Being able to take your training and meditation to new levels is where the power lies with Raja Yoga. During yoga teacher training we learn to take the practice of breathing along with our concentration exercises and build upon them. Being able to make this a strong practice in itself would provide to the yogi a complete system of meditation.
Yoga certification takes you through such an intense program that you will walk away with an increased awareness and energy level that you did not have prior to it. The higher levels of increased awareness are very difficult to master and even some with a lot of practice still have difficulties in this area. Most struggle with the connection between how the physical practice or your asana connects to your breathing exercises and your concentration practice. Once you learn the importance of this connection your level of training will start to accelerate.
One system, Raja Yoga, breaks down the idea behind yoga and this connection into eight levels which are referred to by many as The Eight Limbs of Raja Yoga. These levels can be sought after once you have learned the basic Hatha Yoga practice and ideals. Yoga teaching needs to have the basic understanding of Hatha yoga so that you can build upon that and pursue more depth in your yoga practice. Yoga teacher training will ensure that this is possible.
Raja yoga refers to meditation and that it is practiced in the Lotus Pose or some other pose that is equally challenging, for many hours at a time. While in the meditation your pose most be pain free and your body should be energized so that all your concentration is associated with your meditation. To be able to achieve this your practice must have your body in correct form and with enough flexibility. This can be achieved with routine Hatha Yoga practice.
While it is important that your physical body be prepared for meditation it is also mandatory that your mind also be able to completely fall into a full meditative practice. Your body and mind needs to be able and ready for psychological growth. Yoga teacher training explains that this type of change in lifestyle of a healthy, simple, and spiritual life does not happen immediately but yet must be nurtured so that it can develop. There needs to be a gradual change in your understanding and attitude to be accepting of the change during your yogi practice.
Here are the 8 different levels of Raja Yoga:
1. Self-Restraint “Yama”
This is best described as a code of behavior and the idea of keeping at peace with the world you live in as well as yourself. This will allow you to be freed of negative Karma and will bring you to a sense of righteous behavior. Five precepts towards self-restraint, one for each finger, are:
• Non killing “Ahimsa”
• Truthfulness “Satya”
• Non-stealing “Asteya”
• Sexual Continence “Brahmacharya”
• Non-covetousness “Aparigraha”
2. Observance “Niyama”
This is built on the concept of self-restraint and how you should apply them to daily life.
• Purity of action
• Study of self development through classic treatises
• Physical discipline
• Honoring of a guru
• Surrender to the ego to universal power
3. Physical Practice “Asana”
This is typically the start and end points to most practice. Physical practice is a necessity to open and develop your muscular and central nervous systems. The majority of exercises help build strength. To be able to achieve these poses in Raja Yoga it is said you must have intensive practice in asanas.
4. Breathing Exercise “Pranayama”
The advanced yogi learns that breathing techniques help develop energy and the energy is moved through the body during meditation exercise. The ultimate goal of breathing is to be able to control it enough that you can feel the energy moving through your body under control of meditation.
5. Sense Withdrawal “Prathyahara”
This is when your five sense start to pull back into your mind and detach themselves from other areas of the body. This is considered to be the final level of the foundation which is necessary to be successful with the meditation process. This is also the level where Hatha Yoga ends and more advanced yogas begin to take root.
6. Concentration “Dharrana”
Concentration can be achieved once sense withdrawal has started. During this practice if you can see an image while you eyes are closed you have achieved the technique and if you are able to focus on this image for at least 12 seconds without any interruption.
7. Meditation “Dhyana”
Meditation is achieved when you can allow the unbroken flow of your mind on a single point for a long period of time. You can measure this by your breathing with or without using a mantra. Each attempt even if not successful still brings a sense of success and helps strengthen the yogi.
8. Sub consciousness “Samadhi”
This is the state of Union that yoga refers to. During this level the yogi reaches a peak in their evolution. Very few can reach this level of yoga practice. You have achieved the point where you become identical to the Supreme Self.
By sharpening your skills and practicing yoga you grow and evolve as a human. Yoga teacher training will provide the tools you need to find these levels and become a strong yoga practitioner.