Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Raja Yoga

There are so many different ways to classify Yoga philosophy, and one way is to look at the different schools of Yoga. In classical terms, there are 4 paths- Karma Yoga (yoga of action), Bhakti yoga (yoga of devotion), Jnana yoga (yoga of wisdom) and Raja yoga (royal yoga).

Raja Yoga is the school of Yoga that we’re most familiar in the West. It’s also called Asthanga Yoga, or 8 limbed path. Thanks to Patanjali, a sage who lived around 100 BC, he compiled the ancient teachings, the Yoga Sutra’s, which are the foundations of Raja Yoga.
Raja Yoga provides practitioners a comprehensive, step by step approach to purify body and mind to achieve liberation.

The eight limbs of Raja yoga are:
• Yama – things that we should restraint
• Niyama – things that we should cultivate
• Asana – practice of yoga postures
• Pranayama – breathwork to bridge the body and mind
• Pratyahara – withdrawal of senses
• Dharana – concentration of mind
• Dhyana – meditation
• Samadhi – the state to realize true self, blissful and consciousness

Having such a clear path helped to satisfy my analytical mind when I first started my yoga practice. Shortly thereafter I realized how these steps are intertwined and in fact should be practiced together to master the mind. In fact it’s a mix and match! You can take one, any one of these steps, and apply it in conjuncture of another, except the last one, Samadhi. Like you can never tell a fruit will be ripened and fall down from the tree, you can’t tell when you will achieve Samadhi. It’s viewed as God’s Grace.
Likewise, the Yama and Niyamas, the moral codes are like threads, if you go deep down in one, you find yourself perfecting another. That’s how Mahatma Gandhi, by practicing Ahimsa, not only worked towards his liberation but liberated a whole country.

Yamas the “Don’t’s”.
Ahimsa, non-violence
Satya, truthfulness
Brahmacharya, moderation or self control.
Asteya, non-stealing
Aparigraha, non-possessiveness

Niyamas – The “Do’s”.
Saucha, purity
Santosha, contentment
Tapas, self-discipline
Swadhyaya, self-study and study of the sacred scriptures
Ishwara Pranidhana surrender to God

Next 10 weeks during my Thursday night gentle yoga class we’ll focus on one Yama and Niyama, each week. We’ll talk these moral codes and go deep down in each one and discuss how to practice these codes on and off the mat.

After all it’s about how we can take these yogic principles off the mat and integrate into our daily lifes.

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