Raja Yoga: Taking over the control to then let it go by Maria Hadjistylli
Undertaking this course has helped me understand the importance of yoga practices in life. It has provided me with many answers, all based on the realisation that this life is only a preparation, a middle path (shushumna) to the higher path. Yoga is the tool, the book on a universal story.
The philosophy of Yoga is based on the belief that in order to tune in with the Self/soul and the Source, we must let go of all that is heaving us: physical, emotional, mental, karmic, subconscious.
“Let go” is a magical world and it is certainly not of the material world. It entails no effort, total relaxation, freedom, faith, trust, no fear. Yet, Yoga provides many different methods to reach the state of ‘letting go’. Methods that require effort, time, energy.
How can one ‘let go’ and meditate when they have to focus on the steps to get there?
However, we all live in a world that is driven by Ego. Society has led us to believe that happiness is connected to the sensual materialistic world. And the more we believe that, the more connected to our Ego we become. Society uses Ego to reinforce power, whereas Yoga uses techniques to control the Ego and turn it into a powerful tool to be used for our spiritual growth.
Until our spirits are elevated and we can reach a state that we are able to connect to the Source with no effort, we need the techniques. We need a way to keep our Ego busy, so that the real Self can reveal itself. We also need a map to show us the path to fulfil our Dharma and burn the Karma that is keeping us busy with the lessons we need to learn. Only when the soul is free from its Karma can truly set free.
So, how can we break out of the cycle of Karma, without guidelines? How can we be thrown into the desert without any direction? Enlightened people long before us realised the existence of ten very important guidelines, universal rules, which can help us clean our souls and keep it clean for the light to enter. These rules are called Yama and Niyama.
Following Yama is to be truthful, have integrity, lead our creative energy, have what is needed, harm no one. To follow Yama is to follow our consciousness. And when consciousness grows, our connection with the Source grows as well. Once we become more conscious by following these principles, we can let them go. You see, “letting go” has many aspects. We can only let go and forget about the rules, once we have managed to install them in our system and practice them without effort.
Following Niyama is to have your koshas (layers) aligned, to be content in any state of being, to accept the difficulties, to be willing to learn with no ego and surrender to the Higher. These are guidelines to connect with God and a way to absorb universal knowledge. These are qualities that we already have, but have forgotten. To practice them is to become them.
Yama and Niyama should be realised and reinforced by a yogic way of life. They are connected, one is all. Once you have perfected one, all are perfect. And the opposite applies. Once you have broken one principle, all are affected.
It is very difficult to reach meditative states, without following these rules. Not impossible, but difficult. Without awareness, there is no need for meditation. Yet, even with awareness, the room has to be clean and empty for the light to fill it.
Yama and Niyama are the first two steps to the path of enlightment. Yoga provides a complete system of 8 steps that when applied in life and in meditation can help us evolve spiritually quicker.
This system is called ‘Raja Yoga’. It is not the only way to enlightment, but it is a safe way to stop the cycle of Karma code which is strict. The only way for the law to be broken, is to break ourselves into the law.
It is simple yet not easy. To break the law of Karma means to break the thoughts (chitta vritti), habits (kleshas) and programmings (vasana) that hold us connected to our Karma or that create new Karma. Carrying these programmings, only means that we are just not ready yet to return home.
The third step of Raja yoga is Asana. Once we have improved our awareness and created space in our souls through Yama and Niyama, we are ready to let the light enter. Asana is our posture, our attitude in both meditation and life. We need to be in a steady and comfortable state of being in order for our koshas to be aligned.
The forth step is Pranayama. Now we are ready to breath in light. Prana (=vitality, cosmic light) is everywhere, we just have to tune in with it. To do so there are rhythms we can choose from, depending on what we want to achieve.
Sukha pranayama is applied in Hatha Yoga, Kaya Yoga, Four Fold awareness, polarity meditation.
Sukha purvaka pranayama is used to cure naras, to ground us and to align the first three layers (physical, emotional and mental)
There is Savitri pranayama to tune in with the sun and balance our male and female energy.
Asama Vritta Pranayama is also used when practicing pranava Aum.
All techniques have one goal. To help us clean what needs to be cleaned. To help us see what needs to be seen. To keep our Ego busy.
And so, when that is achieved, what is happening around us is of no meaning. This is the stage where we become detached from external senses and situations. It is the fifth stage, called Pratyahara. This is when, external starts becoming internal. Everything is realised as matrix. We become viewers from a distance and therefore cannot be affected if we are not in it. We become trees with strong roots, and therefore cannot be affected by the wind.
Pratyahara happens in most of our lives, with or without awareness (passive pratyahara). It happens to anyone that is concentrated on an action, a feeling, a relationship, a talent. You can be absorbed in something with no expectations or cause. It could be love, dancing, nurturing a child.
Whether it is passive or dynamic (the conscious decisions to focus on something without getting attached or affected by the survival instincts) it is a necessary step to enlightment.
So far, all steps have been external. In all steps, Ego was present. In fact, Ego was in control. But it was present as a server. It was used to serve the Self.
The last three steps are where Ego begins to disappear and control is lost. This is when the experience of meditation truly begins.
Once we are detached from the exterior senses or have perfected and internalised them, we can finally concentrate. This is the stage of Dharana. At this stage Ego is still present. The mind is the one concentrating and observing, we are still in our head. In order to move above the head, we need to give Ego something to do. So we assign Ego to concentrate on a point. It could be a dot, a sound, an image, darkness or light. The dot represents the beginning and end of the world. While Ego is keeping busy concentrating, the Self starts appearing and awareness begins to move beyond the mind.
And then, the space between the observer and the dot slowly becomes smaller, until the observer and the dot are one. That is when we have reached Dhyana. There is no mind at this point. There is no Ego. There is a oneness.
And finally, we are in meditation. Samadhi. Once we have removed our masks and have overcome our minds, we are free to be nothing. Not the dot, not one with the dot. Just nothing and yet everything. The big bang has happened!! And if we do come back, we are no longer the same. We have been absorbed by the Source and therefore we have assimilated God’s qualities.
But I can only assume...
I will get there. We will all get there. Perhaps we are already there, until it is realised...