Raja Yoga is considered an esoteric discipline, primarily of interest to the spiritually inclined. In reality, its most practical form, Raja Yoga enables, in us to lead a healthy and happy life.
It is a path of self-discipline wherein the seeker practices self-control, detachment from worldly things, concentration, and meditation to achieve Self-realisation. Even when one is making one’s way to Self-realisation, the practice of Raja Yoga brings inner peace and clarity.
The discipline required for the practice of Raja Yoga naturally brings about a healthy lifestyle, as a pure way of life, with moderation in diet, and good habits that contribute to physical and mental well-being.
Raja Yoga consists of eight steps: self-control, discipline, physical exercises, breathing exercises, withdrawing the senses from external objects, concentration, meditation, and realisation. The principles of nonviolence, truthfulness, and complete purity of mind are inherent in these steps.
All these have wide-ranging benefits that affect one’s whole life. For example, the inner peace and contentment experienced by the practice of Raja Yoga meditation help one realise that merely accumulating possessions does not bring happiness. On the contrary, one who has many possessions also has many worries.
Not accumulating also means not holding onto other people.When we let go of something or someone, we set ourselves free from dependence or attachment. The physical aspect of yoga and its health benefits are well-known; what is less known is that some of those rewards stem from the change in thinking, attitudes, and emotions enabled by the practice of Raja Yoga.
More than physical postures, the posture of the mind matters, and thought control comes before breath control: If one’s mind is agitated, one’s breathing will not be calm.
Modern science now attests to the wide range of healing properties of the ancient art of meditation.
Meditation has been clinically proven to relieve chronic pain, reduce stress, slow aging, lower blood pressure, improve heart and lung function, reduce depression, and improve sleep.
Many see meditation as a solitary activity better suited to loners, but it has been found to increase one’s sense of connection to others and improve one’s emotional intelligence.
Meditation may also change the brain and immune function in positive ways, and it has been seen to improve one’s ability to regulate emotions.
Some are under the impression that meditation is just sitting, doing nothing, and therefore a waste of time. But it has been found to increase one’s focus and attention, improve the ability to multitask, and enhance memory, all of which boosts productivity.
By helping the practitioner cleanse the mind and clear the intellect, Raja Yoga enables correct perception and right decision-making. Ego, anger and other weaknesses no longer cloud the mind, and one is able to see the larger picture. In this way, Raja Yoga helps one think beyond the bounds created by one’s fears and desires.
The rewards of Raja Yoga are not just personal. A yogi is an ideal citizen and a source of strength and support for his community. By empowering the mind and teaching how to safeguard one’s inner state, yoga makes one capable of helping others.