Tag Archives: raja yoga

Yoga & Personality Types

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In Western cultures, many still think of physical exercise when they hear the word Yoga. These exercises are typically pictured as hyper-flexible people adopting odd looking poses, which no ‘normal’ individual could hope to emulate.

In the bigger picture, Yoga is a form of spiritual discipline. Where these physical exercises (asanas) come in, are as a means to strengthen the body so someone can sit for longer periods of time in meditation without injuring themselves.

Now, depending on how pedantic you want to be, there are a number of ways of classifying the different styles of yoga. But in broad terms there are four main categories, Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Raja Yoga and Jnana Yoga, each of which is designed to be of benefit to different personality types. In this context and in simple terms, Karma equates to action, Bhakti to love, Raja to royal and Jana to wisdom.

Karma Yoga is the way of selfless service. Bhakti Yoga for a person of with a devotional temperament. Raja Yoga is for those with mystic inclinations. And Jnana Yoga is intended for a person with rational and enquiring philosophical personality.

Yoga aims to develop a relationship with our source, whether you chose to call this source God, Supreme Consciousness, Lord etc. So whatever your personality type and starting point, the aim and the intended end result is the same.

© David R. Durham
Spirit Healer

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Yoga Styles

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Yoga is not one ‘thing’, but it is a title given to a wide range of spiritual values, approaches, goals and techniques which have developed over the last 5,000 years in India.

Consequently, there have evolved many different expressions of Yoga, centered around different flavours of teachers and their styles.

However, whatever the mode of expression, they all have the same basic aim, which is the transcendence of the limited body/mind consciousness into a broader, deeper and more complete awareness and experience of ourselves.

In many ways the Yoga traditions have tried to systemise and sign-post the process of awakening to our broader consciousness.

It also seems to be the case that many try, and few succeed. And of those who do succeed, many keep quiet about it. This may be because having got over the bliss of the initial energy release, it becomes evident that this is simply your natural state, which you’d never left. And then the human condition can be experienced as a rather special and precious state of consciousness.

There are several main stream schools of yoga, where there is a good deal of overlap in principles and practices, and they should not be thought of as separate in any literal sense of the word.

Raja Yoga
This school is focused on meditation, contemplation and mind training.

Hatha Yoga
This is very much focused on developing the body as a means of transcendence.

Jana Yoga
The emphasis here is on self-realisation through knowledge or wisdom. It is through gnosis that reality is seen.

Bhakti Yoga
Here the heart is introduced, and bhakti yoga is a purification through love of the divine.

Karma Yoga
This is a yoga of inner attitude towards action. This action freedom aproach views the world as a vibratory arising process. And through the realisation of this, our limited ego-mind can be seen through.

Mantra Yoga
This is tuning into and experiencing the vibratory world of sound. This is practiced through sacred chants and hymns. Some of the oldest recorded spiritual writings, the Vedas, are designed to be sung.

Tantric Yoga
Tantric yoga contains ways of exploring the depths of human consciousness and has tools for transformation and liberation from the limits of our superficial human condition. (See my blog on the 1st of December for more)

What can be noticed when we see a brief summary list such as this, is how these different strands of the fabric of yoga can appeal to different people’s natural predispositions and mentality.

What can also be observed how the inseparable human qualities of mind, emotions and body can all become channels to the realisation of the divine within all of us.

For the serious student of yoga, I’d recommend the following book:

The Yoga Tradition: Its History, Literature, Philosophy and Practice,
by George Feuerstein

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© David R. Durham

Modern Yoga

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Much of the yoga we have become familiar with in the West evolved during the mid to late 19th century. This was a period when the West was opening up to ideas and philosophies from India and the Far East.

This process was a part of the cultural exchange which went hand-in-hand with the imperial aspirations of the European nation states. The Europeans sold christianity (or a least a version of it) to their hosts and the western countries were sold yoga (or a least a version of it) .

In both cases, the vendors realised that their sales pitch had to be adapted to the local beliefs and customs, or else it had no chance of being accepted.

One of the early adherents of yoga to the west was a gentleman called Vivekananda, who’s book on Raja Yoga has become a classic work on the subject in the westernised yoga tradition.

Vivekananda’s teaching became a blend of selective hindu esoteric yoga teachings and western mystical thought. These western influences included the works of the theosophical society, Swedenborg’s ideas and mesmeric traditions.

As a consequence the western view of yoga is sometimes incomplete.

For instance, Raja Yoga focuses on trancendental ‘realisation’ to a degree which orthodox hindu yoga would find inappropriate and excessive for an ordinary house-holder or lay person.

An observation from Ramakrishna, a contemporary of Vivekananda, advises that to say “Bramaha alone is real, the world is illusory”, is fine while in a state of trancendental union. But it is inaccurate and misleading when in one’s normal body-consciousness.

Another example is Raja Yoga’s focus on energy (prana) and matter (akasa). These were popular western concepts for discussion at the time, but are of much less significance in the broader body of hindu yogic traditions.

Within the Raja Yoga movement, there was also a subtle and important shift in the view of the state of Samadhi (a trancendental mystical experience). In Raja Yoga it became interpreted as a fulfilment of human potential. Whereas Patanjali (one of the earliest yogic teachers) views Samadhi as a process of purification towards a trancendental liberation.

More generally, it is important for western students of yoga to understand that the works of Patanjali are very different for the limited form of Raja Yoga often presented in the West. In some ways, it helps to think of Patajali’s yoga as a summarised, or short-hand version, of the extensive hindu religious tradition.

Sources:
Two great books on this subject are:
1. A History of Modern Yoga, by Elizabeth De Michelis, Pub: Continuum, 2004.
ISBN: 0-8-264-6512-9

2. A Study of Patanjali, by Surendranath Dasgupta, Pub: Motilal Banarsidass, 2nd Ed., 1989
ISBN: 81-208-0452-X

 
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Patanjali’s Yoga

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Ripling down through the centuries to us is an age-old yoga philisophy of mind, body and spirit which helps us to reveal the true beauty of ourselves.

Within the diverse yogic sytems and traditions there echoes a simple and direct core message of who we are within the wonder of this universe.

At the heart of yoga is the experience of meditation. Around this, and to support our meditation activity, are other aspects of yoga practise such as the physical exercises (asanas), recommended life-style etc.

And woven through yoga is a timely reminder that we are not separate from our source and we never have been.

Structure:
One of the key gifts of yoga is the way it has structured an approach to living which allows us to discover and express more of ourselves within a non-dogmatic experiential framework.

One of the main sources of this yoga structure or system, is an Indian sage known as Patanjali.

Mr P. provided a coherent body of teachings which aimed to relieve our restlessness, pain and agnst in our daily lives, and to replace them with peace, joy and an understanding of our true nature.

A summary of the basic goal of yoga is a realisation of Kaivalya or eternal oneness, i.e. a dissolution or seeing through the illusion of separateness from our source, and a freedom from identification with the modifications of the mind.

For us to accomplish this state, Mr P. elucidated 8 sections or parts to the practice of yoga, and these are:

1. Yam (Injunctions)
These are guidelines for healthy living, such as don’t steal, not hurting others, being truthful etc.

2. Niyam (Observances)
This encourages us to have healthy relationships based on cleanliness, devotion to source and inner contentment.

3. Aasan (Physical Postures)
These are the designed to cultivate our physical bodies in the persuit of kaivalya. This is the form of yoga which may of us are most familiar with. These aasans were designed to strengthen and purify the body for meditation.

4. Praaanayaam (Breath Regulation)
This deals with the cultivation of one’s life energy (or praan) through breathing.

5. Pratyaahaar (Inward Attention)
You learn to focus your attention on your mind, instead of unconsciously following the dictates of your senses.

6. Dhaarnaa
Focusing your mind.

7. Dhyan
Stable meditation practice.

8. Samaadhi
The state of oneness.

These last three are effectively one seamless activity called meditation, which we practice over and over again until its second nature. This meditation practice aims to reduce our unconscious distractions and lead to a simple focus on our state of oneness.

As you can see, there is an elegant simplicity to Patanjali’s formulation and one which is practical for us, some thousands of years after its formulation, to appreciate and follow.

More on these in subsequent blogs.

A book which you will find useful on these:

Sacred Texts: The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

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