The word yoga stems from the meaning of union, and it refers to the union of the soul with the super soul in terms of yoga philosophy. However, it can also be translated to mean the convergence from total ignorance to complete enlightenment or defined as self-realization. There are four different paths of yoga, with Raja being the one that means control.
The word Raja means to control, but can also be translated to mean “king” when interpreted differently. However, you will use yoga as a form of controlling your breathing and other aspects of the body. In the following article, we will look deeper at Raja Yoga as a whole and how it forms part of the four fundamental paths of yoga.
What Is Raja Yoga?
There are four different paths that yoga offer and all of them have the end goal of spiritual realization. Raja Yoga is one of the four paths to enlightenment. In Sanskrit, Raja Yoga means “Royal” or “King” depending on the context in which the word is used. For many people, it also refers to the “Royal Path” or the principle form of yoga.
Raja yoga means the state of peace and contentment from practicing yoga and performing it on a sustained level with meditation practices.
This does not mean that Raja does not encompass the teachings of the other paths. In fact, all of the paths will eventually converge and encompass the teachings of one another. However, Raja mainly focuses on the control of the mind and the body to achieve all three dimensions of human existence (mental, physical, and spiritual) and creates balance and harmony on these three levels.
8 Steps Of Raja Yoga
Raja Yoga can be described as fearless, autonomous, and independent, with the main emphasis being placed on making you feel like a king. However, Raja is broken into 8 different steps and each of these steps will bring a different element to the final goal. These steps are fundamental in achieving the final goal of enlightenment.
Yama – Self Control
Yama is one of the first steps, but also one of the most important will teach you about the different forms of self-control. It consists of 5 principles that you need to follow:
- Ahimsa – Non-Violence: Ahimsa means not to kill or perform any acts of violence. Animals need to be killed to get the meat, which is a form of violence and leads to yogis becoming vegan.
- Satya – Truthfulness: This principle is rather basic and refers to honesty. No matter what the situation is or what the issue is, it is your responsibility to always speak the truth no matter the consequences.
- Asteya – Non-Stealing: If you do not own something and it does not belong to you, you do not have the right to take it. Asteya means not to take possessions that do not belong to your act greedily.
- Brahmacharya – Pure Way of Life: Brahmacharya is one of the trickier ones and can be translated to sexual abstinence. However, it refers to so much more including that one’s thoughts also need to be pure and directed to God.
- Aparigraha – Non-Accumulation of Possessions: Aparigraha means that we should not spend our lives accumulating worldly possessions. We are born into this world without these possessions and will depart without them as well.
Niyama – Discipline
Niyama loosely translates to discipline and refers to all the important factors and situations in our lives that require discipline. It also consists out of the following five principles:
- Shauca – Purity: Shauca refers to complete purity internally and externally. Not only does the clothing need to be pure, but the internal thoughts and secretive actions also need to be pure and controlled.
- Santosh – Contentment: Santosh is referred to as the greatest wealth one could find, and it refers to being content with yourself and life. Being discontent can ruin almost every aspect of the human being.
- Tapa – Self-Control, Self-Discipline: Tapa is vitally important to ensure you achieve your goals. It means you will never give up when setting out to achieve a specific set of goals.
- Svadhyaya – Study of the Holy Scriptures: Yoga aspirants should acquaint themselves with the spiritual scriptures of the yoga belief, and teachings like Bhagavad Gita can teach you many lessons about the lifestyle.
- Ishvara Pranidhana – Devotion to God: One of the most important principles is to live by the hand of God and to trust the hand of God no matter what happens.
Asana – Physical Exercises
Asana refers to the physical exercises that one will practice to achieve a mental state. These can be hard for many people, but they become much easier as you get more used to performing them, and you can move to tougher asanas.
Pranayama – Breathing Exercises
Additionally, you might need to awaken those internal powers, and the breathing exercises put forth from yoga will make it much easier for one to unlock the perfect mindset. It is a great way to calm yourself as well.
Pratyahara – Withdrawal of the Senses
The withdrawal of the senses is one of the best abilities yogis can have. Much like a tortoise will withdraw its head and limbs into a shell, yogis can direct the mind inward and withdraw their mind and physical body from specific objects. Once mastered the senses can also be directed outwards to achieve a state of complete awareness.
Dharana – Concentration
Dharana is one of the toughest forms of Raja to master, and it relies on us focusing on a specific object for any length of time. It is not that easy as there will always be additional thoughts creeping in to form a distraction. Until one has mastered the ability to focus on one object, Dharana is not achieved.
Dhyana – Meditation
Meditation is a precursor to calmness in your mind. Much like sleep, one cannot teach the body to rest, and the body will automatically sleep. The exercises are precursors to teach the mind how to be calm and still. The goal of meditation is to achieve a state of pure being.
Samadhi – Complete Realisation
Samadi is the final step of the process and refers to almost complete enlightenment. It is when the Knower, object of knowledge, and knowledge finally unite. The state achieved by the practitioner is also called divine consciousness and will take many years of practice for one to fully master.
Raja Yoga is one of the best forms of yoga for those looking to achieve a more powerful mental state. The forms of yoga are clear and they force you to not only practice but also change the entire being. Let us know what your experiences are with Raja Yoga and if we have missed any other crucial elements of this form of yoga. Namaste!