There are many types of yoga out there, however, we are usually familiar with the most typical yoga practice.
The meditation music, binaural beats and silence, alongside positions such as downward dog, the lotus, and so on.
This is the yoga we usually think of when we hear the word ‘yoga’, however, yoga is not so black and white. There is more to yoga than just this, yoga is much more broad than this.
There are plenty of different variations of yoga, and yoga is not just physical practice, it is spiritual and mental as well.
Any long-time practicing yogi will tell you that yoga is a great deal more than simply the poses and listening to music that is calming to you.
That is where types of yoga such as Raja yoga come in.
But, what is Raja yoga, and how can it help you?
Stick around, and we will tell you all about Raja yoga and how you can use it and understand it to help you better.
What Exactly Does Raja Yoga Mean?
So, what exactly does Raja Yoga mean? Well, it is one of the classical schools of yoga, of which there are four.
It is one of the four alongside Jnana which is the knowledge of self studying, karma which is the school of action, Bhakti which is the school of devotion, and Moksha which is the school of self realization and spiritual liberation.
Raja can be translated from Sanskrit into meaning royal or king, therefore making reference to how Raja yoga is the ‘royal path’, or the most principle type of yoga.
Raja yoga usually refers to the end goal of yoga and the method in which you reach the end goal.
Therefore, it is also generally believed to be a state of peace and calm which comes from continued meditation and yoga.
It is the yoga of both mental and physical control, focusing on meditation and energy.
Encompassing the many teachings from many different paths of yoga. Both modern Asana and Hatha yoga originated from Raja yoga.
It is the of all three of the dimensions that make up the human experience: the spiritual, the mental and the physical.
Helping and allowing those who practice it to achieve ultimate balance and harmony on all of these planes.
Understanding The Basics Of Raja Yoga
While Raja yoga oftentimes emphasizes on meditation as a path to realization of self, there is knowledge that this term has ended up referring to a much wider array of practicing.
Back in the 1th century text ‘Raja Yoga’ the yogi Swami Vivekanda noted that Raja Yoga was like the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.
Therefore, Raja yoga and Ashtanga yoga have often been used interchangeably ever since.
In Raja yoga, the most prominent thing in the way of self-realization is a busy and hectic mind, in which craving, ego, excessive thinking, as well as separate sense of self all build up to suffering in the end.
Thus, the belief is that by working through the psyche, and mind and body practices in the eight limbs of yoga by Patanjali is believed to be the way in which a practitioner of yoga can better find an enlightened state of mind, which is referred to as samadhi, also believed to be the way in which to experience ones truest self.
If you do not know the 8 limbs of yoga, find them here:
- Yama: This is 5 observations: Aparigraha (non-possession), asteya (non-theft), ahimsa (non-violent), brahmacharya (chastity), and satya (truthfulness).
- Niyamas: These are the 5 moral observations: Santosha (contentment), ishvarapranidhana (surrender), tapas (disciplining oneself), saucha (pureness), svadhyaya (studying oneself).
- Asana: The practice of yoga postures.
- Pranayama: The use of breathing techniques to control the prana. i.e. the energy of vital life force.
- Pratyahara: The withdrawing of one’s senses.
- Dharana: To concentrate.
- Dhyana: To meditate.
- Samadhi: Enlightenment
How It Works
In Raja yoga, the belief is that our brains resist slowing down, that we are held back by the mind-body intellect and a concept of ‘me’, which is both individual but also separate from the universe.
This is ironic in a sense as these believed obstacles are just typical functions of any normal human mind.
However, there are deeper parts of ourselves that make up mind, existence, experience, and loving behavior.
To experience this is to one the ‘Self’.
It is believed that we stop this by relaxing the activity of the mind and resting in the form that results when all patterns of consciousness and thinking are gone.
This is described as being purusha in patanjali’s sutras, brahman in vedanta shoonya in buddhism, or in some ways, the true human nature.
Our Brains Resist Slowing Down
In Raja yoga it is believed that the key tool in meditation is to slow down the chaos of the mind so that there is only one conscious thought. Leading to the absorption in the nature of reality.
Our minds are cunning, however, and they do not always want to do this. So it takes time and practice to achieve.
Begin With The Physical
Ancient rishis noted how the mind works and knew that the idea of calming the mind would not be an easy task, and meditation is not always going to be enough.
That is why they developed this type of yoga, beginning with our physical form.
The history of Raja yoga is a bit blurred, but most assume that Patanjali took the information from yoga Upanishads and made his own, more simple version, creating the sutras of Raja yoga.
A section of this is now known as Ashtanga or the 8 limbs.
Raja Yoga: Studying The Mind
The 8 limbs are a part of Raja yoga, and are probably the most important part.
It is a form of yoga focused on the mind and studying our own mind to reach a better sense of inner self and enlightenment. A part of this is removing the ‘me’.