” – and it means not only refraining from food and drink, but from evil actions, thoughts, and words. Fasting reminds us of how fortunate we are to have an abundance of food and shelter, and helps us cultivate empathy and compassion for those less fortunate. By sacrificing the comforts on which we may rely on for superficial happiness, fasting strengthens our commitment to spiritual values and inspires us to devote our lives to a greater purpose.
While our Muslim brothers and sisters take an entire month out of their lives to observe this strict fast and rededicate themselves to worship and faith, it is a great time for us to observe “Brahmacharya” which translates to non-excess.
We live in a culture of excess. We overdo food, work, social media, entertainment, material possessions, exercise and for some, relaxation too. As we become aware of the ways in which we indulge in excess, it is important to realise that non-excess does not mean a lack of enjoyment.
Brahmacharya invites us to be purely in each moment. In order to practice non-excess, to become present, we need to become aware of the things that dull our experience and our ability to be present; when we become aware, we can take steps to change the behaviour. We can’t change anything that we’re not aware of, and in order to become aware, we simply need to start noticing. A classic example is when we find ourselves too full after a meal. We are so used to doing things too fast because we want to finish or go through so much stuff in a day. Taking time to fully enjoy each bite and pausing in between allows us to fully enjoy the moment while allowing our body to recognize when it has had just enough. We feel more energized and healthier when we live a life of “presence” that results in non-excess.
The practice of brahmacharya is a reminder that if we use our energy wisely, we possess the resources to live a fulfilling life.
“Brahmacharya” on our Mats
Brahmacharya teaches us to use the minimum energy to achieve the maximum result on our mats. For example not using small muscles to do the work of large muscles, and to bring our minds into the poses so that our bodies do not become fatigued.
In all poses, bringing awareness to keep the engagement of our abdomen actually conserves the life force. By dropping the lower belly, we splatter our life force out in front of us. Once conserved, this pelvic energy can be channeled up to the heart. By lifting the pelvic energy toward the heart centre, the home of our inner most self, our practice achieves balance and lightness.
Next time you come to class, incorporate the practice of Brahmacharya and let us know how it feels differently.