Yama 4 & 5: Brahmacharya and Aparigraha

I found these wonderful descriptions on the Open Mind Body website – a resource for yoga students and teachers!

Brahmacharya is the fourth of the 10 yoga ethics – it is often described as moderation. However, literally translated, it means “to remain connected to source”, or “dedication to the Divinity of Life”. In this sense, moderation is not about any inherent value in denying yourself pleasure. It is really about not squandering your energy on things that distract you from a higher purpose. So, to practice brahmacharya, it can be more helpful to think about the intention to stay connected to source, than to focus solely on restricting your behavior. If you can find your connection to source, your cravings for “lesser” distractions and addictions will naturally become less compelling.

Some teachers and traditions translate brahmacharya as celibacy, although this translation seems related to the historical practice of teaching yoga to young men. Celibacy can be one expression of brahmacharya, but it is a rather limited form of brahmacharya. Sexual behavior is just one way we can distract ourselves and waste our energy.

Aparigraha is the fifth yama described in the Yoga Sutras, and it is often translated as “non-hoarding”.  Like with the other yamas, it is easy – and somewhat distracting – to focus on the behavior and not the intention. The practice of aparigraha is not about giving up all your possessions. It is about giving up the belief that your happiness depends on your ability to hold on to what you think you “own”.  What you think you own is not just your material belongings, but your time, your relationships, your memories, and your beliefs. When you have freedom from this belief, it is almost irrelevant what you actually own or possess.

So, aparigraha can also be translated as “non-attachment”, which more accurately captures the intention to let go of the fear and clinging associated with trying to protect what we own, or protect ourselves against loss.
That wraps up our information on the Yamas – the moral codes/ethical disciplines.

Questions?  Comments….. please help us keep our blog interactive….. we will be posting so much more in 2011 and we are excited to have your contibutions!




Wrapping up our posts of the History of Yoga

The Yoga Sutras, written by Sage Patanjali, around 200 CE, include many of the same spiritual practices of the Upanishads (Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dhyana, Dharana, Samadhi) and the Bhagavad Gita (knowledge, devotion, action) as well as Buddhism (5 Rules – avoid killing, stealing, lying improper sex conduct and intoxicants and Eight Fold Path – living a life of the right intention, speech, actions, livelihood, efforts, mindfulness and concentration).

We’ve been weaving in the Yoga Sutras with all the postings and will continue to do that.  Still to come – the remaining Yamas that we have not written about (Brahmacharya, Aparigraha) and the NiYamas (Saucha, Samtosa, Tapas, Svadhyaya and Isvara Pranidhana).  The English translation for these are below in a post Sharon wrote on October 1st.

Lots of news coming for the New Year and our anniversary in February.

Stay Tuned …. and thanks for taking the journey with us.

Love, Sharon & Maureen



The Hindu religion is so old that there is not any actual written record of the beginnings, but it is believed that the faith originated in the Indus Valley, now Pakistan The Vedic-Hindu religion is one of polytheism (supporting numerous gods but with one supreme existence, Brahman) and also includes the belief in reincarnation, which is defined as a continuous cycle of birth, death and rebirth presided over by karma. Simply put, there is no beginning and no end to the universe just repeated cycles.

The world view of the Vedic-Hindu religion as it emerged from ancient India was principal based and to get a better understanding we can review Vedic literatures such as: The Vedas, The Upanishads and The Bhagavad-Gita.

Religious Scriptures

1. The Vedas considered the oldest religious scriptures in the world (1900 – 1400 BCE) are a collection of mantras and hymns that were passed down through written (Sanskrit) texts dating back 2,500-5,000 years ago.  The Vedas are characterized by rituals and ceremonies that help to transcend the limitations of the mind.  The 4 Vedic texts known today: Rig Veda (knowledge of praise), Yajur-Veda (knowledge of sacrifice), Sama-Veda (knowledge of chants), Atharva-Veda (knowledge of Atharvan – a legendary sage of Hinduism). The Vedas became the cultural authority for new migrants to South Asia. (Tignor)

2. The Upanishads, the core Hindu scriptures and part of the Vedas, educate on the importance of Braham (universal spirit) and the Atman (individual self). The Upanishads not only influenced Hindu philosophy, they were/are one of the most influential writings ever by creating cultural unity. (Tignor 168) The Upanishads also introduced the Six Fold Yoga Path which utilizes the combined disciplines of Pranayama (breath control)-Pratyahara (withdrawal from senses)-Dhyana (meditation)-Dharana (concentration)-Tarka (contemplation)-Samadhi (self realization). Other disciplines of Hindu philosophy are path of action and reaction (karma), the path of knowledge of the scriptures and the path of devotion.

3. Bhagavad-Gita (Song of God)  is the sixth book in a series of eighteen included in “The Mahabharata” a Hindu epic poem. It recounts the story of the Vedic people and serves as a guide of direction in Hindu philosophy, it builds on the Upanishads.  Studying of the Bhagavad Gita allows one to come to a point of realization and self awareness. In fact it is read daily by many devout Hindus. The Bhagavad Gita has literally thousands of translations available, the book I happen to own  is An Ordinary Life Transformed by Reverend Stephanie Rutt. The Bhagavad Gita is the story of feuding cousins: of course there is one good (Arjuna) and one evil. Arjuna is guided by Lord Krishna (supreme wisdom/god) in the battle of emotional discomposure. It is a story of human conditions; duty, actions vs. reactions (karma), devotion and wisdom. It is no mistake that these are also the world views of the ancient Vedic-Hindu religion.

Of course these are very general over views of the Vedas, the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita but each has had a profound impact on Indian history, culture and philosophy creating a unity of spirituality and point of view of the ancient Vedic-Hindu religion. I mention them because I feel they also give us a good understanding of the values and world views of the Vedic-Hindu people.  Hinduism, the oldest religion now has approximately 800 million followers and over time has evolved into more of a way of life than a religion for many followers.

As usual comments and corrections accepted……….