Rajyoga, or Raja yoga, is a classical yoga that means “kingly.” It is quite different from many modern forms of yoga as it is purely centered around meditation. In other words, you won’t find any calorie burning, hot-yoga sessions at a rajyoga studio.
Following is an in-depth look at Rajyoga – what its aims are, where it places emphasis, etc. – and its eight-fold path of meditation. If you’re completely new to yoga and meditation, begin practicing conscious meditation and quickly progress from novice to guru with this acclaimed beginner’s guide to mindful meditation.
An Introduction To Rajyoga
Rajyoga, like virtually all forms of meditation-based yoga, is founded on the idea of the soul being a point of light. This central point of light is the fulcrum around which the mind and body operate and is the key to finding balance. However, Rajyoga does not attempt to wipe the mind clean; instead, it seeks to bring peace and meaning by using a person’s bodily experiences to interact with deeper, more significant ideas. The mind is not wiped clean; it is focused.
You cannot enter Rajyoga with a sedentary mind. Finding balance requires calm and peacefulness, but also a great deal of energy. Someone attempting to meditate needs to be quite conscious of how energy is moving through their mind and body. This becomes easier said than done when one is also supposed to disband the stress and anger that lurks in our subconscious. The ultimate goal of a Rajyoga session is to walk away from it with a somewhat surprising, peaceful and even enjoyable inner being.
Get great, free advice on meditation poses (which will be essential, after all, for learning Rajyoga meditation) from this post on balanced and powerful meditation poses.
Philosophy For Meditation
In order to get the most out of your meditation sessions, there are a few things that will help you achieve Rajyoga meditation (as opposed to some vague wanderings of the mind). There are, as already mentioned, two halves to the Rajyoga balance: the self and the mind. The mind is a powerful tool, capable of incredible feats, but it is also easy for it to become separated from who we are, to go off on its own and lose sight of more grounded concepts.
One of the first things I said about Rajyoga meditation was that it is based on the idea of the soul being a point of light and that this is the key to finding balance. The self and the mind are part of the soul, which has one other part to complete its three-pronged design (according to Rajyoga): the subconscious. The subconscious, together with the mind (consciousness) and the self (body, intellect), form the three chief entities of our souls.
There is a very specific flow of energy between the three parts of the soul. It is believed that thoughts originate in our subconscious and then float to the surface, as it were, of our consciousness. Because our subconscious is so vast (our entire history, pretty much), it can unexpectedly bring things to the surface of our mind that may hinder or disrupt meditation. This is why it is so vital to be able to control the flow of energy and the direction of our consciousness.
If you don’t have a lot of time to spare or just want to pick up some lighter practice for Rajyoga mediation, consider this top-rated course on Quick Meditation for less stress and better focus.
Yes, Rajyoga is good for your mental and physical health, but you will have a much easier time meditating if you are already a relatively healthy person in both respects. Don’t let this dissuade you if you are not in peak fitness. I only want to stress the surprising amount of physical strength meditation requires. As you will see below, one of the principal techniques for achieving Rajyoga is holding a pose. This is easier said than done, especially for long periods of time. Similarly, a strong, healthy, stable mind will more easily enter meditation than a weak or troubled mind. But if you have the power and drive, Rajyoga can be an invaluable tool in centering or “truing” the wheel of your mind.
The Eight Limbs (Eight-Fold Path) Of Rajyoga
It’s important to note that the philosophy of meditation above is not what you actually achieve or want to achieve through meditation. The philosophy is more of the mindset and process with which you might enter into Rajyoga, but the eight limbs of Rajyoga is what you want to achieve. I know it seems like a lot to hold together, but this is why Rajyoga is also referred to as the Yoga of the Mind. Yes, it takes a high degree of concentration and mental energy, but this is something that becomes less burdensome and more enlightening with every practice. You will learn to control many parts of your mind and through this kind of “exercise,” learn to focus. The mind must be turned inward, into the body and into the soul, and this is when it becomes the king of the person (thus, it is the “kingly” yoga).
Yamas represent the oaths of Rajyoga. It is composed of five main ideas: Satya (truth), (Ahimsa (nonviolence), Asetya (non-stealing), Brahmacharya (chastity) and Apragraha (non-greed). As you can see, there are virtues in a worldly sense. They are things that one should be able to practice – and should practice – in society. Practicing these virtues allows one to better and more honestly practice Rajyoga.
This might also be a good time to strengthen and calibrate your body and mind. Consider combining yoga philosophies with this Flow Vinyasa yoga class.
Whereas yamas are the oaths and abstentions of Rajyoga, niyamas are the more inward or moral observations. This is more of a commitment to the divine than to fellow man. As you can see, between practicing yamas and niyamas, the self and the mind are strengthened. There are five main ideas associated with niyamas, as well: Susha (purity), Santosha (contentment), Tapas (discipline), Svadhaya (divine study) and Ishvara Pranidhana (yielding to God).
The remaining limbs are concerned with things such as posture (asana) and other more definite techniques than can help you achieve Rajyoga meditation. This should come as a relief after the admittedly lengthy descriptions of Yamas and Niyamas. So the idea behind asana is to achieve and hold a steady posture. In lengthier terms, this is meant to connect the mind and body through concentration.
This is the mediation (not meditation) of controlled breathing. Through controlled breathing, one is trying to achieve a steady flow of energy. Again, this will help connect the mind and the body.
Turning the senses inward is the philosophy of pratyahara. In other words, you should try to use your senses to help steer your mind as well as your body.
Dharana is cncentration and focusing of the mind. In other words, do not let your mind wander: focus on where you need to go and what you need to do to achieve Rajyoga and hold your mind to its task.
Now we are approaching the end. Dharana leads to dhyana, or meditation, which is when you enter meditation and are lead to a different, deeper part of your mind and being.
Lastly, we get to samadhi, or nlightenment. This is, obviously, the “end” and ultimate goal of Rajyoga.
You Have Everything You Need
It’s true: you have everything you need to practice Rajyoga. It is a personal journey, but it can, like many other forms of yoga, be guided (at least initially) by some professional and experienced help, so don’t feel like you have to be a Rajyoga loner. The most important thing is to become comfortable meditating, which you can learn in a straightforward and unencumbered way with this great beginner’s class on meditation.