Raja Yoga Practices: How to Find God
Raja yoga is one of the six orthodox schools of yoga. Raja yoga practices aim to unite the individual with the divine. Its first and fullest expression is found in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, a book believed to have been written in the second century BC.
Raja yoga practices are an eightfold process. The eight steps, or limbs, are as follows:
Yama. This refers to one’s moral self. The seeker of the divine must first practice such things as non-harming, truth telling and so forth. Only when the moral house is in order can the aspirant move on.
Niyama. The study and practice of philosophy and spirituality. No single method is encouraged. Some people are more intellectually inclined and benefit from study while others practice charity and good works.
Asana. The perfection of the body. This is the stretching that comes to mind when most people think of yoga. For yoga, the body must be a fit vessel if it is to reunite with God. Of all exercises to accomplish this, those of yoga reign supreme.
Pranayama. Regulation of the breath. Patanjali tells us at the very beginning of the Yoga Sutras that he is concerned with stilling the fluctuations of the mind. The untrained mind has been likened to a mad monkey always hopping around aimlessly. The first step in stilling the mind is to gain control over breathing. Proper breathing is critical if one is to move on.
Pratyahara. This is the abstraction of the senses from physical objects. Meditation takes many forms. In Zen the purpose is to fully engage in the ever present moment. Yoga is the opposite. Ultimately enlightenment will come when there is no awareness whatsoever. The first step is for the meditator to lose awareness of what’s around them.
Dharana. Once the senses have withdrawn from the world around them the mind is brought to focus on a single point. What that point is varies. It can be the breath or a chant. Some visualize the sacred symbol OM while others visualize a cross. Whatever the object, the point here is to focus on it alone and have no other object or sensation in awareness.
Dhyana. Meditation. Once an object can be held to the exclusion of all else, the aspirant must begin to obliterate even that object to reach the goal of no-thing-ness.
Samadhi. Superconsciousness or consciousness without object. It is in this state of pure consciousness the practitioner of Raja Yoga experiences the bliss that accompanies the merging of the individual with God; the self with Self.
Raja yoga practices may seem complicated and even hard to comprehend at first. But the more one practices the more they understand the core rules of yoga.