THE FOUR YOGAS: WHAT IS RAJA YOGA?




Hello every body, welcome to Atma's blog. Today we are going to talk about Raja Yoga, one of the four

paths of yoga.


Yoga philosophy has traditionally described four distinct paths to reach the self. These are the path of meditation also known as Raja yoga; the path of wisdom also known as Jnana yoga; the path of devotion also known as Bhakti yoga; and the path of action known as Karma yoga. All the other different paths of yoga that exist today, are a combination of these four paths.


Raja yoga is known as the king of Yogas; it is the most systematic approach that exists to reach the self through meditation. Raja yoga is a system that found its culmination through sage Patanjali around 500 B.C.E. Although yoga was widely practiced before this period, it was Patanjali who revealed a systematic approach to obtaining self realization. This systematic approach was portrayed in what we know today as the Yoga Sutras. The Yoga Sutras are composed of 196 verses divided into four different chapters. Each verse deals with an aspect of obtaining liberation and it gives special importance to the play of the mind. Patanjali describes the practice of yoga as a process to eliminate the fluctuations of the mind. This process is divided into eight different parts which are interdependent from on another. It is an eight-fold path, where the practice leads you from your outside environment directly to your Self. The eight-fold path of Raja Yoga is as follows:

  1. The first part is Yamas or external disciplines; external disciplines refer to how I approach the external world.

  2. The second part is Niyamas or internal disciplines; in this case internal disciplines refer to how I approach myself or mi inner world.

  3. The third part is Asana or meditation posture; This is the part that is widely known in the west and it is practiced in the form of different postures. However, it is important to know that originally, Asanas only referred to a few meditation postures that prepared you for long hours of meditation.

  4. The fourth part is Pranayama; Pranayama is the practice of energy expansion through breathing. This is the first part of the eight-fold systems where awareness starts to move inwards. In fact, Pranayama is the bridge between our physical body and our mind.

  5. The fifth part is Pratyahara or sense withdrawal; in this case sense withdrawal refers to how the mind stops gathering external information through the senses and turns inwards. This is the first step towards meditation.

  6. The sixth part is Dharana or concentration; in order to enter meditation, the mind needs to concentrate on a single point. This point of concentration is an object chosen by the practitioner. There are many objects to choose from, but the breath is one of the most common ones. It is important to note here, that this stage is the last stage where the practitioner purposefully carries out an action; the following parts occur spontaneously, when Dharana is perfected.

  7. The seventh part is Dhyana or meditation. Meditation is not something we do; it is something that occurs to us. Meditation is the point where the practitioner and the object are isolated in a way that nothing else exists. The mind is only focused on the object and the practitioner experiences nothing but the object of meditation.

  8. The eighth part and culmination of Raja yoga is Samadhi or union; Samadhi occurs when the practitioner and the object of meditation become one. The practitioner loses its individuality and becomes one with the object. It is at this stage that the practitioner can actually know the true nature of such object. The experience of oneness is very difficult to explain through the rational mind, it is a stage that can only be experienced.

When you look at the different eight limbs of Raja yoga you can actually appreciate that they are all related to one another, and that all of them are preparatory steps for meditation. This is why contrary to what it is believed in the west, the culmination of yoga is meditation and Samadhi, and not physical postures.