How can we understand Brahmacarya in the modern context?

A very important question that many Yoga teachers today ask is, “what is the real meaning of Brahmacarya”? The word brahmacarya  comes from the idea of moving towards Brahma or moving from Brahma which means from the divine.

In the traditional times when people practiced yoga they were often very young students. Parents would send the students to teachers already at the age of eight  and from the age of eight approximately they would stay till about the age of 20 or 25 years, studying with the teachers at the Gurukula and then they would become the teachers or practitioners of their own right. 

When you look at the age between eight and twenty five it is not only the significant time of learning but also very significant time of changes in the body. The hormones in the body changes and various desires are created. So in this context, the yogis said brahmacarya meant celibacy because the Brahma and this stage was focused on the learning and expansion of knowledge and the expansion of the potentials.  So when a person is very young, they said that brahmacarya meant celibacy. That means the connection between a person and the human being is not necessarily sexual in this time. It is a collegial student like environment under the Gurukula. 

In the modern context, this takes a different meaning because msot people come to yoga when they are adults. They already have a family or they are looking for a family.  In this time, in the second stage of life what brahmacarya was meant was a fiddle relationship with the partner. So here we can say it is a monotonous relationship between the partners or the relationship if it is open to all those concerned. There is no hiding, there is no secrets so there is expansion and the relationship is based on honesty, respect and trust. So in the modern context, when we interpret brahmacarya to Yoga students who are already coming to Yoga as adults. 

What we need to remember is that there is respect and dignity in their relationship with their partners. That is what is brahmacarya my friends, which is the basis of a healthy sexuality because sexuality is the very important and intimate part of relationship and it has to be based on respect and honesty. That is brahmacarya in today’s times my friends. 


Dr.Kausthub Desikachar – Viniyoga® Teacher

Dr.Kausthub Desikachar, a grandson of Acarya T Krishnamacharya and son of TKV Desikachar, is the CEO of Krishnamacharya Healing and Yoga Foundation, The World Wide Headquarters of Viniyoga® Tradition