Definition - What does Raja Yoga mean?
Raja yoga is one of the four classical schools of yoga alongside Jnana (knowledge or self-study), Bhakti (devotion) and Karma (action), each offering a path to moksha (spiritual liberation) and self-realization.
In Sanskrit, raja means ‘king" or ‘royal," referring to the status of Raja yoga as a "royal path"’ or principal form of yoga. Traditionally, Raja yoga refers to both the goal of yoga and the method of attaining it. As such, it is also considered to be the state of peace and contentment that arises from sustained yoga and meditation practice.
In essence, Raja yoga is the yoga of mind and body control, with a focus on meditation and energetics. It encompasses teachings from all the different paths, and it is from Raja yoga that hatha yoga and modern asana practice developed.
Since Raja yoga involves all three dimensions of human existence (physical, mental and spiritual), it enables practitioners to achieve balance and harmony on all of these levels.
Yogapedia explains Raja Yoga
Although Raja yoga traditionally emphasizes meditation as the path to self-realization, the term has come to refer to a much wider variety of practices. In the 19th century text Raja Yoga Swami Vivekananda equated Raja yoga with the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. As such, Raja yoga has since been used interchangeably with Ashtanga yoga, or the ‘eightfold path’ to spiritual liberation.
According to Raja yoga, the biggest obstacle to self-realization is a busy mind, in which excessive thinking, ego, craving, attachment and a separate sense of self all contribute towards suffering.
Working through the mind and body practices outlined in Patanjali’s eight limbs of yoga is believed to bring the practitioner close to an enlightened state of consciousness known as samadhi, in which it is possible to experience the true self.
The eightfold path, or the eight limbs of Raja yoga are:
Yamas - Five social observances: ahimsa (non-violence), satya (truthfulness) asteya (non-stealing), brahmacharya (chastity) and aparigraha (non-possessiveness).
Niyamas - Five moral observances: saucha (purity), santosha (contentment), tapas (self-discipline), svadhyaya (self-study), ishvarapranidhana (devotion or surrender).
Asana - Yoga postures.
Pranayama - Breathing techniques as a means of controlling prana (vital life force energy).
Pratyahara - Withdrawal of the senses.
Dharana - Concentration.
Dhyana - Meditation.
Samadhi - Enlightenment or bliss.
These eight limbs offer a systematic approach to calming the mind and finding liberation from suffering. Raja yoga is ultimately a means of transcending identification with the body-mind-intellect complex in order to understand the nature of the true self.
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