Raja Yoga- The Royal Path
Raja Yoga, sometimes called Royal Yoga is known as the path of spiritual kings. Raja Yoga a systematic practice to assist one in reaching enlightenment. This path of yoga is also referred to as Ashtanga yoga, or the Eight Limbed Path. It's branches are also referred to as an eight rung ladder. These eight rungs are:
• Yamas - Restraints
• Niyamas - Observances
• Asanas - Postures and Cleansings
• Pranayama - Breathing exercises/ expansion of the life force
• Pratyahara - withdrawal of the sences
• Dharana - Concentration
• Dhyana - Meditation
• Samadhi - Absorption, bliss
The first two branches of Raja Yoga:
The Yamas and Niyamas have to do with how we relate to and interact with ourselves and others. They also have to do with our behavior towards ourselves, others and the world around us. As stated by Sri Desikachar, "The attitude that we have toward people and things outside of ourselves is called yama in yoga, and how we related to ourselves inwardly is called niyama. In a nutshell, yamas and niyamas deal with our social attitude, lifestyle, how we interact with people and our environment. They are also a key as to how we might deal with the problems that may arise in our lives. You can find them in Yoga Sutras II.29-45.
Yamas and Niyamas are ten good common-sense guidelines for leading a healthier, happier life – bringing spiritual awareness into a social context. They help you view yourself and others with compassion and awareness, balancing your inner growth with outer restraint.
Yamas and Niyamas are not about right and wrong. They are about being honest with ourselves.
Yoga is more than a physical discipline. By doing asanas alone, without the incorporation of Yama and Niyama, there will be very little advancement upon the spiritual path. So, Yama and Niyama are methods of yoga in themselves and are very important to serious aspirants along this path.
Yamas: self-restraints, controls
Yama is the first step in the Eightfold Path of Patanjali. The Yamas are really the first step in a practice that addresses the whole fabric of our lives. Yama tells us what to avoid doing because it would do harm to others. All Yamas apply to actions, words, and thoughts.
1. Ahimsa: non-violence, non-injury, harmlessness, compassion for all living things
Refers to not only physical violence, but also the violence of words or thoughts
To practice this is to be constantly vigilant, to observe ourselves in interaction with others and to notice our thoughts and intentions In considering Ahimsa it's helpful to ask, “Are my thoughts, actions, and deeds fostering the growth and well being of all beings?”
2. Satya: truthfulness, honesty
This Yama is based on the understanding that honest communication and action form the bedrock of any healthy relationship, community, or government, and that deliberate deception, exaggerations, and mistruths harm others. Speak with the intention of being truthful, given that what you call the “truth” is filtered through your own experiences and beliefs about the world. Not lying, not gossiping, not concealing the truth, not exaggerating.
3. Asteya: non-stealing, honesty, non-misappropriativeness
Often understood as not taking what is not ours, it can also mean not taking more than we need
Not robbing people of their own experiences and freedom. Non-desire for another’s possessions, qualities, or status.
4. Brahmacharya: moderation, sexual continence in thought, word and deed as well as control of all the senses .This does not just mean giving up sex, it also means to transmute the energy of sex into something else, principally, devotion to God / Divine Spirit. Ultimately it is not a matter of whether we use our sexual energy but how we use it. In looking at your own relationship to sexual energy, consider whether the ways you express that energy that bring you closer to or farther away from your spiritual self.
5. Aparigraha: non-possessiveness, non-greed, non-selfishness, not grasping
Voluntary simplicity, not accumulating things beyond what is necessary, non-attachment to possessions
Greed is not just confined to material goods - we may hunger after enlightenment, difficult asanas, spiritual powers, or perfect bliss. The practice of Aparigraha also requires that we look at the way we use things to reinforce our sense of identity - objects such as the right clothes, car, house, job, or image to maintain this illusion.
Niyamas: observances, disciplines, devotion
Niyama is the second step of the Eightfold Path of Patanjali. Like the five Yamas, the Niyamas are not exercises or actions to be simply studied. Compared with the Yamas, the Niyamas are more intimate and personal. They refer to the attitude we adopt toward ourselves.
1. Shaucha: purification, cleanliness
Involves maintaining a cleanliness in body, mind, and environment
The deepest and most subtle aspect of Saucha is purity of thoughts and feelings.You might be purifying your relationships, maybe letting go of some toxic people in your life to make room for something more pure.
2. Santosha: contentment, peacefulness, modesty, happiness
Feeling of being content with what we have, to live in this moment, to be present
Santosha encompasses our mental activities such as study, our physical efforts, and even how we earn our living. It is about ourselves-what we have and how we feel about what has been given to us, it is about our whole outlook on life. Do we look at a cup as half empty or as half full?
3. Tapas: burning enthusiasm, austerity
Literally translated as "fire" or "heat" Tapas is the disciplined use of our energy, directing it to keep us on track so that we don't waste our time and energy on superfluous or trivial matters. When we can generate an attitude of burning enthusiasam, the strength of our convictions generates a momentum that carries us forward, boring or unpleasant tasks can be transformed when we work with vigor and impulsion.
4. Svadhyaya: introspective self-study, spiritual study
The word Svadhyaya literally means "to get close to something" - It means to get close to yourself, that is, to study yourself .One focus of this Niyama is learning from our own lives, we are our own teachers and our lessons are everywhere . How does Svadhyaya show up for you in your life? What are you studying? How do you study? Who is your teacher? Is study a part of your everyday life?
5. Ishwara Pranidhana: surrender, offering of one's life to the Divine Spirit
Carry out all our actions, spoken, or unspoken, without desiring their fruit, and offering them to the Divine Spirit, believing that we have done all that we can and then trusting that things will work out. When we sit in meditation we are practicing surrender.
Susan specializes in teaching private yoga classes in order to meet the unique needs of each student. Traditionally, yoga was passed down from teacher to student. Susan follows in this tradition by tailoring private yoga classes to meet you where you are, physically, emotionally and spiritually. Private yoga classes are held by appointment in Central Jersey, in the Hillsborough, Princeton, Middlesex area, or in your home. For more information please call (908) 420-5889.
Practicing yoga with Susan is a transformative experience. I started practicing with Sue in 2013 following a stress-induced seizure due to a number of difficult life events. To say that I felt near my breaking point is an understatement. Susan's calm and warm presence when she showed up to my house those early weeks was instantly calming. She spent a great deal of time quietly listening and taking notes on how she could cater practice to fit my needs. This included the use of essential oils, and guided meditations at the end of sessions, to name only a couple. She understood that my needs were mainly for restorative yoga that would help to relax the "monkeys in my mind" as she would say.
More importantly, in every session she gave me numerous techniques to try on my own to relieve stress, such as various breathing techniques (ocean and alternate nostril) that have helped me regain calm. What's more, I've slowly been able to adopt an attitude of not running from bad, negative, or stressful feelings, but rather, having the courage to sit with them and learn from them.
There is never a time I don't leave a session with Susan feeling more recharged and at peace. Working with her is truly a gift, and her extensive knowledge on yoga is inspiring without any pretension. Her work with me has helped see me through the pregnancy of my second child, and my dissertation defense. Through her teaching, I've also explored meditation, and now, my oldest child and I practice together. I had worked with yoga teachers prior to Susan, but I never came across someone so passionate or talented. She's simply a wonderful instructor with a huge heart!
- Dr. Jennifer Del Nero, PhD
Adjunct Professor & Literacy Coach
What Types and Styles of Yoga Does Susan Teach?
Susan teaches Hatha Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Jnana Yoga, Raja Yoga, Prana Yoga and meditation. Some of the styles of Hatha yoga she teachers include Prana Yoga, Vinyasa, Gentle Flow, restorative yoga, chair yoga and yoga for chronic illness and special conditions.
Holistic Therapies: Psychotherapy, Yoga Therapy & Reiki