Yoga

Raja Yoga Accumulates Lifetime Benefits of Health and Happiness

Raja Yoga offers a joyful approach to life (Photo provided)

First of five parts
Auckland, June 11, 2022

Yoga is much more than strength, flexibility or physical practice.

It seeks to allow you to see the deeper parts of the body that cannot be seen with the naked eye.

Yoga, the union of body, mind, soul and spirit, rediscovers who we are and brings us back to a life of joy, happiness and freedom.

The four paths of yoga, or sets of intertwined spiritual practices, can help us achieve this goal. The first path is Raja Yoga, known as Yoga of the mind/meditation.

guide to happiness

In Sanskrit texts, Raja Yoga was both the goal of yoga and the method to achieve it.

It is a guide to happiness, peace of mind and self-transformation. The foundation of all branches of yoga, it introduces yoga to all aspects of life and forms the basis for understanding the therapeutic applications of yoga, especially how it heals and enlightens.

A practical guide to health and balance in all aspects of life (physical, mental, social, spiritual), Raja Yoga offers a joyful approach to living. This concept follows the principles of eight limbed yoga or Ashtanga Yoga which was compiled by sage Patanjali.

They are (1) Yamas or self-control (social code) (2) Niyamas or discipline (personal code) (3) Asana (postures) (4) Pranayama (control of prana, life force) (5) Pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses of external objects) (6) Dharana (concentration) (7) Dhyana (meditation) and (8) Samadhi (complete realization).

This path uses the mind as an instrument to look within and discover the inner self. Considered the “king of yogas”, the benefits of meditation for spiritual self-realization and the deliberate evolution of consciousness are emphasized.

The yoga of the mind

Yamas and Niyamas are tools to purify the senses and can help overcome the limiting aspect of the mind. Their role is to transform the negative into positive radiance by cultivating qualities such as sincerity, self-introspection and contentment, among others.

Asana stabilizes the physical body while pranayama helps regulate and coordinate the subtle forces within the body. Yama, Niyama, Asana and Pranayama are called Hatha Yoga and represent the first four limbs which help modify human behavior.

The next two stages, Pratyahara and Dharana, allude to bringing the mind into a state of peace and harmony. Pratyahara begins with relaxation of the senses and mind often beginning with Yoga Nidra (yogic sleep) as the first practice. Other practices include Antar Mouna – inner silence and observance of thoughts opening the way to a state of positive thinking.

In this way Pratyahara gradually prepares the mind and leads to unwavering mental focus and clarity – a state of Dharana; which lays the groundwork for meditation to become truly transformative.

So, Raja Yoga is the science that teaches us how to acquire the power of concentration and how we can observe the internal states (mind, body, soul) with the help of the spirit.

It focuses on the connection between body and mind – if the body is healthy, the mind will also be healthy. It is a well-known psychological knowledge that our thoughts and emotions can influence our health. Introducing a meditation practice as part of a proactive or preventative health plan can have profound results.

Benefits of Raja Yoga

Raja Yoga meditation offers a lifetime of benefits, including reduced stress, anxiety, and less attachment to material objects. When the mind is in a state of calm, one is better able to manage one’s thoughts, emotions, and reactions in stressful situations.

This type of meditation can invoke positive qualities such as happiness, bliss, knowledge, peace, love, and calm. Letting go of distracting thoughts, decluttering the mind, and sitting in silence can help the mind become clear and focused, which adds value to our work and gives us better results. By encouraging you to stay in the present, Raja Yoga meditation helps increase memory and concentration. By training your mind to think positively and calmly and to eliminate negative thoughts, the quality of sleep can improve.

Your progress

The journey of transforming conditioned and negative patterns of mind is not easy.

Elaborate with a visual metaphor; water in a pot can look clean and clear despite the bottom of the pot containing mud. It is only when we start cleaning the pot that the mud is stirred up, making the water brown and cloudy.

The same goes for the mind. When deep-seated impressions are aroused by the techniques of Raja Yoga, they color the experiences of the mind. Gradually, with patience and effort, the mind becomes clear, calm and positive. This can then create an experience of balance and harmony accompanied by a deeper understanding of yourself and others.

One of the basic principles of general health and well-being is that healing happens from within; a commitment to Raja Yoga meditation can help bring about this transformation.

Jessica Sanders is a naturopath, medical herbalist and yoga teacher (RYT-200). She lives on the coast of Kapiti. Amal Karl is Group Managing Director of FxMed New Zealand, NaturalMeds New Zealand and RN Labs Australia and a director of other companies. He lives in Auckland.