“Whole Universe in the body” is the principle on which Raj yoga is based upon. Goal of this Yoga is to find this universe within the body, by following steps given by Patanjali, in his yoga sutras. For this path, nothing from outside is needed, person need to look inside to follow steps given in Patanjali yogasutra to improve on the ability to meditate and reach the state of samadhi at will, where he/she and universe are unified. Additionally, Raj Yoga can take a long, for someone to reach state of self realization, so it is needed that a person works towards improving body longitivtiy, so that they have more time, and more chances of achieving self realization in this life itself.
Patanjali yogasutra is a handbook of Rajyoga and prescribes a eight anga (steps, limbs or stages) method to reach to Samadhi.
- Practice of Raj Yoga starts with Yama, where person deals with mastering control over mind. Focus at this step is on how we conduct our lives. Five areas are identified: Ahimsa (not having an intent to hurt others), satya (always speaking truth), asteya (not eyeing others possessions), brahmachaya (self-denial of sensory pleasure) and Aparigraha (not wanting create possession). While it may be difficult to master these focus areas in the beginning, but with the practice when a person masters this, it automatically help to reduce thoughts in the mind, making it calm.
- Second anga is, Niyama, where person sets and follows rules, for everyday life. This brings stability and routine to a person’s life, and constant practice of this would help person to calm down his/her mind further. Five niyamas are: Swacha (cleanliness), Santosha (staying content in what is available), tapa (austerity), swadhyaya (reading spiritual literature) and Ishwar paridhana (surrendering to god).
- Third Anag is, Asana. Goal of this anag is to improve strength of body and getting it ready for the next Angas. In this stage, a person is required to perform and master various body formations, improving overall body strength.
- Fourth Anag is Pranayama. Having mastered control over mind, action and improved body strength, now we come to extend the life, by using pranayama, which uses breathing techniques to rejuvenate and help extend the life.
The angas so far were more like preparatory, helping a person to make mind, body stronger, increasing the life expectancy. The Angas hence forth are focused on making real progress on this path.
- Firth Anga is Pratyahara, where the person withdraws oneself from sensory organs, external worlds and focuses on inner self, seating at one place, focusing on just within. First four angas would help to make any progress here. If one haven’t mastered the first four, he/she would find it difficult to make any progress from here onwards.
- Reaching the Sixth Anga of Dharana is the goal of Pratyahara (the Fifth Anga). Once a person reaches this state, he can easily disassociate himself/herself from the sensory stimuli and can focus or concentrate on one object, be it a deity, sound, person, or anything else, of which the person wants to do Dharna. By practicing Dharna for a long period of time, a person reaches the next step of Dhyan.
- Dhyana is the seventh step of Raj yoga, in this the person can have uninterrupted focus or concentration, which is more like extended Dharna. But, in this step person does not need to try, he/she can get into the extended period of concentration, without even trying, and that separates it from Dharana.
- Now the eighth and last step, i.e Samadhi, this is the step of ecstasy, where the person and the object of Dhyan/Dharna have become homogenous and person feels the connect with the divine, and sees the true self, this is the step of Self Realization.
Things to take care in this path:
Raj yoga can take very long time to reach to the state of samadhi or self realization. During the period when the person is climbing the ladder of angas, it is important that he/she stays motivated and continuous practice, even through it appears that nothing is moving.
Another angle, some of the people experience is the siddhis, where by people experience supernatural powers. Some people may hear what other people are thinking, or see what other people are doing, or even can manipulate other thoughts. These are great powers to have, and people get tempted to use for them for one’s benefit, but, followers of this path need to know that these are “traps”, to stop further progress, and to test your conviction. Best way to deal these is just to ignore these powers and continue on what your are doing in order to make progress on the path of Raj Yoga.