The Yoga Sutras state, “When the practitioner is firmly established in continence, knowledge, vigor, valor, and energy flow to him.”
Today, Gates talked about the yama of brahmacarya, or to “walk with God.” Although this yama is often translated as chastity, it’s more of a call to practice moderation, or temperance, in every aspect of our lives. As example, Gates points out that an inventory into different aspects of our lives will shed light on where we could use more brahmacarya. For example, does food (or sex, or exercise, or time management, etc) fill me with “valor, vigor, knowledge and energy?” Or is it cause for anxiety, stress, or obsession?
I spent most of my teens and early 20’s obessed with food and exercise. Eating too much, exercising too little, then vise-versa, to the point of ill-health. And while I can’t pin-point the exact moment of change, I can tell you that my transformation into a state of moderation and good health around food and exercise came when three things happened: I started practicing yoga, I moved away from the mountains and next to the ocean and I started meditating.
Practicing yoga was the first physical activity I’ve participated in that directly improved my body image. Most of the sports I participated in were very competitive and results-based, and although I’d feel strong at certain points, there was always a failure looming somewhere up ahead. The result was that my body wasn’t strong enough, thin enough, fast enough. In yoga, there is no finish line, so my body was always just enough. My husband even noticed the difference in my body image and encouraged me to keep practicing.
I lived in the mountains for the first 25 years of my life, and it’s the place I truly call home. But just as different physical activities or sports have different energies, so do different geographical locations. Take the two sports, football and dance, as extreme examples. Football has a decidedly masculine energy around it, whereas dance often has a more powerful feminine energy. When I lived in the mountains, especially Montana, there was a very masculine energy about the place that drove me to use and abuse my physical body in the desire to “keep up and be hard-core.” My body was always tired and sore. When I moved to the ocean, this desire all but left me. While I still felt the desire to do the activities I loved, such as mountain biking and running, I didn’t over-do them, and so enjoyed them even more.
The final key for me finding moderation with food and exercise was when I started meditating. Meditation was the positive feedback mechanism my body needed to find moderation. When I meditated, I began to open up to clairvoyance, and began to analyze my physical body less and less. The less I analyzed my body and the food I ate, the more my clairvoyance opened up, and so on and so forth.
There are other aspects of my life that need moderation–consumption, for one. But I do believe in the truth of brahmacarya–that energy, vigor, and knowledge will flow to me when I’m fully established in continence–because I’ve seen it happen already.