Updated: Jun 21
The word yoga comes from Sanskrit. It is a derivation of the word yuj, which means yoking, as in a team of oxen. In contemporary practice, this is often interpreted as meaning union. Yoga is said to be for the purpose of uniting the mind, body, and spirit.
Yoga is really about creating balance in the body through developing both strength and flexibility. The detailed all-encompassing meaning of Yoga is it is a way of living which is scientifically conceived, experimentally developed and evolved through the nurturing of many a learned personalities enabling the humankind to purify the strata of existence beginning from the physical visible state,
the Annamaya Kosha ascending to the functional physiological state,
Pranamaya Kosha then to the subtler mental state,
Manomaya Kosha proceeding to the intellectual state,
Jnanamaya Kosha and further up to the knowledge state,
Vijnanamaya Kosha and ultimately culminating in the realization of the Divine Bliss reaching the goal at the Anandamaya Kosha which has neither parallels nor opposites.
This subtle journey involves the strict adherence and dedicated observance of ASHTANGA YOGA namely: Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Prathyaahara, Dhaarana, Dhyaana and Samaadhi, the greatest gift by the revered sage Patanjali.
Yoga flows through four different pure streams namely Jnana Yoga, Raja Yoga, Bhakthi Yoga and Karma Yoga, to course and unite into one purest Divine Lake, the oneness with the Universal Guiding Light and the Divine Consciousness.
The second stream is the Raja Yoga where the human beings with all the sophisticated physical and physiological form is employing self in a very special process in which all thoughts are made to merge into own Divine Form. One becomes more and more aware of the Universal Force of Existence. This is known as Raja Yoga or the Yoga of Concentration and Meditation.
Techniques needed to systematically channelize our willpower form the core of Rajayoga. Thought process is continuous activity of the mind. Activity of the mind is produced and promoted by the Pranavaayu based and functioning from the head. This vital-life within is called Prana and along with the other Vaayus Udaana, Samaana, Vyana and Apaana is responsible for all the macro and micro visible and invisible movements of the body and mind.
Thus, Prana and the body are interconnected. The unsteady movements of all these Vaayus are responsible for the disturbance at all Kosha levels. Total subdual and control of the body may be brought about by keeping the body in a fixed and steady posture. Subdual and control of the inner psychic energy may be obtained by practicing techniques of breath-control.
And ultimately, all the scattered rays of the mind may be withdrawn from the multifarious universe and made to concentrate solely upon the Oneness and Vastness of the Formless Divine. In this culminating process, the living being is raised above the level of the mind and elevated into a state of super consciousness and reaches the stage of Moksha or a complete release from all the earthy bondages and the vicious cycle of birth and death.
Among all the four streams of Yoga, Raja Yoga with its physical and mental involvement of the body, breath and mind is more acceptable among the masses and can be ideally promoted as a tool to achieve perfect health and proceed on to experience the real experience of Moksha.
Patanjali gave us the Ashtanaga Yoga of which Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama and Pratyahara are classified as Bahiranga Yoga while Dharana Dhyana and Samadhi are classified as Antaranga Yoga.
Swami Vivekananda named the 196 Patanjali sootras detailing these techniques as Raja Yoga since these sootras are the keys to gaining mastery over the mind. Yamas the five restraints namely and Niyamas the ten observances are the guide lines for a healthy happy spiritual social life. Patanjali describes five guidelines as Ahimsa, Satya, Astheya, Brahmacharya nad Aparigraha.
The Niyamas are Shaucha, Santosha, Tapas, Swaadhyaya and Ishwara Pranidhaana.The third component the Asanas or the physical postures are the means to use the body to gain health and mastery over the mind. Asnas are done in three stages, Sthira, Chira and Sukha. Patanjali says Tasminsati Swasaprasvasaorgativichchedaha pranayaaha which implies to cut the speed of inhalations ad exhalations thereby controlling the breathing rate and converting the involuntary breathing process into a voluntary dimension. Pratyahhara the fifth aspect of Bahiranga Yoga is to gain mastery over the mind by withdrawing the senses inwards and denying them their food which they source out by employing themselves into the worldly pleasures.