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Spiritual luminaries ranging from Mother Teresa to Ramakrishna to Mahatma Gandhi all practiced celibacy for at least some period of their lives.Gandhi went so far as to call life without celibacy "insipid and animal-like." But the thought that yogis shouldn't have sex-or at the very least should rein in their sexual energy-challenges our modern notions about both yoga and sex.(celibacy), which is touted as an important step along the pathway to enlightenment.Still resolutely committed 17 years later, Piper calls this practice the greatest spiritual gift she's ever been given.And the effect on my [spiritual practice] has been most profound. Let's just say there's definitely a good reason why all spiritual traditions recommend celibacy.Sex is great, but no sexual experience-and I've had a lot of them-could even come close to this." Piper is not alone in praising the transformational gifts of brahmacharya.Celibacy plays an important role in the yoga tradition-indeed, some would say, a critical one.The father of classical yoga, Patanjali, made brahmacharya one of the five [Chapter 11, verse 30] that all aspirants should adhere to.

These offer special exceptions for married yoga practitioners, for whom brahmacharya is understood as "chastity at the right time," Feuerstein says.

You are also not supposed to think sexually about the other gender-or the same gender, if that's your inclination. But these teachers also tell us that brahmacharya requires us to carefully consider the relationship between our lives on the yoga mat and our lives under the sheets. "First and foremost, it means being aware of your own sexuality, being clear about your feelings and needs at every moment.

So you restrict your sexuality to moments of intimacy with your spouse." Many of today's yoga masters have gone even further-indeed, some purists would say, too far-offering a modern interpretation that they say adheres to the intent if not the details of the traditional precept. I don't think one needs to be celibate in order to progress in yoga and spiritual practice, but I definitely think one has to be very careful and clear about the sexual choices one makes.

Today brahmacharya is often interpreted as moderation, monogamy, continence, or restraint. You're not going to be a whole healthy person unless you're whole and healthy in your sexuality." Lasater explains that in previous eras, celibacy was the only certain way to prevent parenthood, offering a pragmatic reason to require abstinence among those who devoted themselves to a spiritual path.

Since the literal translation of brahmacharya is "prayerful conduct," luminaries including B. "In other words, if I'm having a sexual relationship in the time of Patanjali, I'm going to have babies, I'm going to have a family, I'm going to become enmeshed in the world," she says.And it is touted as a way to transform our most primitive instinctual energies into a deeper, brighter vitality that promises good health, great courage, incredible stamina, and a very long life.