Often the word Brahmacharya is translated as "celibacy". On the basis of its more traditional interpretation, this is the not the most popular of the Yamas. In context when you think about the history of Yoga and who was permitted to practice you can understand where the idea of celibacy comes from. Yoga was co-opted as a religious spiritual pathway and the practice of the physical aspect of yoga, a pathway to the divine by Hindu religion and culture. It was limited to people, to men, religious men, as a practice. And for some reason sex and god are not compatible in many minds. I guess it's just too much of a distraction.
However, the good news is that this is a very limited definition and the word Brahmacharya, as is so often the case we find with language, has layers of meaning. It's generally accepted that the practice of this Yama is not limited to the narrow definition subscribe to by the Brahmins.
What a relief! We can enjoy the pleasure of intimacy with ourselves and with others, physical, emotional and spiritual, without feeling bad about it. Everything is part of the whole and to suppress or deny anything in life that is life-affirming in its essence goes against the universal balance nature seeks. It causes big problems! Just take a look around if you need evidence of that.
What then does Brahmacharya mean and what does it look like in practice? Personally, I prefer to associate it with the concept of right use of energy and restraint from excessive behaviours, thoughts and deeds. That I find is very helpful for modern life. “Where attention goes, energy flows” as they say and this has been my experience.
I try to find life-affirming things I love to do and do them with care and attention to the wellbeing of others and myself as well as simply appreciate being in the flow of life as much as I can. Simples. Haha. Of course, we have to work and we have to deal with the sometimes-gritty business of living. But we don't have to be slaves to drudgery and the anxiety that often arises from the constant pressure to succeed, achieve and surpass that seems to be so prevalent.
So for me, it is not about big, grand actions - ostentatious shows of kindness and virtue-signaling restraint (hello Lent), although that can of course be of help as a reminder of what's important, if translated into daily living somehow - but small daily acts of care, kindness and consideration without abandoning myself in the process. Right use of energy includes looking after myself too. Hope to see you soon on the mat. Namaste :)