What is Rāja Yoga
A common misconception about Yoga is that it is about relaxing and getting stronger or more flexible. In truth Yoga is about control of life, and it is only thanks to this control that you can develop yourself completely. Gaining such control is the main goal of the ancient system called Rāja Yoga.
Rāja Yoga means Royal Yoga and it is the crown of the work of Yoga training. It is a huge deepening of the Hatha Yoga knowledge. Rāja Yoga is described in Patanjali’s Yogasutras as well as in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika and the Bhagavad Gita.
Like Svatmarama said in his Hatha Yoga Pradipika: “Someone cannot achieve perfection in Rāja Yoga without Hatha Yoga, nor perfection in Hatha Yoga without Rāja Yoga”. These two forms are inseparably connected to each other. It means that both physical and mental development belong together. One cannot exist without the other. This is the only way for a human to find their true Self.
Rāja Yoga is a systematic composition of practical exercises to learn to control the mind. It is about raising awareness and the ability to guide thoughts. Whoever practices this type of Yoga walks the Royal Path.
Loosely translated, one will achieve a solid connection between all the different parts of the human being through Rāja Yoga. The outside (the physical body) and the inside (thoughts, emotions and the soul) will work together in greater harmony. Traditionally this knowledge is passed verbally from teacher to student. The book ‘The Yogasutras of Patanjali’ acts as a guidebook for correct Yoga practice. Combined with additional knowledge from other Yoga books we achieve a solid and accessible base of understanding. Because the focus is on self practice, and trying and investigating, you connect your own experience to the subjects of study.
The 8 steps
Many people are unaware that Yoga consists of eight steps, as described a long time ago by the sage Patañjali. The eight steps of Yoga are: moral principals and ideals, physical poses, energy control, detachment, concentration, meditation and contemplation. The goal of these steps is to achieve better collaboration between all the parts of your being.
When a human wants to develop properly one must address oneself systematically. The physical, moral, emotional, vital, mental and spiritual forces the human handles inside their being are connected inseparably. Growth in only one or the other force creates an imbalance of the total.
In order to climb this eight-step ladder, and thus achieve control, harmony and balance, it is important to start with the foundational steps: the Yamas and Niyams, moral principles and ideals.