Raja Yoga

Raja Yoga

Discover a meditative style of yoga as a path towards spiritual understanding

How can Raja yoga nourish you?

The term ‘Raja yoga’ can be a challenging one to grasp, as it is used in different contexts to denote several related yet subtly different concepts. It is popularly used to describe the overall aim of yoga[1] as a path towards uniting the body, mind and spirit. The Sanskrit word ‘Raja’ is usually translated as ‘king’, hence Raja yoga is often described as ‘the royal path’[2] to a transcendent state of consciousness.

In this sense, rather than being a clearly defined style of yoga (such as Iyengar, which has a characteristic focus on precision), Raja is more like the over-arching vision of everything yoga was traditionally intended to be. This means it encompasses the spiritual and philosophical aspects of yoga, as well as Hatha yoga[3], which refers to physical practices such as poses (asanas) and breathing exercises (pranayamas). 

There is agreement among scholars that the Indian sage Patanjali organised the many traditional practices[4] of yoga into a treatise known as the Yoga Sutras. This system came to be known as Raja yoga, or ‘royal yoga’, but because of its eightfold approach, it is also described as Ashtanga yoga[5] (eight-limbed yoga).

In addition to its use as an all-inclusive term, Raja as a discipline tends to be associated with the more spiritual aspects of yoga and a mastery of the mind[6]. For this reason, yogic masters including Swami Sivananda Saraswati have written about its meditative aspects[7], more than on the physical practices of yoga that are often emphasised in the Western world.

Benefits of Raja yoga

Academic research regarding Raja yoga as a meditative practice is limited, although a study of autonomic nervous system function in practitioners[8] suggests it supports parasympathetic activity, which may counteract the damaging effects of stress. Raja yoga meditation as practised by the Brahma Kumaris school has been reported to significantly improve a person’s sense of happiness[9] and satisfaction with life. 

There is evidence that suggests Raja yoga may be helpful in treating addictions, and could lead to improvements in physiological measures[10] such as heart rate, blood pressure and respiratory rate. Anecdotally, practitioners assert that the benefits of Raja yoga they have experienced include peace of mind and a sense of purpose[11]. Others praise Raja yoga as a way of learning to take control of their thoughts[12], changing unproductive patterns of behaviour and improving the quality of relationships.

Raja yoga may assist in relieving symptoms related to:

Alcohol and drug addiction Back pain Balance, stability and coordination Blood pressure Brain fog and clarity Circulation and cardiovascular conditions Concentration, focus and problem solving Depression Energy and vitality Flexibility, endurance and strength Heart conditions and heart attack Insomnia and sleep disorders Love and Relationships Memory and cognitive function Muscle spasm, tightness and cramps Posture and spine issues Relaxation Respiratory and breathing issues Sadness Stress and tension Weight control and obesity Show all

What to expect from a Raja yoga session

In Raja yoga, poses or asanas are not the aspect of the practice which is emphasised, but mental discipline and an exploration of the spirit. If this more meditative approach is something you naturally resonate with you might be wondering, “Where can I try Raja yoga near me?” 

Raja yoga meditation is less commonplace than Hatha-based yoga practices. A typical session usually begins with an introduction and information about Raja yoga, followed by a relaxation exercise. Some schools also include pranayamas and chanting[13]

After relaxing and focusing the mind, the meditative part of the session[14] is often practised in the lotus position, sitting cross-legged with the back of your feet against opposite thighs and your hands resting near your knees with your palms up. Once you have stilled your mind and attained a calm, focused perspective, you can direct your attention to a positive, enriching idea[15] of your choice, and contemplate this thought or concept peacefully.

One unique aspect of Raja yoga is that you meditate with your eyes open[16], being still and present in the moment. This means that you can easily revisit a meditative state at any time[17], regardless of what you’re doing.

Raja yoga as a meditative practice is a peaceful activity that does not require physical exertion. Nevertheless, please consult your medical professional before commencing Raja yoga. If you have an injury or other health issue which makes it difficult for you to sit in lotus position, or if you have any concerns at all, speak to your Raja yoga teacher, who will be happy to address these and adjust the session to your individual requirements. 


  1. Raja Yoga | yogapedia.com
  2. What Is the Meaning of Raja Yoga? | livestrong.com
  3. What is Raja Yoga? | rajayogis.net
  4. Raja Yoga, oneness through meditation | yogabasics.com
  5. What is Raja or Ashtanga Yoga? | The Yogi Press
  6. What is Raja Yoga? | ekhartyoga.com
  7. Raja Yoga by Sivananda Saraswati | goodreads.com
  8. Autonomic Functions In Raja-Yoga Meditators | researchgate.net
  9. Efficacy of Rajayoga Meditation on Positive Thinking: An Index for Self-Satisfaction and Happiness in Life | PMC
  10. Does Raja Yoga meditation bring out physiological and psychological general well being among practitioners of it? | ProQuest
  11. Learn Raja Yoga Meditation | thoughtfortoday.org.uk
  12. Experience Raja Yoga | brahmakumaris.org
  13. Raja Yoga Meditation for Tapa | 3ho.org
  14. How to Meditate | brahmakumaris.org
  15. Raja Yoga Meditation – All That You Need To Know | monq.com
  16. 7 benefits of Raja Yoga Meditation | speakingtree.in
  17. Raja Yoga Meditation | brahmakumaris.org

Frequently asked questions

Raja Yoga, also known as the "Royal Path," is one of the classical forms of yoga outlined by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras. It primarily focuses on the cultivation of mental and spiritual discipline through practices such as meditation and ethical living. Unlike some other yogic paths that emphasize physical postures or breath control, Raja Yoga centers on the mind's mastery.

Raja Yoga comprises eight limbs, as outlined by Patanjali. These limbs, known as Ashtanga Yoga, include ethical principles (Yamas and Niyamas), physical postures (Asanas), breath control (Pranayama), sense withdrawal (Pratyahara), concentration (Dharana), meditation (Dhyana), and union with the divine (Samadhi). Practitioners systematically engage in these practices to achieve mental and spiritual harmony.

Raja Yoga is open to individuals of all backgrounds and levels of experience. While it doesn't demand physical prowess, it requires dedication and sincerity in cultivating mental and spiritual discipline. Beginners can start with foundational practices like ethical living and gradually progress through the eight limbs at their own pace.

Unlike specific styles like Iyengar or Ashtanga, Raja Yoga doesn't prescribe a set sequence of physical postures or emphasize precision in alignment. Instead, it serves as a comprehensive framework encompassing the spiritual, philosophical, and physical dimensions of yoga. While other styles may specialize in particular aspects, Raja Yoga is considered a holistic path toward achieving unity of body, mind, and spirit.

Raja Yoga can be practiced independently, and many practitioners choose to focus solely on its spiritual and meditative aspects. However, it also naturally integrates with other yogic disciplines, including Hatha Yoga. The eight limbs outlined in Raja Yoga's Ashtanga system offer a flexible approach, allowing individuals to explore each limb individually or incorporate them into a more comprehensive yoga practice.

Raja Yoga places a significant emphasis on mastering the mind through practices like meditation (Dhyana) and concentration (Dharana). Swami Sivananda Saraswati and other yogic masters highlight the transformative power of these mental disciplines in achieving a heightened state of awareness and spiritual realization. The meditative aspects of Raja Yoga guide practitioners toward inner mastery, facilitating a deeper understanding of the mind's intricacies.
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