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What is Raja Yoga?

By lm

Raja Yoga is the royal path of Yoga. The name Raja actually means king, so this type of yoga it considered to be the royal path to meditation and self-realization. It incorporates practices from the other branches of Yoga, for example, asanas from Hatha Yoga, or working on raising the kundalini energy from Kundalini Yoga.

In essence, Raja-Yoga is a branch of Yoga which suggests a practical and scientific method of reaching the ultimate aim of every spiritual practice - the Truth. It lays out before you a practical, step by step guide into personal self-growth and spiritual development.

Unlike ordinary science which explores the outside world, Raja Yoga explores the inner world. There is a huge difference here, simply because science uses many material instruments when exploring the external reality, whereas your mind and your consciousness are the only instrument you can use when exploring your inner world. In addition to being so enlightening, the knowledge of your inner world contains great practical, life-changing benefits. The realization that your true nature is pure and perfect brings immense bliss and true unrestrained happiness.

The power of attention (and concentration) is all that you need to guide you toward the inner world and to illuminate your knowledge of the inner world. All your life we have been taught to focus on the outside things only. This has restricted our ability to observe our own inner world. But the truth is that we can learn how to refocus our attention towards our inner world.

Raja Yoga requires of you to develop only one practical method and that method is concentration.

Concentration turned inward is the key to unlocking the power of the mind. This power is limitless in its essence, and the more you are able to focus on the inside world, the greater knowledge and power will be waiting there for you.

However, the problem with this is that it is so easy to concentrate your mind on the various external things, so that when you try to go inside you will likely be distracted.

The mind naturally goes outwards. Instead, the powers of the mind should be focused and turned back upon the mind itself and its hidden powers will be revealed, one by one. This process lies behind all the science of Raja Yoga. By using concentration as a tool we set of to explore our inner worlds and unlock the resources of our own minds.

Because of the above, every single human individual regardless of their religion is entitled to study this branch of Yoga.

Raja-Yoga takes a long time and it requires constant practice. The most important part of this practice is done on the mental level, but the condition of the physical body also may influence the process of mastering Raja Yoga..

The masters of Raja Yoga tend to look at the outer world as a gross form of the inner more subtle worlds. The root is always in the finer, more spiritual regions, whereas the grosser more material worlds are the consequence, the end result. It is equally so with the forces: the external, visible forces are but an effect of the spiritual forces.

The Raja Yogi wants to achieve a high level of mastering over the internal forces, so that the external, gross forces we call laws of nature no longer can influence them. Raja - yogi starts off by exploring the internal world. They strive at achieving total control over the internal nature, and by doing that they manage to control the external world as well. Raja yoga is base on the Sankhya philosophy. Sankhya is one of the six schools of classical Indian philosophy. According to this school, the impressions of the objects of the material world are carried via the sense organs and nervous system to the brain, then to the mind and in the last step to the soul. Then the soul sends its impulses in the reverse order to the organs of action, to do whatever is needed.

The soul is the only immaterial entity in this sequence. The mind although made out of very subtle matter is still considered to be material. This fine matter is called Tanmatras by the Yogis, and this term denotes the archetypes of elementary matter. This means that between the fine intellectual fabric and the gross matter there is a distinction in the degree, and not in the quality.

In this sense, the mind is seen as an instrument of the soul. The Raja Yogi tries to use the mind to achieve a sort of reflexive power, capable of looking back into its own depths. Such a perfected mind would be able to use the senses in such a way that it is not attached to one particular sense but to all of them at the same time.

The Eight Steps of Raja Yoga

Raja Yoga is an eightfold or eight-limbed path, and in essence, there are eight steps or stages of Raja Yoga:


Yama means self-restraint, discipline and self-control. Yama includes the following practices: non - injury, non - offensiveness, truthfulness, chastity in thought, word and deed.


Niyama means regulation and abstention. Niyama includes regular habits and observances: austerity, external and internal purification, worshipping God, fasting, mantras, etc.


yoga postures

Asana means Posture. Asana includes control over the physical body so that it can be freed, purified and in a good shape.


Pranayama means controlling the vital force (prana). There are numerous types of pranayama. In general, they all include three basic stages: breathing in, holding the breathe and breathing out.


Pratyahara means controlling the sense organs. The sense organs are usually directed toward the outside world. In Pratyahara, the Raja Yogi is turning the senses toward the inner world, thus bringing them under control of the soul.


Dharana means collection or concentration of the mind. In fact, focusing the mind on the heart center or on the brow center is what Dharana truly means. It takes time and great effort to master the skill of concentration properly.


ohm meditation

Dhyana means meditation. Dhyana is an unceasing flow of consciousness centered on God, Love, Light or Absolute Truth.


Samadhi means enlightenment. It is the ultimate direct experience of the Truth.

According to Raja Yoga, the difference between Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi is in the intensity of one's concentration. If the mind can stay focused for 12 seconds without interruption it is a Dharana. 144 seconds make it a Dhyana, while 1728 seconds make it a Samadhi.


Who Can Practice Raja Yoga?

Everyone can. And, probably, everyone should. That said, it is not the best course of action to start with this spiritual practice unprepared. It is also not wise to do it on your own. Find a spiritual teacher who can guide you through the necessary steps.

What Are the Benefits of Raja Yoga Meditation?

The benefits are not very different from any other type of meditation. It relaxes the body and gives you peace. It helps you establish a deeper contact to your True Self, to find your purpose of living. It helps you increase your sense of self esteem. It gives you better concentration and mental clarity. It improves immunity and general health. As you are approaching the reality of what you are, you are discovering a sense of deep satisfaction and joy... In other words, the benefits are numerous and fantastic.

Is Raja Yoga the Same as Ashtanga Yoga

Short answer: Yes. Ashtanga means eight steps of yoga, and in that sense, it is more or less the same system. Popularized and practiced by K. Pattabhi Jois, Ashtanga Yoga is considered the modern style yoga based on the classical yoga. So in their essence both Raja and Ashtanga Yogas are the same.

Is Raja Yoga a Buddhist Way

It obviously isn't a Buddhist teaching nor is it considered a Buddhist practice. But you can benefit from it, that's for sure. Although, the types of meditations in Yoga and Buddhism are quite different, with different objectives. But the part with breathing, asanas and concentration will certainly benefit you.

About the Author

Inspired by the writings of Swami Vivekananda.
Photos by lyntally and


The above guest post is published based on the premise that it will be helpful and informative. The opinions made within it are those of the author and not of The links you may find within this post do not necessarily imply our recommendation or endorsement of the views expressed within them.


Martin says:

I was looking for the basic of raja yoga. This information was right what I was looking for. Thanks.

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