What Is Raj Yoga?


10 Feb What Is Raj Yoga?

Raja Yoga is yoga of the mind. It focuses on the intellectual, emotional and intuitive parts of the personality. Its purpose is to awaken hidden potential through true understanding. It requires us to raise the lower mind to the higher mind from a sensory, external experience to internal reflection & then enlightenment. It is said to bring us to a state of clear awareness and awaken psychic potential. Let’s stop on the ‘psychic potential’ for a moment. We often associate psychic with seeing the future, fortune telling or magical powers, and while some in the yoga community head down that path (Patanjali’s sutras give direction & details of the 21 Siddhi Powers), the term can have a different understanding. We can look at is as connecting to our deep intuitive state that guides us through life. Let’s continue and I’ll pick up on the psychic power later.

So, Raj yoga  includes the practice of contemplation and meditation. Ideally, it is paired with and practiced after Hatha Yoga, which prepares the physical body for deep meditation. Raja Yoga is perfect for putting everything into perspective. When practiced daily this yoga can arguably have the greatest impact on out lives as it offers the thing we lack the most, time alone. When you think about it how much time do you spend with you? Just you. That means no friends, family, no TV, no music on & no work to do. A time where you can press the pause button and explore the experience of life. This can sound a lofty ask, exploring the experience of life! but it is actually quite simple. During the meditation you might delve deeper into your consciousness & journey towards the greater questions of life but you might just explore the sensations around that sore knee or reflect on the passing thoughts in your mind. During the hours of our everyday life we are under constant bombardment of sensory information – what we see, hear, smell, taste etc add to that we are usually imagining or planning for something later that day or week, while also recalling stream after stream of past memories. Our minds never stop & the information we absorb cannot be filtered adequately.

So the practice of meditation is essentially the practice of slowing down the whirlpool (Vritti) of the mind. We all know what it feels like to have all these thoughts running through our mind. With all that information coming in it’s had for us to 1) not be influenced by our reactive nature & 2) find the truth in the thought. How many times do you react and later regret your actions? The practice helps reduce this reactive often combative nature. The thoughts & feelings still arrive but with practice they slow to the point you become a detatched observer of these thoughts. At this point you can contemplate the thoughts & if needed, you can find the solutions required. This is the intuitive psychic power, you tapping into the infinite field of consciousness to make the right decision from a non-attached perspective.


There are many methods and traditions to this ‘Royal Yoga’ (Raj – royal) but we will only look at still meditation in this article. Still meditation is just that, it’s sitting still and beginning the process to turn your attention inward. A quick note on the ‘still’, is to say that nothing is ever still. Our entire reality is in constant vibration & so the paradox you find is that, as you become still-er, you feel & observe more movement than ever. Tingles & pulses, heartbeats, the breath & the thoughts all continue to move BUT now you are physically still-er you can observe & contemplate these sensations. I would always suggest my students begin their meditation practice here. Observing the body or the breath. Don’t approach meditation with an intention of sorting your life out at the first attempt. Like anything worthwhile in life you’re going to need plenty of practice to get to the level of deep contemplation but the great news is along the way you will receive a whole host of mental, physical & emotional benefits. Even after a week of practicing meditation you will feel calmer & more focused. So, lets have a go!


Observing The Breath 

You can do this by actually counting the breaths as you would in pranayama practice. Ultimately, however, meditating on the breath just means purely observing the breath as it is, without changing it in any way. In this instance, the breath becomes the sole object of your meditation. You observe every intimate sensation it produces such as how it moves in your abdomen and chest, how it feels as it moves in and out of your nose, its quality, its temperature, it’s length. Though you are fully aware of all these details, you don’t dwell on them, judge or label them in any way. You remain detached from what you’re observing. What you discover is neither good nor bad, you simply allow yourself to be with the breath from moment to moment.

Breath observance is the predominant technique used by practitioners of vipassana, commonly referred to as insight or mindfulness meditation.  The word vipassana, which literally means “to see clearly” is also interpreted to mean the place where the heart dwells, and so reflects the premise that thought arises out of our hearts and “truth” via the psychic heart.

Let’s Practice

  1. Prepare the space! An unclothed room is best with a nice temperature. Turn off phones & wifi devices, TV & make sure you wont be disturbed for 5-10 minutes.
  2. Begin with some light stretches & mobilisation of the hips, shoulders & neck. Some gentle cyclic motions in a very rhythmic once like way will help the body and mind open in readiness for the meditation.
  3. Sit in a comfortable position. If you are new to yoga & meditation don’t try to imitate a monk! Sit in a chair with a back rest to help keep your spine straight & supported.
  4. I meditate in silence, & at some point that’s going to be on your path but when we first start meditating music can help. It’s probably obvious, but heavy metal & pop music isn’t the ideal setting so look for some “new-age” softer sounds (click my link below for one of my mixes. The music will fall silent for 5 minutes, aside form a few drums & chimes to keep you focused, before you are signalled to end the meditation with an OM).
  5. Start to control the breath and expand it slowly. With each passing breath try to lengthen the volume you inhale & exhale. This calms the nervous system & helps the process of stilling the mind. As a starting point spend 3-5 minutes slowly breathing in and out (follow the music).
  6. At this point you will feel more relaxed & you might be able to go to the next stage. Observing the breath in silence. No control! Take a deep breath in & let all the air out. Then, observe the breath. Focus solely on the sensation as it travels through the body. The mind will undoubtedly wonder every 30 seconds or so but don’t give up. Just calmly breath in & out and focus back on the breath.
  7. Continue this until you hear the “{{{OM}}}” in the music I have provided. When you hear the OM, take a slow deep breath in, hold for a moment then take a big sigh. Keep your eyes closed & slowly begin to move the fingertips, shoulders, head etc before taking a few more stretches to reawaken the physical body.

Try this everyday for 14 days & let me know if it’s helped.

Music: If you go to my page you can download this for free.

Enjoy the weekend everyone.


Peace & Love




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