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Raja Yoga – how it works!

by Josephine Andrews
Published: Last Updated on 355 views

Raja Yoga focuses on controlling the mind . In this spiritually shaped yoga path, spiritual enlightenment is the goal. Meditations, breathing techniques and physical exercises should lead the yogi to this goal. Read how Raja Yoga works here.

What is Raja Yoga?

Raja Yoga is one of the four classical yoga paths. He’s all about mind control. The other three ways are:

  • Jnana Yoga (Way of Wisdom)
  • Karma Yoga (path of selfless action)
  • Bhakti Yoga (Path of Devotion)

The word Raja comes from Sanskrit and means something like ruler or king. The scholar Patanjali shaped this yoga path. He is the author of the Yogasutra, often referred to as the Yoga Guide.

The aim of the very spiritual Raja Yoga is the rule over the world of thoughts. Through deep meditation, self-observation, breathing techniques and physical exercises (asanas), the yogi should find access to himself and calm his mind. The path to this leads via the eight steps of the Ashtanga Marga path, at the end of which the highest inner peace awaits.

In relation to everyday life, this means that the yogi achieves mental balance by walking the path and can look forward to improved physical and mental health. Raja Yoga is also often referred to as Ashtanga Yoga .

Raja Yoga: The Eight Limbs of Ashtanga Marga

In order to find enlightenment in Raja Yoga, the yogi must get rid of his inner restlessness. The main cause of this are the so-called Kleshas. These are passions that dull the mind. Five of them are particularly active:

  • Avidya: wrong knowledge
  • Asmita: exaggerated selfishness
  • Raga: excessive adherence to preferences
  • Dvesha: excessive dislike
  • Abhinivesha: diffuse fear (fear of death)

Although according to Patanjali the kleshas can never be completely overcome, the eightfold path Ashtanga Marga shows methods how the yogi can reduce the influence of kleshas on perception and action.

If you want to walk the Ashtanga Marga, you don’t have to follow a specific order. The yogi is free to choose which limb to start with. However, it is important that he considers all steps equally and practices them persistently.

The eight limbs of the Ashtanga Marga are composed as follows:

1. Yamas: dealing with the environment

The Yamas represent an ethical code of conduct. There are a total of five rules of conduct that people should pay attention to when dealing with their environment. Those who take them into account can more easily achieve harmony with themselves and their environment. The principle applies here: If you have a positive charisma , you will also get something positive in return. The five rules of conduct include:

Ahimsa: non-violence

This commandment includes non-violence on a physical and mental level. Yogis should also avoid destructive words and thoughts. Ahimsa emphasizes the conscious interaction with the environment, with one’s fellow human beings and with oneself.

Satya: Truthfulness

This aspect includes authentic behavior. It’s about not pretending anything that isn’t true, even out of false consideration. When communicating, it is important not only to pay attention to the content, but also to how you say something.

Asteya: Not stealing

The property of others must always be respected – on a material and immaterial level.

Brahmacharya: moderation

This code of conduct is about concentrating on what is relevant. It is not necessary to give up completely, but to take the right measure and try not to surrender to your passions.

Aparigraha: non-hoarding

This concept has parallels to Asteya, to non-stealing. However, it focuses more on a lowbrow than an inner attitude. It is important that the yogi reflects on what he actually needs to live. The first step is to free yourself from expectations and to recognize your own path.

2. Niyamas – dealing with oneself

The Niyamas are the second limb of the path. They name five behaviors that the yogi should practice towards himself:

Shaucha: Purity

Purity plays a role on a physical level – daily hygiene is important, a conscious diet and continuous asana practice. The immediate surroundings, such as the choice of clothing and the condition of the apartment are also decisive. On a mental level, Shaucha means keeping your thoughts pure and being considerate of your surroundings.

Santosha: Contentment

This aspect is about being content with what life gives you – on a physical, intellectual and material level. The prerequisite for this is accepting yourself and your personal circumstances. This does not mean, however, that no personal development can take place.

Tapas self-discipline

Tapas derives from the word “tapah” which can be translated as heat or desire. The approach is: self-discipline can only arise from a burning desire. Because that is the only reason why there is the fuel to make the necessary efforts with perseverance in order to progress on the path to self-knowledge.

Svadhyaya: Self-study, self-reflection

This behavior is about reading the scriptures to access yourself. The aim is to observe, analyze and reflect on their behavior. That means: asking yourself again and again which moments influence your own behavior and which stimulus-reaction scheme is present.

Ishvara Pranidhana: Faith in a higher power

Where are your own limits? This is the issue of Ishvara Pranidhana. The focus is on accepting that many things are not within the sphere of influence of one’s own power. Letting go can then be a consequence, a kind of basic trust or belief in a kind of higher power.

According to this path, yoga practice must have three qualities: discipline, self-study and acceptance of one’s own limits.

3. Asana: dealing with the body

The physical exercises, the asanas, are the focus of the yoga practice. They combine stability and lightness. The body is firmly aligned and grounded in the asana, providing stability. At the same time, an energetic lightness arises as the yogi approaches the limits of his own possibilities – but by no means beyond. So he can stay in the posture with joy.

4. Pranayama: dealing with the body

Pranayama means a conscious control of energy through certain breathing techniques. The yogi learns to regulate and expand the breath. Body and mind are calmed, blockages can be released and energy can flow again.

5. Pratyahara: dealing with the senses

This aspect involves the withdrawal of the senses. This should reduce the risk of sensory overload and the distraction from the actual tasks. With pratyahara the yogi learns to close the doors of the senses. He still perceives things, but he no longer reacts to them.

6. Dharana: Concentration

Dharana is the ability to focus one’s attention completely on an object, question, or consideration and to remain there. This enables the yogi to understand the principle of concentration itself.

7. Dhyana: Meditation

In meditation, the yogi can leave behind his knowledge, feelings, expectations and thought patterns. He can intuitively see things as they are. This makes him a neutral observer for himself.

8. Samadhi: The highest – the inner peace

At the end of the Ashtanga Marga, the goal awaits: the state of inner freedom. The Yoga Sutras describe it as complete merging with the object of meditation. The sense of one’s own identity dissolves. Alternatively, the paraphrases “merging with the world as a whole” or “inner bliss” still exist for samadhi.


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