Raja Yoga


There are many paths of yoga for attaining clarity of mind. Raja Yoga is one of the paths that focuses on meditation and contemplation. Raja means king, and king is always in a state of enlightenment. The pursha (Man), or the king, is always hidden by the workings of the mind. It is avidya which conceals our pursha, and many of us are unaware of its existence. When this process is reversed, and mind becomes master of the senses, we find clarity of the mind and our pursha takes its rightful place. In the yoga sutra, it says that when there is no more restlessness in the mind, pursha will unfold and see. That is Raja Yoga.


The Yoga Sutras are built on a foundation of Samkhya philosophy and the Bhagavad Gita. There are 196 sutras (verses) – short aphorisms. Each sutra is presented in the Devanagari script, with a transliteration of Sanskrit, a transliteration in italics, and a commentary. The sutras of Patanjali are presented in 4 chapters. Chapter I (51 sutras) is known as Samadhipada. It gives us the famous definition of yoga and describes our state of mind in yoga and non-yoga. Chapter II (55 sutras), known as Sadhanapada, presents yoga as practice. III (56 sutras), known as Vibhutipada, discusses the results that those who practice yoga can achieve and also discusses the dangers of these changes. Chapter IV (34 sutras), known as Kaivalyapada, concerns the libration to which yoga can lead.


Yajnavalkya Smriti, dating back to some time between the second and fourth centuries, is the oldest texts that talk about pranayama, asana, and especially, kundalini. This text mentions that Brahma (Hiranyagarbha), the creator of the world, created Yoga. Therefore, the world and yoga came into existence together. This complete yogic science was not fully refined and was not into a definite system. It is Patanjali Maharishi, who formulated this science into a definite system under the name of Ashtanga Yoga or Raja Yoga. Here Patanjali describes the concept of Isvara (God). Ishvara is complete, perfect, and boundlessly glorious. He is a distinct Pursha, compared to human beings. God alone is recognized by the Pranava-aum. Aum is a Universal Sound and seeds from which all words and languages spring. The sacred syllable, Aum, is chanted while meditating and performing breathing exercises.


There are various other authors, who have written commentaries on yoga, in various centuries. Vyasa’s Bhasya in the fifth century, Shankaracharys’s Vivrana, Vachaspati Mishra’s Tattvaisaradi, in the ninth century, a great king Bhojadeva’s Rajamartanda, around the tenth century, and Vijananabiksu’s Yogavarttika in the sixteenth century.


Chapter 1:  Samadhipada

Samadhipada (the chapter on Samadhi) defines yoga and its characteristics; it discusses the problems encountered in reaching the state of yoga and the ways in which these problems can be handled.

Chapter 2:  Sadhanapadah

It describes the qualities necessary to change the mind effectively, and gradually, from a state of distraction to one of attention. It also describes why these qualities are important and what the practice of these entails. In this chapter, Patanjali describes the first five components of yoga. They are yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, and pratyahara.

Chapter 3:  Vibhutipadah

In Vibhutipadah, Patanjali describes the capacity of the mind, which through the various practices, described in the earlier two chapters, can achieve a state = free from distractions. In this chapter, Patanjali describes the sixth, seventh, and eighth components of yoga. They are dharana, dhyana, and samadhi.

Chapter 4:  Kaivalyapadah

In this final chapter, Patanjali presents the possibilities for a person with a highly refined mind. It explains how the mind is constructed, and how the primal building blocks of the mind resolve back into their cause – allowing final liberation.


Chitta (the consciousness), buddhi (intelligence), ahamkara (ego or’ I’ consciousness), and manas (mind).

Three gunas (qualities)

Sattva (illumination), rajas (vibrancy), tamas (inertia)

These three gunas rule over the manas, buddhi, and ahamkara.

Five gross elements and their subtle elements

Earth, water, fire, air, and ether

Subtle elements

Smell (gandha), taste (rasa), shape (rupa), touch (sparsha), and sound (sabsha)

Out of five elements of our body, three elements ap (water), tej (fire) & vayu (air), and their qualities, play a role for life to function. These three elements, and their energies, create tridosha, sapta dhatu-s, and trimal.

Three humours of the body are:

1. Tridosha

Vata (wind), pitta (bile), kapha (phlegm)

2. sapta dhatu-s (seven ingredients)

Rasa (chyle), rakta (blood), mamsa (muscles), meda (fat), asthi (bones), majja (bone marrow), and sukra (semen)

3. Trimal (wastage of the body)

Sveda (sweat), purisa (faeces), mutra (urine)

The three humours of the body play a major role in the function and balance of the metabolic process.

Five vayus

Prana, apana, vyana, udana, and samana

Five upvayus

Naga, kurma, krkara, devadatta, and dhanamjaya

Five vayus, and five upavayus, activate and metabolise, the various systems in the body, as well as generate new energy.


Cellular, skeletal, muscular, digestive, circulatory, respiratory, nervous, excretory, reproductive, and glandular

The functions of theses systems, and their effects, leave their impressions on the mind and its activities to a great extent.

Five senses of perception

Eyes (seeing), ears (hearing), nose (smelling), tongue (tasting) & skin (touching).

The five organs of action

Hands (holding), legs (walking), mouth (talking), genitals (reproducing), and excretory (excreting)

Seven kosha (sheaths)

Annamaya (physical), pranayama (physiological), manomaya (psychological ), vijnanamaya (intellectual), cittamaya (consciousness), anadamaya (the body of joy), antahkarana / dharmendriya (conscience)

Antahkarana / dharmendriya links one to Aatmamaya (Self).

It shows us that a human being is made up of body, mind, and soul.


Raja Yoga is based on the eight limbs of Yoga, which was discussed in the Maharshi Patanjali‘s Yoga Sutra. They are yama, niyama, asna, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana, and samadhi.

The five yamas

The principles of yama are ahimsa (non violence), satya (truthfulness), asteya (non-greediness), brahmacharya (chasity or continence), and aparigraha (non possesion or desireless).

These principles of yama remind us that we are not only individual beings, but also social beings. Its code of conduct helps one to know how to behave with oneself and with others. As we expect others to behave with us, we need to check whether we behave with others in the same manner. Yama keeps the organs of actions (karmendriyas) clean.

The five niyamas

The principles of niyamas are sauch (cleanliness), santosha (contentment), tapas (austerity) svadhyaya (self-study), and Isvarapranidhana (devotion). The principles of niyama teach us as to how to interact with ourselves. In fact, the principles of yama, and the principles of niyamas, are inter-dependent and inter-woven with each other. We have to adopt these principles for the whole of our lives. Niyama keeps the senses of perception (jnanendriyas) clean.

Effects of yama and niyama

Patanjali mentions that, when the ten principles are firmly established in a person’s character, definite effects will begin to appear, such as absence of danger, effectiveness of speech, the arrival of unsought wealth, vigor of body and mind, understanding of life’s events, clarity of thought, steadiness of attention, control of the senses, great happiness, perfection of body and senses, intuition, and realization of one’s true self.


In order to develop tolerance in the body and the mind, asanas are introduced. Patanjali defines asana in yoga sutra as sthira sukham asanam. It means the presentation of an asana should be undisturbed, unperturbed, and unruffled at all levels of body, mind, and self. A correct practice of asana, with a pure mind and heart, gives immense benefits. Asanas guide the practitioner to peep inward, and this leads to a state where the dualities between prakriti and pursha come to an end, and Isvara pranidhana begins.


Patanjali defines that pranayama is the regulation of the incoming (svasa) and outgoing (prasvasa) flow of breath. Prana means wind, vital air, and also means will power. Ayama means stretch, expansion, and extension. It means the expansion and extension of life force, and the development of will power, is pranayama. Pranayama has four movements, puraka (inhalation), rechaka (exhalation), and kumbhaka (retention). Kumbhaka is divided into antara kumbhaka (retention after inhalation) and bahya kumbhaka (retention after exhalation). The whole science of pranayama has several varieties and methods, based on these four factors. Pranayama’s ratio is 1:4:2:4. Pranayama purifies and cleanses the mind and citta. Asana and pranayama prepare the body and mind for Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadhi.

meditation pose


Pratyhara evolves from pranayama. Pratyhara helps the mind to acquire knowledge of the self. It is a threshold between the first four and the last three aspects of ashtanga yoga. Though it is latent in the first four aspects, its study gets intensified in the last three aspects of yoga- dharana, dhyana, and Samadhi. As the mind always likes to go out towards pleasurable temptations, yama, niyama, asana, and pranayama, make the mind follow pratyahara; hence, the root of pratyahara is in yama, niyama, asana, and pranayama. Asana, pranayama, and pratyahara,are antaranga sadhana (inner). These are the gates of the yogic world.


Fixing the consciousness on one point, or region, is dharana. One can choose a place either inside the body or outside the body. Inside the body – one can concentrate on the navel, the heart, the centre of the brain, the forepart of the nose or the tongue, and outside of the body – on any external object. Vyasa says choose heart, nose, tongue, forehead, etc., because all these parts are outside the body and also inside the body. A long uninterrupted length of time in dharana automatically changes into dhyana.


Dhyana means a steady, continuous flow of attention, directed towards the same point of region. The flow of attention is continuous, uninterrupted, and even. Dhyana is not a mechanical practice but an electrifying practice. The ego and arrogance become humble and then insignificant.


Samadhi means total absorption. This is the state of total bliss (Ananda) – free from all pains and misery. The yogi attains the highest gain of life, and there remains nothing more to be gained or accomplished. This stage is the culmination of Raja Yoga practice. It is a window to the divine experience – the ultimate goal of yoga. As described by Swami Sivananda, this is “The state of consciousness, where Absoluteness is experienced – attended with all-knowledge and joy; Oneness. Here – the mind becomes identified with the object of meditation; the meditator and the meditated, thinker and thought, become one in perfect absorption of the mind.”

The eight limbs of Raja Yoga help us to enter into the regime of the self. To attain this stage, we need two basic requirements to follow. These are Abhyasa (long constant practice) and Vairagya (detachment). When we do abhyasa intensely, vairagya becomes more automatically intense.

Courtesy: Dr. Rita Khanna’s Yogashaastra Studio. A popular studio that helps you find natural solutions for complete health and detoxification.

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Dr. Rita Khanna

Dr Rita Khanna

Dr. Rita Khanna is a well-known name in the field of Yoga and Naturopathy. She was initiated into this discipline over 25 years ago by world famous Swami Adyatmananda of Sivananda Ashram in Rishikesh(India).

She believes firmly that Yoga is a scientific process, which helps us to lead a healthy and disease-free life. She is also actively involved in practicing alternative medicines like Naturopathy. Over the years, she has been successfully practicing these therapies and providing succour to several chronic and terminally ill patients through Yoga, Diet and Naturopathy. She is also imparting Yoga Teachers Training.

At present, Dr. Rita Khanna is running a Yoga Studio in Secunderabad (Hyderabad, India).

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