Yama number four is Brahmacharya... We might translate it as ‘moving towards truth’ and in order to do so it is essential to practise self-restraint.
Sometimes Brahmacharya is viewed as ‘celibacy’ but it has a much wider meaning than this. When we truly practise self-restraint, we are once more seeking to subdue our desires, some of which may damage our physical bodies through abuse of certain foods, alcohol or drugs. When we practise Brahmachaya, we are looking instead for moderation in order to maintain optimum physical health. We are seeking to find balance in our lives, steady wisdom, avoiding huge mood swings, unhelpful obsessions and anything else which leads us to deviate from our pursuit of the truth.
Pure celibacy may not be advised until the ‘fourth stage of life’. The different stages of life can be viewed as follows: stage one is childhood, stage two is that of the student striving for knowledge and understanding, stage three is raising a family (so clearly celibacy is not involved!) and stage four is when the family have been raised and there is the opportunity to pursue the truth, to find spiritual fulfilment.
For the truly inspired spiritual seeker, Brahmacharya may be their personal chosen path. Most certainly, for those who are focused on a spiritual path and seeking balance and equanimity in their life, the practise of self-restraint may be of great benefit and assistance towards these highest goals.