Raja yoga is a form of yoga that uses the mind as an instrument for looking inwards and uncovering the inner self. The word "Raja" comes from a Sanskrit word which means "chief, best of its kind" or "king". Considered as the king of yogas, it emphasizes the great benefits of meditation for spiritual self-realization and the purposeful evolution of consciousness.
In raja yoga, meditation is based on the direction of one’s life force into balance so that his attention can easily be focused on the meditation’s subject. The life force is directed up and down the spine until it becomes balanced, and the mind and the emotions can now reach a state of supreme contentment. After it has been achieved, the awareness is brought forward into a point in the centre of the lower forehead. This meditation point is called the ajna or the third eye.
Once the energy has become balanced in both the mind and the body, and able to be moved easily into the third eye, the mind reaches a calm state. But, this does not mean that it becomes passive, rather, it is now free from meaningless thoughts, worries, and other things occupying the subconscious mind. This calm state creates a wonderful sense of wellbeing for the person.
The eight limbs refer to the eight aspects of yoga practice:
Referred to as the Mental Yoga, Raja yoga has several benefits which include:
Raja yoga can easily fit into one’s daily routine. Regular practice helps release meaningless thoughts and worries from the mind.
A raja yoga class starts usually with seated meditation, paranayama, and chanting. The instructor may offer some dharma talk on the yamas, niyamas or another aspect of yoga philosophy to deepen the experience.
The physical practice starts with a warmup and then go into more focused sequencing. Time is spent breaking down and workshop the foundational seated and standing postures of that practice. The class ends with a restful cooling floor sequence, ending with a savasana and perhaps a seated meditation and reflection afterwards.
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