8 limbs of raja yoga

Yoga would be the most important part of any evolutionary or spiritual practice of a martial artist. No other skill in the entire arsenal of spiritual techniques will do more for you than meditation and yoga. One kind of Yoga is Raja Yoga and this is a summary of the core techniques involved in the practice of Raja Yoga and how it is the best yoga for martial arts.

In modern terms, it is sold as a new age de-stressing technique but this is only considered teaching a shallow version of yoga. The more you meditate, the more resilience you build up against the little stresses of life.

It has to be a constant daily practice like showering and brushing your teeth. The discipline built through meditation could also be the most important part of keeping you on point in life.

The 10,000 Things

Eight Limbs of Raja Yoga

The attention overload of modern society makes meditation more difficult but also more important.

The concept in Buddhism of the 10,000 things is the idea of the infinite distractions that life throws at us. These are the 10,000 things that are constantly calling for our attention and pretending to be what matters.

Meditation is the practice of disentangling from the 10,000 things and re-engaging with your deep self in the non-distracted silence of your mind.

There are the external 10,000 things that beg for attention in the physical world, but you also have 10,000 internal things like emotions and feelings.

Meditation is establishing order in your life to overcome the monkey mind and develop single-pointed focus. The mind needs to be trained to do this.

Western culture does not have any mind training as part of its core curriculum or values; It is all focused on logical, rational and alert processes. But mind training will strengthen the mind to make it perform better in all th3se alert tasks. Basic mind training in the West would be positive thinking.

A lot of distractions that people become involved with are attempts to quiet the mind that can be achieved through meditation without any harmful side effects and a constant process instead of swinging from branch to branch to find new distractions for the mind.

Meditation is more than just relaxing. It is a set system of steps for achieving inner peace and ecstasy.

The Dangers Gurus, Cultural Interchange & Cults

  • Meditation can be practiced without any religious dogma. But the fact is from a spiritual perspective meditation has been practiced by many traditions as a direct route to God. This is true with Hinduism, which is the foundations of yoga.
  • In the traditional Vedic literature, it does say you need a guru to complete the path of meditation. This is when the path is considered to be started from a young age and would take decades to complete. We cannot get hung up on this and instead just throw ourselves into the process.
  • But a student of real meditation will need to see someone who is the finished product to know even what that is. This is especially difficult as the world is full of frauds and charlatans. Both in the East and especially in the multimillion dollar new age industry.
  • There are still many legitimate Hindu or Buddhist teachers who live in the west or travel to the west so it might now be easier than ever to gain access to these people. But remember they are just people and many gurus get involved in scandals and cult behavior. While we go to the east and do not understand Eastern spiritualism many gurus can come to the west and not understand western materialism and it causes problems for them.  People are people.
  • All expectations need to be managed. In our western traditions, we will already have a stereotyped idea of what a holy person should look like. This can sometimes mean the expectation is set as high as Jesus. In the eastern tradition, holy people are not expected to be perfect. Even big deal gurus will not be perfect. They may have brought their divine nature to the forefront but still this is not going to equal a perfect person. People are people. Consider a guru or meditation master as possibly someone who has more expertise in the field but not as an excellent teacher or complete human.
  • Of course, this gets tricky as the eastern tradition does promote surrendering completely to your guru. This is fraught with danger in the western world with so many charlatans running rampant.
  • People are people.

Autobiography of a Yogi

  • That being said a good starting point for an additional study if you are looking for more is the “Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yoganada”. Gandhi was a student of this teacher. Of all places, this would be the safest place to start. He was not over the top; it was the simple cut and dry meditation. The organization was continuing the work known as the self-realization fellowship.

Distinguishing Different Meditations & Yogas

  • This information covers Vedic meditation from the Hindu tradition. This is not the same as Buddhist meditation even though they are often thrown in together.
  • Hindu meditation posits that there is a core self that is covered by the personality and Buddhist meditation posits that there is n9 core self.
  • You do not want just to mix up a bunch of random meditation techniques as they all have specific functions and have different theological underpinnings.
  • Meditation has now been filled with common misconceptions about what meditation is from the modern western culture. It is not merely positive thinking, this idea came out of the new thought movement in the 20’s and made a resurgence with the secret and Oprah. Meditation is concerned with turning off the mind and not thinking positively. Meditation is not just sitting comfortably, burning incense, playing new age music and feeling good. This is play acting meditation, it may be calming, but this is not the hard-core work of meditation of shutting off the mind. The hard-core work of meditation is a lot drier and boring then what is popular and sells to the new age movement,
  • Hatha yoga, where the body is contorted into different body positions, is not meditation. There are lots of different Yoga’s, the exercise yoga being taught is hatha yoga. Hatha yoga is not even a traditional step in the meditation process.
  • Raja yoga , the king yoga, is the eight fold path of meditation. This is the real yoga and although it does contain physical postures these are for sitting still for long periods of time. Hatha yoga still has many benefits but it is not the hard-core work of meditation. Hatha yoga can still be a good base to prepare for entering into Raja yoga.
  • “Mindfulness” is now very popular in the west. This is used in many different things in different contexts. It is essentially a Buddhist technique of being aware of your mental processes. It is now used by corporati9ns and politically correct conversations. It is not the hard-core meditation of Raja yoga. Eventually corporations might start to say people are not being mindful if they are not doing their jobs.
  • “Spiritual materialism” this is a concept from Buddhism which will be brought into this course. From a book called “Cutting through spiritual materialism”. If you go to a yoga centre, a new age book store or anywhere people are studying meditation you will see people with all the material objects to denote themselves as being spiritual. This is all ego satisfying, you cannot dress yourself into meditation, you cannot buy the right toys or necklaces or books to bluff your way into meditation. Just because your brought all the clubs and clothes that tiger woods uses will not make you as good as tiger woods. The only way to get on an oath to playing better golf is to commit yourself to a discipline of practice like tiger woods.  If you are attempting to achieve peace and emptiness you are doing yourself a disservice by trying to fill yourself up with as many different spiritual artefacts, both material and internal will be a disservice to you. The techniques of meditation of simple they just require a lot of discipline.

The Time & Space For Yoga & Martial Arts

  • Establishing a meditation practice requires daily prate. It has to be a daily practice. The best time is when you wake up in the morning , but if you have to do it at lunch or in the afternoon you can. But in the morning will be best as you will not be distracted by the day or have an excuse to miss it. But the most important thing is to start a consistent practice and do it every day. Pick a time and pick a length for meditation and do it every day. You can start at five minutes and increase it over the weeks. You first need to carve out a time that you devote for yourself. The most important thing when starting is not how long you meditate for but sticking to the daily ritual and carving out the habit.
  • You will need a space that is dedicated and setup for meditation. In the same way you may have a desk setup for work so that every time you sit down you know you9are there to work, or your bed is there for sleeping, have a space setup for meditation. It can be corner of a room and does not need to be grandiose. Ideally it should be quiet and good ventilation. The best thing to sit on is just a folded up blanket or a basic pillow,  Feel free to put thing that are inspiring to you in your meditation space.
  • The best meditation posture is cross legged on the ground with a straight back. If you physically cannot do this and you have to use a chair it must allow you to keep a straight and upright spine.
  • A simple clock to keep time of your sessions may be needed and you may like to keep a simple journal of your practice.

First Limb of Raja Yoga – Yama

  • These are the moral scriptures of yoga. This is the type of life you want to be living to be a yogi. This is to be living a non-chaotic life. A simple and calm existence. You can look up the specifics of what was written but this was in the 14th century.
  • A stable income, a stable living, a stable home, live a good moral life, speak the truth. Lead a moral and upstanding life as much as possible. The practical reason for this in regards to meditation is if you live a shady life you are giving yourself many more worries to weigh down your mind.
  • Lead a relaxed, moral, non-crazy, non-chaotic life. Boring is good Boring externally but a free mind full of ecstasy. Go to bed early, wake up early, eat well, have healthy relationships, work a job. Get rid of chaos. These are basic tenants of a Yogi to make the meditation practice easier.
  • You can also just look at living a life that is most in tune to you that will lead to a drama free life, In your case a boring existence may create some drama, so just look at living a chaos and drama free existence,

Second Limb of Raja Yoga – Niyama

  • This is really a list of don’ts if you want to practice meditation. Can be summed up as don’t do bad or immoral stuff. Don’t cheat, lie, steal or kill. These will all create disturbances in your mind to deal with.
  • Don’t do stuff that weighs on your mind and heart as this creates obstacles for meditation.
  • Also don’t be a smoker, this will disturb the breath which is crucial to meditation. Along with all the other health detriments, Your mind is a by-product of your breath so if your breath is disturbed so will your mind.
  • Drinking alcohol is also a no go.  Meditating hungover will be very difficult. Avoid drugs. Live a clean life. You do not want substances disturbing your equilibrium.
  • Since Hinduism is a vegetarian culture traditionally the consumption of meat is considered to cause anger, hostility and cause disturbances. A vegetarian or even vegan diet will allow more mental clarity but in the western world this is widely practiced. Make an individual choice with this as nutrition is another topic. Vegetarianism is still probably the best diet for meditation. Also avoid stimulants like energy drinks junk food, etc.
  • You do not want to eat before you meditate you want to meditate on an empty stomach which is why meditating in the morning is a great time You do not want your body’s digestive functions interrupting your meditation.
  • Again you can look up the specific by the book rules on this. But again it is written in the middle ages.
  • Managing lust of result: Focus on the progress and the discipline itself and do not focus on the end result. Just practice it daily and do not focus on if you are enlightened yet. It will take a long time to get good at anything including meditation. Enjoy the journey and do not focus on the destination.
  • Siddhis: In the yogic literature it is listed that you can achieve magical powers through meditation This can include growing in size and shrinking and certain magical powers. As you get deeper into meditation strange and trippy things will happen in you9r mind but do not get hung up on the idea that you are going to gain magical powers. DO not make this the goal of your meditation. The siddhis are likely just different states of consciousness. Do not get wrapped up n chasing after these, If strange things start to happen just ignore the and let them pass.
  • Do not become obsessed with things that are not the goal.

Third Limb of Raja Yoga – Asana

  • This is just a stable position you can hold your body in for a long period of time this ca just be cross legged on the floor with a straight back. Not to be confused with the many various postures of Hatha yoga.
  • Alistair Crowley also came up with some good postures for this. Lotus position is also good if you are flexible enough to do this.
  • Generally the Asana is just a position where you can hold your body without fidgeting. Don’t get to complicated at first so just start with a simple sitting position. But you do want to be able to hold this for long periods of time No fidgeting or scratching yourself or adjusting your weight or stretching. You want the body to be completely still. Still the body and then you can still the mind.
  • A large list of Asana are available to look up and were codified in the middle ages. It is most important to just start out by finding something simple that works for you so you can build the practice.

Fourth Limb of Raja Yoga – Pranayama

  • This is basically breath control, the way of breath or the energy of breath. There are many Pranayama techniques that can get quite difficult and complicated but we just want to start with a steady relaxed state of breathing.
  • Start by establishing a regular, rhythmic breathing practice. A good basic one is a 4 count while y9 are inhaling and a 4 count while you are exhaling. You can up this to an 8 count if you want.
  • Focus on deep stable breathing, rhythmic and regular.
  • We are stabilising our environment, stabilising our life, stabilising our body and n0w this will stabal9se our breath to lead us on the way to stabilising our mind.
  • This is taking care of everything that might disturb our meditation be it our life, body or breath itself.
  • You can learn more advanced pranayama’s but it is more important to establish your practice and keeping it simple makes this easier.

Fifth Limb of Raja Yoga – Pratyahara

  • It is basically withdrawing your senses from the exterior world. You are not focusing on anything external to you, This is where all the previous stages will have assisted in eliminating these distractions. Earplugs are your friend if you live in the city.

Sixth Limb of Raja Yoga – Dharana

  • This is basically concentration. We now need an object of focus that is internal. This is where chakras can be objects of concentration. But for our beginning steps the best point of focus is our “third eye” or between your eyebrows about an inch behind.
  • Focus and concentrate all of your energy to this one point. This is a lot more difficult than it might sound and is most of the work of meditation. All kinds of thoughts will intrude and attempt to distract you. Just let the thoughts go by and keep your focus, DO not try and aggressively fight the thoughts away as you will become entangled in them.
  • As you progress your mind may even come up with what you think are intelligent thoughts or insights but this can just be your mind being more sophisticated at distracting you. Still let these go by as it is not the goal. We are meditating to quiet the mind.
  • Start at 5 minutes a day and increase over time. Consider it like going to the gym and working up the amount of weight you can lift. Eventually you want to up this to 30 minutes a day, If you are able to keep a strict schedule of 30 minutes a day then you are well on your way. Ideally you could get this to an hour a day which will be of great benefit but just stick to your daily practice and get as much time in as you can.

Seventh Limb of Raja Yoga – Dhyana

  • This is the actual process of meditation. It is going to take a long time to get to this point but will decrease with practice. This is when your mind goes quiet. It calms and is focused on your internal point and you are completely still. You have single pointed concentration. This is when you start meditation proper. You are not disturbed by the world, your body, your breath, your mind and you are now meditating.
  • This is a victory you ca make over yourself that few people ever make. It is not easy. But with discipline it will get easier over time. The more meditation you do the easier it will be to get to this point. But in the modern world any more than an hour a day can be very hard to achieve.
  • When you start your practice you may not reach this point in a session or you may only get here briefly but just persist and keep working on it,

Eighth Limb of Raja Yoga – Samadhi

  • This is when you achieve unity. This is extremely difficult to talk about without using imprecise language as It is always regarded as mystical and religious terms like a unity with god.
  • A broad way to describe this would be a break between a sense of subject and object. We have concentrated on an object in step six; we are meditating on the object in step seven and Samadhi the distinction between those two things vanish. There is no meditate or object, and it bec9mes the same thing.
  • A collapse of the dualism between subject and object.
  • Also referred to as the disintegration of ego. Obviously this is a topic that can get very complicated and mystical and spiritual but again just focus on the process of meditation and you can investigate this further when required.
  • AS you go further there are different levels of Samadhi. Again you can investigate this later.

Further Research and Practice

  • As you can see the benefits of yoga meditation itself are immense and it has many knock on effects in life.
  • Yu can go much deeper but the most important part is to start your practice and be disciplined in it.
  • The self-realisation fellowship is a great resource if you go deeper into this and want to research further.
  • Namaste.