Raja Yoga – the Yoga of mind training. The word Raja means Royal. Raja yoga is a about methods of meditation to guide us through the self-inquiry needed to make personal changes. It is also known as Classical Yoga as expounded in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (approx. 200 BCE). Each of the 196 sutras or verses, in four chapters, contains a wealth of dense information requiring deep thought and practice. In the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali we find terse instructions for calming the mind and preparing it for meditation practice. In the second chapter there appears perhaps the most well-known part of the system, known as ashtanga yoga (not to be confused with the modern structural flowing asana practice known as ashtanga vinyasa) because it describes a method of 8 (ashta) branches or limbs (anga). The first two are called the 5 yamas – guidance for our behaviour towards others- and the 5 niyamas- guidance for our personal development. More details on these in the next blog - but they are the work of a lifetime.
The remaining 6 stages are
- Asana - in Patanjali, means the sitting posture for meditation
- Pranayama - breathing practices
- Pratyahara - withdrawal of the involvement of the senses in engaging with the world
- Dharana - concentration practices
- Dhyana - complete absorption, or the state of meditative awareness
- Samadhi - enlightenment or realization
Despite being called the eight limbs of yoga, suggesting we tackle them one by one, I prefer the analogy of a wheel with Samadhi at the centre and the other 7 limbs radiating out like spokes. This to me represents what I've found - that you have to work on all of them, they're not like a step-ladder.
“Yoga is experienced when the mind has settled into stillness. When the mind has settled, we are established in our essential nature, which is unbounded consciousness.”
Yoga Sutras Chap 1 verses 2-3
Raja Yoga also includes:
- Nada Yoga (of sound)
- Mantra Yoga (of liberation)
- Laya Yoga (awareness of changes in consciousness)
- Kundalini and kriya yoga ( awakening and experience of the chakras and nadis)