The Eight Limbs of Raja Yoga
This book shares opinions; these are not universal truths. Therefore, always use your discretion if or when applying these texts. You have free will, so use it to take what is ecological and structuring for yourself and disregard the rest.
This book exists in French online ...
The two recurring figures are : PEMS Model and the Pyramid des the 8 means
... and a big thanks to Laurie Couture and Carrie Gordon for the translation in english.
BOOK: The 8 means of Raja Yoga
Inspired by the Patanjali sûtras "The Eight Limbs of Raja Yoga"
The Patanjali sutras in the light of the third millennium via a pragmatic approach. The objective of the book "The Eight Means of Raja Yoga" is to offer the possibility to all yogis to be able to integrate Raja Yoga into their practice. For this, the book re-contextualizes the multi-millennial writings of Patanjali, the Yoga Sutras, in order to provide the keys and to highlight the issues and the means. Of course it is inspired by the famous Patanjali sutras.
This book shares opinions; these are not universal truths. Therefore, always use your discretion if or when applying these texts. You have free will, so use it to take what is ecological and structuring for yourself and disregard the rest.
In France, the framework of medical practice is highly regulated. No one can prescribe drugs, recommend treatments, modify or recommend the discontinuation of a treatment, give medical advice, or even make a medical diagnosis without being a university-educated health professional, in short a doctor. It is therefore, to the energetic and spiritual aspects of mankind, complementary to classical medicine, that the approaches and reflections of this book are addressed.
Reminder: The illegal practice of medicine is forbidden.
NB : We have chosen not to focus on Indian transliterations. These accents help the pronunciation that you will find, as well as the accents, on Tilakpyle.com .
Raja Yoga is mainly known through the sutras of Patanjali as a philosophical and spiritual system based on meditation. The objective of these pages is to reposition Raja Yoga as a tool for integrative and transpersonal personal development (LeTranspersonnel.fr).
Prologue - History
In Bagavad Gîta, the sacred story for a billion Hindus, God speaks to the hero in these terms:
"When irreligion and vices reign, I incarnate myself and teach men Raja Yoga".
As a result, Raja Yoga, which has a literal translation of Royal Yoga, has always been considered an extremely high form of yoga. If we look back in the historical context, practicing Yoga several hours a day and being able to pay for the Master's classes, required a certain wealth. Yogis of very high level from the people were therefore rare and all had a sufficiently high potential for the Master to teach them or even hire them. Still in this historical context, it is conceivable that survival was the priority objective for most, "personal development" remaining a luxury that only few could consider. Obviously more than two thousand years later, conditions have changed, especially in highly industrialized countries like France. Personal development is even officially part of the performance strategy of some companies. Due to this evolution, Raja Yoga can be broadcasted and used by all those who can devote time to it (1 hour a day) and who have the desire to evolve on the path of humanism, of consciousness.
While the media visual of "yoga" is often a Hatha Yoga posture, even people who have a little familiarity with India know that there are a wide variety of other popular yogas. Yoga cannot be reduced solely to the body plane (physical exercises). The goal of all yogas who are part of the long tradition of Indian spiritual search is, above all, to transcend normal consciousness in favor of a different consciousness that understands the true nature of the "Self." Over the last two thousand years, many streams of yoga have been formed from Raja Yoga. They are all based on this spiritual goal, but they have all focused on a particular doorway, a path.
The fact that Raja Yoga does not favor any of these paths, makes us say, in our modern humanistic vocabulary, that it is "holistic" or "integrative" (fifty years ago, we used to say "royal" or "integral.") Let's take a quick look at the main currents that have marked the history of Yoga:
Bakhti Yoga: or yoga of devotion. This approach refers us to the Sanskrit meaning of the word yoga, yug meaning bond (or yoke), the equivalent of re-ligere (=link), etymology of the word religion. It is a question of turning in a process of love and humility, towards the mystery that surrounds us. It is the way of the heart, and of faith, that Raja Yoga integrates the process, however it also presupposes that it is directly accessible only by the rare chosen ones.
Karma Yoga: or yoga of action, of incarnation. To meditate (to be in yoga) only in the moments we assign ourselves in our daily schedule, is that life? Shouldn't we be able to maintain and manifest this elevated consciousness, even as we are invested in action, walking, talking, eating, playing etc.? For Raja Yoga, embodying spirituality in matter is a very difficult long term goal when we start.
Sanyas Yoga: yoga of renunciation, of non-attachment. The core of this yoga involves turning away from all material goods and comforts and seeking the truth through a life of asceticism and starkness. Raja Yoga specifies that true renunciations are above all, in the domain of the mind, and linked to the Ego (a modern word that did not exist until a few centuries ago): we can live in a jungle or a desert and remain tormented by desires and temptations. In Raja Yoga, as in Buddhism or Taoism, it is a question of finding a happy medium, without useless austerity or excessive comfort.
Buddhi Yoga: yoga of active intelligence. Having the same root as Buddha, this yoga suggests effectively using the spiritual faculties of our mind for self-realization, and the development of consciousness. The Bhagavad-Gîtâ deals in detail with the concept of Buddhi Yoga. However, this approach is of course integrated in Raja Yoga, with the first duty of the Raj Yogi being to think by and for ourselves and without letting others influence us. The intelligence we are talking about here is rooted in life, active (not fixed by writings), and also includes common sense! Achieving the state of equanimity, non-duality, is the goal. Once this is reached, disinterested action, as well as free will, become possible.
Gyana or Jnana Yoga: yoga of knowledge. It is often understood as the study of sacred texts, but it is above all an intellectual yoga that is discursive and modeling. The gyana yogi or jnânin seeks the internal answer to the question: "Who am I?" and the external understanding of "This is." As in Raja Yoga, one seeks to break out of illusion (maya) and ignorance (avidya) through discrimination (viveka), but here it does so without the help of divine inspiration or connection to something greater than oneself. It is therefore an extremely elitist path where the biggest trap in the West is falling into the Ego.
Hatha Yoga: yoga for the control of the body, organs and senses. This is the best known in the West, and it is based on the static or moving practice of physical postures called asanas. Breathing also plays a very important role. Raja Yoga of course integrates the need for body exercises while maintaining the goal and objective of this discipline which is "health and awareness of the body". Currently, if you go to a yoga website, you will find many other names such as: Ashtanga Yoga, Vinyasa Yoga, Iyengar Yoga, Kundalini Yoga, Yin Yoga, Acro-yoga, Bikram Yoga, Fly Yoga, Yoga Nidra, ... Simply put, these are all variations of Hatha Yoga.
Dhyana Yoga: yoga of meditation. If this yoga seems as though it should appear in the flower representation above, it cannot simply because it is included in "Raja Yoga". Indeed, historically, in the West, Raja Yoga has not had its hour of glory. Thus around 1950, when some people wanted to revive it, they put the emphasis on meditation. As you will discover below, the sutras of Patanjali give only few technical indications on the six aspects seen above (the six petals). Instead, the meditation process is thoroughly detailed by differentiating between concentration, contemplation, and meditation with seeds and enlightenment. Thus, Raja Yoga has become in the media the path to union through meditation, or Dhyana Yoga.
Therefore, being the essence of the different yogas, and this ancestral technique of self-realization, Raja Yoga becomes a tool of personal development that is singularly well adapted to the needs and requirements of modern mankind. Moreover, the fact that both Dhyana and Zen mean contemplation and meditation, resonates very strongly with the current "MindFulness" (atheistic mindfulness meditation), and reinforces this re-emergence of Raja Yoga. All the writings that follow are intended to offer a re-actualized and re-contextualized version of the famous aphorisms of Raja Yoga, the Sutras of Patanjali.
What is holistic yoga ?
Raja Yoga or Holistic Yoga is not the name of an Indian gymnastics or sport; the word YOGA means UNION. This meaning comes from the Sanskrit root "yuj" which divides itself into "yugir yoge", to be united with and "yuja samadhau,” to stop the cogitation, and the fluctuations of the psyche. Let us begin with these two facets of Yoga which highlight that it is a spiritual way:
In Hindu culture, "union" is not only understood as uniting, gathering one's ideas, or even bringing together one's body and psyche. It transcends body-mind union; we must see it instead as body-soul-mind union, the union of "jivatma" and "paramatma", from our "individual soul" to a "universal soul". This is a completely different, more spiritual, and metaphysical meaning in the Transpersonal movement (LeTranspersonnel.fr).
The second meaning is: to "stop" and refers to a state in which there is a cessation of peripheral thinking, mental fluctuations, and the interplay of emotions. In modern terms, we immediately think of the ego model, which is the mental structure that creates unnecessary parasitic thoughts and disproportionate emotional reactions. The second facet of Yoga, is, therefore, to calm the Ego.
In the same idea of analyzing the Sanskrit term "yoga," we can still broaden its meaning:
1) action of hitching to or buckling down
2) method of training horses (the Ego in our case)
3) instructions for use, technique
4) spiritual discipline
5) Raja Yoga in a holistic sense
6) Hatha Yoga in the sense of postures or asanas
7) state of union or unity of the subjective being with the Supreme (according to Shri Aurobindo)
So we see that yoga can be a method, a means, and a goal at the same time; and as we have seen above, a goal with two complementary facets:
Awakening of full consciousness or union of the individual soul with the Universal Spirit.
Non-violent control of the ego, or implementation of a non-dual way of thinking.
We find this goal in the first two sutras of Patanjali; the most western version, that of Master D.K., is below:
I.1. AUM (OM), the following teaching concerns the science of union.
I.2. This union, or Yoga, is accomplished through the subjection of the psychic nature and the mastery of chitta (or mental or left-brain).
At all times, during the practice of any means of Raja Yoga, it will be important to remember that the objective is the Body-Soul-Spirit UNION and not the flexibility of the body, the control of breathing, or good health... even if all these elements are, of course, part of the consequences of the practice.
Context & Re-contextualization...
As there are already many translations and interpretations of Patanjali's Yoga-Sutras, it is important to understand how the recontextualization proposed here is different, and in which specific trajectory it fits.
Jaïnism year zero
As with all multi-millennial oral traditions, the transition to writing freezes the content in a given time-space. Therefore, it is important to remember the context in which the aphorisms of Raja Yoga were born. From the 8th century B.C. onwards, a spiritual current challenged Indian Vedism in favor of an internalization of the divine. The connection to the Atma (the Self) no longer went through an external process, through a clergy "who knows" (the Brahmans), but instead became an inner path. The suffering of the incarnation became an illusion produced by the Ego, an illusion that had to be dissolved in order to merge into the Atma (the Self, the Soul). It is following this "integration of the Divine within", that the sutras were written and refined in India, between 500 BC and 200 AD. It is, of course, Hinduism that was already the majority religion at that time, but it was the current of Jainism, in significant expansion then, which was and is the closest to Raja Yoga on the level of morals and practices. Jainism, especially when seen from a philosophical point of view as an ethical materialistic current (like Taoism), has many points in common with Raja Yoga, like its five major vows:
non-violence / sincerity / honesty / fidelity (in the couple) / non-possessiveness.
However, there are also differences such as karma. For example, the Jains finds it essential to clean the karma linked to the past, whereas in Raja Yoga, one is especially interested in the here and now, in other words, the immediate karma.
It is very difficult to differentiate what was "obvious", common, or unoriginal in 500 BC in India from what was deeply innovative. Moreover, the vocabulary and concepts have been considerably enriched in the last centuries; the word Ego, for example, is only 200 years old. Recontextualizing a "Jainism year zero" text therefore requires a lot of caution.
Lunar - Tha - Yin
The masculine-solar principle, Yang in Taoism, Ha in Yoga, has prevailed since the dawn of time in the structures of our civilizations and our religions. It is only very recently that Yin, the feminine-lunar principle, Tha in Yoga, is emerging in our societies. The emergence of Yin and its associated values greatly modifies the very concept of a successful life. Indeed, to be on the podium, to obtain a result is a solar characteristic (Ha/Yang), whereas to participate is the corresponding lunar characteristic (Tha/Yin). Revisiting Raja Yoga without taking into account this new polarity activated less than half a century ago would be denying any need for actualization, evolution, or change. Therefore, an effort is being made to perceive the Yin, the Tha, and to put it back in its proper place.
To understand the extent of the solar part in our references, one only has to read the Ramayana or Greek mythology or any other ancient mythological or religious text to see that it is a solar story for the "Yang" ones, which value the visible, the conquest, and glorify the Ego. Let's also recall the main attributes of Solar and Lunar in order to better understand the differences, the complementarity and even the completeness of the two.
Solar attributes - Ha - Yang
It provides caring protection, and has the ability to create a safe environment.
It is positioning, asserting oneself, setting limits, and knowing how to say no.
Action, concreteness, and making decisions are all solar attributes.
The paternal function is based on logos, the verb, the law, the prohibition, and the limits necessary for the principle of reality, while emphasizing the importance of desire and its expression. A Solar approach will privilege the facts and require, for example, taking action and investing in one's desire for change.
Action, expression or visible results are all highly valued.
Being competent is an important criterion, a value or even an objective.
Incompetence can be experienced as humiliating.
The preference exerting twice as much energy instead of waiting, as it loves to go faster.
It is also the Nadi Pingala in yogic energetics:
Pingala is the channel of solar energy; it governs physical strength. In relation to the sympathetic nervous system, it stimulates muscular activity by releasing adrenalin. Pingala controls the heart rhythm, activates the physical body and directs the consciousness towards the external world. It represents the masculine principle, which is the symbol of Man, of the father and of his hereditary. This includes direct or symbolic educational influences in all that he can represent in our development. The elements associated with Pingala are FIRE and AIR. Pingala is responsible for reasoning, analysis and logic.
It is also characterized by ray 1 in the esoteric approach of A. Bailey:
The will to incarnate and Power of intention. This is the Ray of focused benevolent power. It is a genuine support from the embodied world, an interface, and is necessary for the practitioner to make the Divine energy of self-healing active. Emotional and mental neutrality is easily achieved; “power" is the trap.
All the heroes of myths and cosmogonies have solar attributes even when they are women!
Lunar attributes - Tha - Yin
It integrates the notion of process, and patience; it takes time to mature, for example, until the fruit is ripe, it is not picked.
The attributes includes receptivity, welcoming, listening, feeling, reflection, and creativity, specifically in the sense of formulating ideas.
It incorporates the notion of cycles: there is a time for everything, and the awareness of seasonal energy, with the energetic availability differing in winter, spring, summer or fall.
The maternal function is part of this energy. The mother is the one who gives and can understand everything. A Lunar approach will consist in privileging listening, and unconditional welcoming.
It finds and searches for commonalities, what is the same and values the understanding, and the relationship (even if there is no visible or operational result).
Understanding, talking about it, and sharing are an important criterion (more than success).
Incompetence is seen as an indication of what needs to be improved.
Lunar approach knows how to go slowly, and wait for the right moment in the cycle.
It is also the Nadi Ida in yogic energetics:
Ida is the psychic channel called lunar; it governs the mental force, the psychic and extrasensory perceptions. It stimulates creative and artistic activities. In direct connection with our subconscious, it allows us to free ourselves from fears and feelings of guilt. Ida represents the feminine principle, symbol of the Woman and all the forces and functions related to it. In particular the mother function and the influence she represents in direct relation to her, or transmitted through her relationship, her education and her structuring. The elements concerned by Ida are WATER and EARTH. Ida is responsible for intuitive abilities.
It’s characterized by ray 2 in the esoteric approach of A. Bailey:
Unconditional love and systemic wisdom. This is the Ray of receptive and nurturing nature. The Divine energy of self-healing is called forth by the intention and feeling of the practitioner so that it can be activated. The intuitive or quantum connection is easily achieved. Being emotionally and mentally neutral is a challenge and must be cultivated at length.
As we have just seen, in the energetic, symbolic and philosophical language, India and China meet: the terms YIN, YANG find their Sanskrit equivalents, THA and HA. Similarly, the Chinese term "meridians" has its correspondence in Sanskrit with the term "nadi". The nadi ida corresponds to the moon and pingala to the sun. These two polarities have a special place in the practice of Hatha Yoga, which is one of the eight means of Raja Yoga.
Let us see the etymology of this yoga:
Ha : the sun
Tha : the moon
Yoga : union
In other words, it is to unite the sun and the moon in oneself! Hatha Yoga will also propose many paths which will aim at uniting our lunar and solar energies, Yin and Yang. By uniting them we abolish their dual influences on our behaviors and emotions and can experience their synergy, their completeness. In Yoga we say that the energy passes through the middle nadi, in sushumna. We then become able to enter meditation. Of course, a diligent practice is necessary to reach this point. However, most essential is a practice that integrates the two facets, which has not been promoted for nearly two thousand years for the reasons mentioned above.
If the alliance of these two polarities is quite possible, it is not yet natural because it has been absent from the values of humanity for at least the last two millennia and possibly even longer. Therefore, a challenge exists, a double challenge, if you will, because we are so used to taking up challenges in Solar mode! So it will be vital to redouble vigilance to activate this famous new Lunar mode.
NB on the choice of writing: Nadi Ida Pingala without accent (Nâdi Idâ Pingalâ) as for all Indian words.
The cosmos moves, as do the energies linked to it. These great astronomical cycles have been perceived and studied for a long time in the form of astronomy, astrology or cosmogony. As not all peoples have the same objective in the study of the stars, they have not sought the same precision in astronomical calculation. For example, in India, the astrological interpretation has a strong vocation of prediction, of helping make decisions; we can say it’s a divinatory art, and the position of the moon, in relation to the constellations is privileged. The Maya, on the other hand, developed an ultra-precise calendar for the long term. Finally, modern astronomy has been able to highlight the changes in the "map of the sky" over the ages; the sky of 2000 years ago did not look like the one we see now! Collectively this means that when we want to talk about the great astronomical or astrological cycles of the universe, differences in dates quickly emerge without finding a solution, each proposal having its justification in the context in which it was born. In Hindu cosmogony, we are in the Iron Age, the Kali Yuga or Kaliyuga. According to the astronomical treatise Surya Siddhanta, which forms the basis of the Hindu and Buddhist calendars, the Kaliyuga began in -3102 and will surely end in over 400,000 years! However, there are sub-cycles, one of which is ending right now (2000, 2012, 2082 depending on the way it was calculated). It is important to know that this Kaliyuga, not to be confused with Kali Yoga (which refers to the goddess), is an era known as "black" because it is the one where beings suffer the most. The planetary consciousness has become very dark, and humanity is working in difficult conditions, hence the need for a practice to access the light of the Soul.
The beginning of the third millennium thus marks the entry into a new era. If we consider the esoteric approach of the astrological cycles of about 2000 years, we are leaving the age of Pisces to enter the age of Aquarius, "The Age of Aquarius" as the musical Hair sang in 1969.
Of course precision is not required here either, the implementation of the Aquarian energies is gradual (some inspired astrologers give 2150 as the end date of the transition). What is important, once again, is the issue of each era or its characteristics. If there is one thing that is unanimously agreed upon, it is that the 2000 years we have just lived were under the aegis of emotions. All the Middle Ages on all the continents show this emotional and even irrational side.
Progressively, over the last 50 years, many tools for managing emotions have been developed. Moreover, progressively, a greater place has been given to reason, to the mental, to the cognitive, to psychology and even to the quest for meaning. Thus, the famous sentence attributed to André Malraux: "The XXIst century will be spiritual or it will not be" immediately hit home. Therefore, if Pisces was the time of the maturation of our emotional body, Aquarius will be the time of the maturation of our spiritual body. However, beware, taking the word spiritual in the common sense of the Piscean era would be a trap. The "spiritual" is to be discovered, to be lived, to be experienced so that at the end of the era (in the year +4000 approximately) humanity can move on to something else.
The challenge to revisit the Raja Yoga sutras will be to free ourselves from the connotations and practices of Pisces, of the Middle Ages, in order to try to discover a new taste, that of Aquarius. All this is based on a text written at the end of the Aries era and the beginning of the Pisces era (many Hindu doctrines are based on the Aries one or “Ram”).
Also, a good starting point can be to list the attributes, the characteristics of the Aquarian Age in the making proposed by the latest astrological or esoteric writings:
To go towards individuation, the being must free itself from the beliefs and ideals of the majority and develop its own consciousness.
Attaining fulfillment in the reconciliation of opposites, non-duality, the man of tomorrow must integrate the particular and the universal, reason and intuition, always being connected to the center by a holistic vision.
There is an emergence of systemic awareness (a system is a set of elements in which anything that happens to one of the elements has an influence on all the other elements), understanding of dynamic inter-actions, and consideration of non-linear causality.
Each individual must find his own way, and build his own destiny for the good of the planetary collective: planetary ecology.
The goal is to take your place, nothing but your place, and for all of your space to be occupied in complete Coherence and Simplicity.
Undoubtably, the advent of psychoanalysis and secularism is the precursor of this new era. However, as with every change of era, the values of the previous era will be violently defended, which is a logical reaction, as change is often perceived as fraught with insecurity and fright. It is therefore necessary to redouble lunar pedagogy (yin) in order to prevent stigmatized resistance and instead fuel the change. Therefore the preference is sharing opinions rather than spreading "truths." Also, we will take as a basic wisdom quote for this book, the words of Siddharta Gautama (Buddha):
Do not believe anything because you have been shown the written testimony of some Sage, Do not believe anything on the authority of Masters, Priests or Doctors.
But whatever agrees with your experience, and after a thorough study, satisfies your reason and tends to your good, that you can accept as true and conform your life to it...
To this we add the principle of re-contextualization, the theme of this chapter:
... as long as it tends towards your good.
Then, without ever considering your understanding to be eternal, you will repeat this process of experimentation whenever necessary.
Here we have outlined the different issues, conscious of proposing a new vision of Raja Yoga, and more particularly of Patanjali's Sutras. In accordance with the Lunar-Aquarius approach, no results are expected, only the sharing of opinions, which will guide the continuation of this writing.
The 8 means
Raja Yoga proposes eight complementary tools that we call "Ashtanga Yoga". These eight practices in synergy, allow to free oneself from the Ego. We find the description of these 8 means (ashtau angani contracted in asthanga) in the book II of Patanjali from the sutra 29:
II.29. The 8 means of yoga are:
Yama, the five universal attitudes (or moral duties) towards others (and towards ourselves).
Nijama, the five rules or spiritual observances, the basis of daily self-discipline.
Asana, the serene posture: to know how to find a physical, emotional-energetic, mental and/or spiritual posture where we can settle down to work on oneself, with oneself.
Pranayama, the regulation of breathing in consciousness, in full awareness.
Pratyahara, the withdrawal of the external senses, the transfer of the attention towards the interior (to know to isolate oneself from the surrounding environment, to make abstraction of it).
Dharana, the intention, the guidance by the mind (the intention that drives the process).
Dhyana, in deep meditation, the Self takes the lead, we let ourselves be "crossed by".
Samadhi, contemplation, bliss or rather enstasis. The state of unity, equanimity, consciousness has reached a transpersonal state, a trance state, an altered state of consciousness.
There is, of course, a pedagogical progression in these eight ways, with each step often being the best preparation for the next. However, as is common in systemic pedagogy, the gifts and potentials of each person mean that not all the steps are equally difficult, or even gradual. It is possible to be spontaneously comfortable with meditation (mean 7) and to take years to have self-discipline (mean 2). This is why the liberation of the Ego (The Awakening) must be seen as a synergy of the eight means and not as the ninth step of an eight-step staircase!
This is why the symbol of the eight means of Raja Yoga is not a staircase, but instead a flower of life, a rosette, a sacred geometry:
Symbole visuel des huit moyens du Raja Yoga
The systemic approach that best corresponds to the holistic vision of Raja Yoga is called the bottleneck. We know that it is the weakest link that gives strength to the whole chain, therefore, to work and gain competence on one's strongest point is an illusion, if not completely useless. Hyper-sensorial people have often experienced altered states of consciousness in their childhood (mean 8), however they cannot reach a "Buddha" awakening without suffering linked to the Ego. They will have to "work hard" to acquire the other 7 practices and to free themselves from the Ego. Mean 5 (ignoring the environment) in particular can be very challenging, as well as mean 2 (the self-discipline of one hour of practice per day). It is therefore "the bottleneck," or the weak link that we will have to work for synergy to occur. We are all born with one or more strengths or ways that we practice and assimilate without effort; they happen naturally. We also have one or more weaker points they do not at all come naturally and comfortably, or that tires us out even before we start. The effort however difficult, but without tension, is necessary in Raja Yoga. The effort we are referencing here is not hardness or willpower, it is a sustained effort, one with a smile, which does not let go, and is more an effort of WATER than FIRE.
In the visual symbol proposed above, we can clearly see the dynamic inter-relationship of the elements of the system, everything intertwines and inter-acts. Therefore, it is not necessarily imperative to work directly on the weak point. This could even lead to discouragement, especially at the beginning of the path. By working on neighboring means, through synergy, we will obtain a global modification of the system and thus an indirect improvement of the weak point!
There is no perfect and universal pedagogical progression; there are as many paths as there are people on the way. In modern terms we would speak of differentiated pedagogy, right-brain pedagogy, pedagogy by experience or simply a lunar (yin) approach. Faced with this observation, we can easily understand why no "yoga club" proposes this type of process, only a one on one teaching, master-disciple, is able to answer this challenge.
Throughout this booklet, we will suggest, as did Jiddu Krishnamurti suggests, that you become your own master. Of course, since you do not have the necessary expertise, you will rely on other experts, external masters one might say, but without ever giving them the control of your life, by remaining a free thinker, in co-development with the rest of the world, and by accepting otherness at 100%. In other words, embrace the knowledge that another can enrich us with their differences as well as with their expertise. It is therefore a self-reflective process where you are the master, the teacher, the coach, and the mentor of yourself! You will self-prescribe courses, practices, experiences to be able to walk the path in your own way. You can even ask for the opinion of outsiders to get new opinions and nourish new ideas, but never consider as true what you have been told until you have validated it by your own experience.
This last sentence shows how far purely theoretical knowledge is from Raja Yoga, which is above all a path of incarnation of spirituality, in matter and not a conceptual approach.
The next chapters will explore the 8 means more closely:
Mean 1: Yama, the 5 attitudes
Mean 2: Niyama, the 5 observances
Mean 3: Asana, posture
Mean 4: Pranayama, breathing
Mean 5: Pratyahara, inner listening
Mean 6: Dharana, polarization of the attention
Mean 7: Dhyana, meditation
Mean 8: Samadhi, transpersonal contemplation
As Raja Yoga is a holistic, global, systemic approach, the 4 planes (PEMS bodies) are relevant in each of the means:
P for Physical-Organic (flesh, bones, ...),
E for Energetic-Emotional (chakras, meridians, ...),
M for Mental-Intellectual (left hemisphere, analytical thinking, ...),
S for Spiritual-Metaphysical (right hemisphere, intuition, ...).
The model below provides a representation to help better understand the vocabulary "4 bodies". We attach them to the incarnation rather than the Soul, which is a temporal principle greater than our incarnation. However, in this diagram, we note two loops of Karma, of Feedback. The first one is direct; I have the direct consequences of my actions. For example, “if I eat too much, I will have a stomach ache”. The second loop goes through a greater principle of causality, such as, “my attitude of thought is not coherent, I feel depressed.” The more we advance on the path the faster the big loop is processed; it can even be instantaneous: we can trigger an important somatization a few hours after having let the Ego take over (after having let it pilot our vehicle of incarnation according to principles of suffering). Finally, this model highlights a global vision of life noted "Life++": we contribute to evolution.
Now, let's come back to our point which was to warn against an overly fragmented vision of things. For example, when we talk about food, we often think of the physical body (P). In Raja Yoga, we also integrate the food of the emotional or energetic body (E), the food of the mental body (M) and of course the food of the spiritual body (S).
Another classic example of this PEMS approach is found in the notion of posture (asana). The "right posture" will be found in the physical, but also in the emotional, the mental, and, if possible in the spiritual. Let's finish with meditation, which for a long time was only considered as spiritual. Discoveries in neuroscience now allow us to affirm that the impact or the practice can be mental, emotional and also physical (it is even the basis of atheistic mindfulness meditation).
Means 1 : Yama, the 5 attitudes
The ego creates karma, the immediate karma linked to our thoughts. It is therefore important in a quest for liberation from the ego to put in place attitudes and observances that allow us to stop feeding our karma, in order to be able to experience enlightenment. If we are attached to "it" on the way, the awakening will be blocked by "it." So the first two means of Raja Yoga suggest axes which guarantee a happy future, without stress, and with the least possible attachment whether it is on the physical, emotional, energetic, mental or spiritual level.
In the original text, we find the sutras relating to means 1 to 5 in PART II: Degrees leading to Union (Sadhana Pada). The means 6 to 8 are described in "PART III: The Realized Union and its Results" (Vibhuti Pada). Here we do not follow the original order of the book as transcribed in +600. As said in the introduction, we choose an order as pedagogical as possible. Of course, each time we use a sutra we will give the reference in the format: "PART.number.", for example "II.30." :
II.30. Yama, the five universal attitudes or moral duties towards others and towards oneself are:
Ahimsa, Communicate with kindness, with non-violence
Not to experience oneself as "mean" when one says no to the other, to maintain a firm and just attitude, provokes a benevolent climate. Having a disposition of a mind inclined to understanding, favors an inner state without aggression which leads to an attitude of non-violence towards oneself.
Satya, To express oneself clearly, to have an impeccable speech
By expressing your needs clearly, eliminating preconceived ideas of solutions, avoiding negations, and speaking with integrity without belittling, all communication is easier. It is less stressful and does not cause indirect karma of unfortunate consequences. A good tip is to start your sentence with "I": I think, I feel, I believe, ... and end with "... anyway, here and now,” or “in this particular instance.”
Asteya, Taking into consideration what belongs to the other
By not taking, or not internalizing what belongs to another person we allow them to realize the consequences of their actions. This involves differentiating and seeing clearly that the other person's problem does not belong to us. A substantial amount of stress and "bad karma" will be avoided by applying this attitude which may seem selfish on the surface, but, on the contrary contributes to the autonomy of each person.
Brahmacharya, Differentiate between desire and need
It is important to differentiate between desire and need because it is desire that drives lust or non-integrated acts. The need is legitimate whereas the desire and even more the impulsive desire only brings stress, and karma in the form of frustration, anger, jealousy, ... This concerns the sexual, intellectual, emotional and energetic levels.
Aparigraha, Favoring Simplicity
Placing simplicity at the heart of your life, whether in your relationships or in your material life, is a key because it allows you to always remain focused on the essential. Many of our stresses are linked to inner and outer complexity. To return to simple things is also to be able, on a daily basis, to avoid the pitfalls of over-consumption and frantic over-solicitation, caused, for example, by the development of multimedia.
The first step for the raja-yogi is to create a non-stressful context, which generates as little karma as possible, karma in the sense of managing the consequences of our unpleasant acts. For this, Raja Yoga proposes the development of five universal attitudes (Yama) and five rules or mental observances (Niyama). They initiate the fundamental human dimension in Yoga. One can ask here, “why are these two means rarely taught in the "yoga clubs"?” Simply because the objective of the practitioners in these "clubs" is not holistic, but instead centered on a particular facet, for example, the flexibility of the physical body, whereas for an institute it is logical to answer the demand. The means taught will be chosen among the panel of the 8 means (cf. p36) and rather applied to certain planes, or bodies, rather than to all of them (cf. PEMS p66). They are therefore not "bad" yoga or "incomplete" yogas, since they respond to a need, to a demand.
Raja Yoga responds to a very specific demand, that of the liberation of the ego in order to establish and live in Union with the universal energy of Life and in all facets of life. It is the Yoga of the incarnation of spirituality in matter, of the transcendence of illusions.
As the informed reader will surely have noticed, in the above presentation we have put more emphasis on the facet "towards oneself" because it is this one that is usually forgotten, or even not taught. Of course, "towards others" is equally important.
We will now revisit the 5 attitudes in the light of the Patanjali sutras:
II.31. Yama is a universal duty, regardless of origin, place, time or circumstances.
After recalling the wider context of the application of the 5 attitudes, Patanjali gives reference points to know what occurs when we have sufficiently integrated the required quality. Indeed, the ego often tends to make us believe that we have sufficiently developed a specific attitude, yet it is always the ego that drives our life. It should be noted that these 5 attitudes, as well as the 5 observances, are not exclusive to Yoga, but are found in a slightly different form in other currents of wisdom: Buddhism, Toltec, Reiki, and Christianity, for instance. Thus, in Buddhism, we find the eightfold path, the eight steps: right understanding, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right attention, right concentration. For the Toltecs we have the four agreements: let your word be impeccable, whatever happens do not make it personal, do not make assumptions, and always do your best. In Reiki we find the five principles of the secret art of inviting happiness into one's life: just today, don't be angry, don't be afraid, with honesty do your duty diligently, and be kind to others. Familiar to many, are the last five commandments of the Bible: thou shalt not commit murder, thou shalt not commit adultery, thou shalt not commit theft, thou shalt not bear false witness, and thou shalt not covet. While we could find the equivalent in other currents of wisdom, most salient is the importance of this moral and ethical framework in order to avoid relapses linked to the ego.
II.35. When one has perfected Ahimsa - non-violence, benevolence, harmlessness - all enmity ceases.
II.36. When one is firmly established in Satya - truthfulness, clarity, transparency - every action bears its just fruit (the effectiveness of one's words and deeds becomes manifest / immediate karma is "good for evolution").
II.37. By being firmly established in Asteya - honesty, abstention from falsehood - all kinds of gems present themselves before the raja-yogi.
II.38. When one is firmly established in Brahmacharya - the continence of desires - one gains vital energy.
II.39. When one stands in Aparigraha - non-possessiveness, simplicity - one obtains the knowledge of the "how" and "why" of life.
These "performance indicators" also highlight how to achieve a certain goal. For example, you are often the scapegoat, so you suffer violence. The ego will tend to keep you in this state either by positioning you as a victim or by suggesting that you "beat up" others. Raja Yoga proposes the paradoxical solution of cultivating non-violence Ahimsa! This does not mean "do nothing and let others walk all over you," on the contrary if you let yourself be walked on, there is violence towards yourself. So, the 5 attitudes are also towards yourself; it is thus necessary to stop this violence, but without entering into violence! Concerning physical violence, one solution is the way proposed by martial arts in general, by Aikido in particular. As it relates to verbal violence, the NVC approach, non-violent communication, is a very good solution. For emotional violence, emotional dynamics is often a good solution. We see here that Raja Yoga is in a way, a "therapy prescriber," but does not integrate the therapy itself. For each of the attitudes where you feel particularly concerned, you will have to set up a corrective action and in order to do this you will have to investigate and find the best solution. The advantage of the beginning of the third millennium is that there is an incredible and varied choice of personal development, which was not historically the case. To reach a sufficient level of maturity on a point can require 2 to 3 years of a path outside of Raja Yoga, with a therapist, a coach, an instructor, or a school, for example. If your spiritual quest is to touch the knowledge (in French "co-naissance" which can be translated by "rebirth with") of the how and why of incarnated life, the fifth attitude, Aparigraha, is the key. Here again, one may find it paradoxical that it is to privilege the PEMS [p66] non-covetousness, the simplicity that is the key to opening the door to the how and why of life. One would have been more inclined to think of advanced philosophical or theological studies, or even theosophy, or of a meditative retreat of several months in the heights of Tibet. Raja Yoga teaches us that coveting untried book knowledge is already letting the ego take over the situation. For people who are always tired, with little vital energy, the key proposed by Raja Yoga is Brahmacharya, the continence of desires or, in more modern terms, the management of emotions by dissociation of need and desire. Without this dissociation, this retreat, the Ego will be happy to use the whole emotional spectrum to keep us in a state of suffering, of which fatigue is the most visible and common symptom (we are talking about the physical fatigue of a sedentary person in Europe in the 21st century and not the very real physical fatigue of a mine worker a century or more ago). This skill, differentiating between basic needs and desires, is a path to personal development in itself. Indeed, our consumer society does everything to create and maintain this confusion, and to propose a "having" to compensate for a malaise. "I do so much, but nothing works", is a common phrase. It is as if the action is not bearing fruit, whereas the same actions taken by other people can be very effective. Raja Yoga proposes, if this is your main problem in life or at the moment, to put more Satya, more transparency in yourself, more truthfulness in your actions; place more coherence between your actions and your unconscious intention. This forces us to go through a process of self-examination in order to bring to the surface all the unconscious intentions that we have harbored since our childhood. We immediately think of the psychoanalytical cure as a solution, but since Freud, many other faster and more efficient methods have been developed, such as the waking dream in the Transpersonal approach (LeTranspersonnel.fr).
Let's end with "how to be rich, to have more abundance", a central concern of many people. Raja Yoga proposes Asteya, not taking what belongs to another, and abandoning greed and avarice in favor of "I render to Caesar what belongs to Caesar"! As always in Raja Yoga, it seems paradoxical that the absence of PEMS [p66] theft can actually lead to gaining wealth, PEMS again. Emotional "theft" is certainly the most common even within a family. We speak about "energy vampire" or "emotional pump" when we feel emptied following an interaction with a person. If Raja Yoga suggests that you not to "steal" the energy of the others, it also encourages you not allow your energy (towards the others and towards oneself) to be stolen. Whether it is at the energetic, emotional, mental or financial level, you must not let yourself be robbed any more than you must not rob yourself. Seeing Asteya, honesty, from this financial point of view means that if people owe you money, you should ask them for it, and if you owe money, you should pay it back even if the person doesn't ask you for anything.
Before concluding on the 5 attitudes, let us point out that Patanjali specifies that:
II.33. The path to the "right attitudes" requires what is called a spiritual exercise, an examination of conscience or a self-analysis of the "wrong attitudes".
Of course, as Raja Yoga being is a non-dual approach, there are no "good" or "bad" behaviors. However, there are attitudes that are either in the direction of Awakening through transcendence of the Ego, or are opposed to this direction. As is often the case in the sutras, the following sutra clarifies this by giving an example:
II.34. For every non-conforming thought, emotion, and act, such as violence (..) the process of examining the opposites (pratipaksha-bhavanam) is to ask the questions:
"Who is the sender?" me directly, me by my consent, me by my non-action, another...
"Why did we do it?..." out of cupidity, anger, avarice, ignorance...
"What is the level of impact?..." low, medium, high...
"What are the consequences?..." suffering, ignorance...
This is a very mental approach, as can be found in philosophy or in the quality approach to failure analysis. Beware, in order not to fall into the trap of the ego, which knows very well how to appropriate all these intellectual approaches, keep the questions open, i.e. with the intention of waiting for an answer or a clue from the universe, from elsewhere. By this vigilance on our thoughts, we join the idea Swami Sivananda became a famous quote: "Sow a thought, you will reap an action. Sow an action, you will reap a habit. Sow a habit, you will reap a character. Sow a character, you will reap a destiny."
We will finish with the sutra 40 which concerns both the 5 attitudes and the 5 observances:
II.40. The internal and external PEMS purification causes aversion to egoistic forms, to the form of our ego as well as to all forms of ego.
Obviously, this is not necessarily reassuring. But the knowledge will allow the raja-yogi to get past this reaction, this awareness. We may be appalled by the ego-induced behaviors of others, and at the same time, we will realize that we possess the same in ourselves. This is called "tearing the veil of illusion;" it is not necessarily pleasant, but it is useful to dare to see the reality that has existed since the dawn of time. Of course, it is necessary to deeply love and consider oneself in order to be able to pass this stage without the ego coming to make us feel guilty, to denigrate us, to judge us. Hence the importance in Raja Yoga of the synergy of the 8 means [p36], in parallel with means 1 and 2, we will have practiced means 3 to 8, this is what gives the stability, and the quiet inner strength to overcome and transcend this aversion to egoistic forms, to just see them for what they are, and what they have been for thousands of years.
Ahimsa & CNV: La célèbre méthode de communication non-violente (CNV) formalisée par Marshall B. Rosenberg est en réalité la "Communication Ahimsa". Rosenberg a traduit, comme nous ici, Ahimsa par non-violent. Toutefois, comme il le fait remarquer, un a-violent avec un "a" privatif aurait été plus adapté que non-violent qui contient déjà en lui un "non" qui peut provoquer une réaction... violente. Non-violence, sans violence, en état a-violent, le principal est de comprendre le sens et surtout de savoir appliquer cette attitude à soi et aux autres. Faire un stage ou une formation CNV est une excellente étape pour vraiment intégrer la première des attitudes du premier moyen du Raja Yoga.
Ahimsa & NVC: The famous method of non-violent communication (NVC) formalized by Marshall B. Rosenberg is actually "Ahimsa Communication" (Ahimsa concept was also spread through Gandhi movements and writings). Rosenberg translated, as we do here, Ahimsa as non-violent (hiṃsā is injury or harm, while a-hiṃsā, its opposite, is non-harming or nonviolence). However, as he points out, an a-violent with a privative "a" would have been more appropriate than non-violent which already contains in it a "no" which can provoke a violent reaction. Non-violence, without violence, in a-violent state, the main thing is to understand the meaning and especially to know how to apply this attitude to oneself and to others. Doing a NVC workshop or training is an excellent step to really integrate the first attitude of the first way of Raja Yoga.
Means 2 : Niyama, the 5 observances
The 5 attitudes (Yama, mean 1) are an inescapable base to have an evolution, which is maintained in time in spite of the hazards of the life, the tests and the challenges. The objective of the 5 observances (Niyama, mean 2) will be complementary: to release the evolutionary potential of each person at its optimum. It is the answer to "how to go faster alone," knowing that spiritual life is about walking the path and not arriving somewhere. Also, we can replace "moving faster" by having more fields of experience, exchanging our educational and societal limits for more freedom in the experience of incarnation. However, we do not seek experience for experience's sake (which would be an attachment), but instead to evolve in our consciousness, our experience, our understanding, our incarnation in the "Great Whole".
If the practices included in Yama laid the ethical foundation of the raja-yogi's life, those in Niyama are more about self-discipline to better build oneself:
II.32. Niyama, the 5 rules or observances are:
Shauchat, Setting the ground with pure intention
What is my intention when I say this or do that? What is my goal when I adopt this attitude, perform this act or do this practice? Taking the time to reflect on this will lead us to a better understanding of ourselves, to less karma, to a better preparation of the PEMS ground [p66]. By regularly reminding ourselves of the target we wish to reach, we avoid the many dead ends and misunderstandings linked to any state of confusion or vagueness.
Samtosha, Cultivating contentment
Being able to recognize and be satisfied with everything we have, as well as being happy with who we are, brings peace of mind and heart and brings us closer to the state of Awakening (no-stress). Being able to focus on what is already going well (the glass half full), cultivating the ability to see the beauty in ourselves and around us, seeing the gifts of life is an attitude that generates joy, enthusiasm and a relaxed state. Whatever the circumstances, simply do our best and we will no longer need to run towards this "always more" which gives so much power to the Ego.
Tapas, Establishing a healthy lifestyle
A healthy lifestyle is normally established through a daily routine (such as brushing your teeth, eating, changing your clothes...) with a smile. Integrating body fulness practices into this routine requires effort and discipline at the beginning, but then we get interesting and lasting results on all levels.
Svadhyaya, Studying the inner temple
There is a space within us that is available at will and in all circumstances, which can become an ideal place of tranquility and serenity if we choose to get to know it. This is what we call the inner temple. Taking the time to get to know ourselves in a bookish way, reflecting on the philosophical meaning we want to give to our life, and acquiring the faculty of feeling unified in all the facets of our being will contribute to ultimately creating an inner state of well-being on which the external elements will no longer have a hold.
Ishvarapranidhana, Letting go to evolve
If there is one certainty we can do nothing about, it is the fact that everything changes every moment. Accepting this is essential if we want to spare ourselves all the stress of a totally useless struggle and resistance. Whatever we do, the world around us is changing, so let's not react to it in a personal way. By choosing to live everything as an opportunity to discover and seize, we will develop our capacity to adapt and find our confidence in ourselves and in life.
Both Yama and Niyama (the 5 attitudes and 5 observances) have a common goal: the transmutation of the PEMS nature [p66] so that it can properly serve as a vehicle for the energy of life, the light of the soul. However, these two primary means of Raja Yoga also have complementary differences, differences that of which are found in the nature of the practices themselves. Thus, the 5 attitudes, Yama, do not require any initiative of action. Day by day, the raja-yogi is asked to react to the events and incidents of his life in a definite way, but the number and character of the occasions that arise in his life, requiring the exercise of the five attitudes, will naturally depend on the circumstances. If, for example, he is going to live in the jungle as an ascetic, he will have little opportunity to put these attitudes into practice. In some contexts, mean 1 will remain inoperative for lack of opportunity to practice it. This is not so in the case of Niyama, which involves regular practice, day after day, regardless of the circumstances in which the raja-yogi is placed. Even if he lives alone, completely isolated from all social relations, the need to perform these practices will remain as great as when he was living in the activity of a human anthill.
It is important, for the 8 means, to remember that the objective is not the means, but instead the preparation of our body-vehicle of incarnation to receive and reveal our light nature, our Divine energy. We cannot "want" the Awakening, otherwise we experience the "want", the Awakening is an emergence, a result of fact. We can only do everything possible to promote this revelation, this emergence.
Before discovering the "performance indicators" proposed by Patanjali, let us note that the common point of the 5 observances is the preparation of the ground, the "purification" of our vehicle of incarnation so that we can welcome our deepest being, our light. This preparation of the ground has long been understood as a cleansing, a purging. If it is possible to see things from this angle, it should be noted that this presupposes that we are imperfect, dirty by nature, that something must be removed, or thrown away. This is, of course, a possible process for everything we have acquired, destructuring beliefs, parental injunctions, maladaptive reactions, ... However for our innate part, would the Divine have missed so many things? Let's remember, where Freud sees a psyche "to be cleaned of impulses", Jung sees "shadows to be brought to light". Niyama acts more like that, "putting light in our shadows" to accept ourselves fully in our global and cosmic nature. In Raja Yoga, "to purify" is thus to be taken according to the two illuminations, either to clean, or to put light, so we will often prefer the word "to prepare".
Let us now discover the current consequences of the assiduous practice of Niyama:
II.40. Pure intention in preparing the PEMS ground, Shauchat, often causes aversion to Ego forms; for our own Ego forms as well as for all Ego forms.
Before giving the correspondences between the practices and the changes obtained, Patanjali warns us about an unpleasant but obligatory consequence, therefore to transcend. As we progress along the path of self-knowledge, we identify more and more the behaviors induced by the ego. Some of these behaviors disgust us, repulse us, indignant us. Moreover, as these behaviors only bring suffering, we can be led to hope to see them disappear from the surface of the globe. If this reaction can be salutary when it provokes associative gatherings for noble causes, on the other hand, it affects us and gives "food to the Ego" because we lose our neutrality and enter in reaction. This sutra warns us that this is a normal reaction that will require a lot of wisdom to transcend, and not cut ourselves off from the rest of the world in disgust. Let's see now the positive consequences of the daily practice of the 5 observances:
II.41. From the PEMS refinement of the vehicle, Shauchat, comes smiling, staying the course, mastering hypersensoriality, and the ability to perceive the Self.
II.42. From the practice of contentment, Samtosha, supreme bliss is attained.
II.43. By establishing a healthy lifestyle, Tapas, our vehicle is refined and the control of the 4 PEMS bodies follows.
II.44. Through the study of the inner temple, Svadhyaya, the union with one's Divine essence takes place.
II.45. By letting go to evolve, Ishvarapranidhana, the achievement of union with one's Soul (Samadhi) is possible.
It is the smile, the good mood, which is the first point mentioned, and it is not by chance; the smile itself is already spirituality. To practice with the joy of living, to be enthusiastic about new experiences is certainly the best indicator that one is well on the way to Awakening, to the Self. Also, living the practices with drudgery is the worst solution, even an anti-solution which in the long run will create resentment following disappointed hopes and expectations. This is true for all the 8 ways [p36], only a no-stress state such as that of the inner smile, is a guarantee of change, of evolution. We can also see that the other observances go in the same direction.
It is clear here that the intention is more important than the tool used. In fact, the purer my intention, the more I will be able to analyze the result of the action. How can we clean up the 4 PEMS bodies [p66]? Many solutions now exist, and the personal development movement, as well as therapy, and more recently, coaching, have led to the development of dozens of highly effective tools. For each of the bodies: physical, emotional, energetic, and mental you will find books, coaches, schools, therapists. For the spiritual body, although it is less common, tools do exist for the transpersonal current as well. So, how do we summarize in one sutra, the best solution, or the best decision criteria? The answer was already from the start; the tool doesn't matter, but the intention does, and it must be there, clear, as precise as possible, and "pure".
This idea can be understood with the modern concepts of systemics. In systemics, the construction of a model can be represented as following:
First, there is the experience, then comes the lesson learned from this experience (analysis). The purple feedback loop shows that the experiment can be repeated several times in order to obtain a valid analysis which, later, will lead to a first formalization (via the large gray feedback loop). This formalization will itself provide leads for new experiments, but at this time during the analysis the real result will also be compared to the theoretical result. As time goes by, the model will become more and more solid or, on the contrary, will reveal what does not work. So in the end, it doesn't matter what the experiment is, eating organic, for example, or what the theory is, the chakras, for instance; the important thing is the analysis, and to consideration the reality obtained by asking: “am I progressing in the desired direction?” If my intention is always pure, if my objective is to prepare my vehicle to receive what is called the light of the soul, if I do my best here and now, I will inevitably evolve and in the end I will be able to evaluate, for myself, the relevance of the tools I have used.
Coming back to the 5 observances, after Shauchat, the "purification" of the envelopes that veil the Self, we find Samtosha, which is generally translated as contentment. Cultivating contentment is a great challenge for the French, whose international reputation is to "grumble all the time". If we identify with this collective behavior by belonging to the clan, the ego will always have a lever to act. Contentment is indispensable, because without it there is no possibility of keeping the mind in a balanced condition. Man living in the modern urban world is subject throughout the day to all kinds of aggression, and he reacts according to his habits, his prejudices, his education, or his mood of the moment. These reactions trigger hormones, neurotransmitters that disturb the mental and emotional state. If to get out of the reaction, the culture of contentment is an effective means of getting out those reactions, and brings tranquility, it is not immediate nor easy, but the result of a prolonged discipline, and the crossing of the many tests in life.
In third position, we find Tapas, sometimes translated as ascetic discipline or even austerity. This associated vocabulary highlights the fact that the establishment of a routine, daily practice of hygiene, is not well experienced by the Ego. The content of Tapas is amply repeated in the sutras at the end of Part II and in Part III. The routine must, of course, integrate the other means of Raja Yoga. Remaining mindful about the above, we need an ardent aspiration to in order to set up the routine, otherwise we risk falling quickly into the traps of the ego. This ardent aspiration can be impulsive for some, a spontaneous enthusiasm to set out on the path following a so-called summit experience (transpersonal connection in an altered state of consciousness), but this is not always the case. Many people set out on their journey to escape from psychological suffering that has become unbearable. In this case, maintaining the routine is more perilous, especially as the suffering diminishes. Remembering one's aspiration and connecting the notion of effort will then be essential.
Svadhyaya translated as "spiritual reading," became the “dada” of Western intellectuals in the middle of the 19th century. As for the so-called Yoga of knowledge, Gyana or Jnana Yoga, one could almost believe that a university course in theology or in the comparative study of wisdoms is a means of Yoga. This is why in the West, and at the beginning of the third millennium, we prefer the term "study of the inner temple," which is much more oriented towards the study of the meaning of subjective realities. To better understand why purely bookish knowledge is useless in Raja yoga, we must refer to the diagram above. We can see that experience is primordial, first, the rest does not exist without it. Then, and only then, the study of the models proposed in the sacred books, in the psychological approaches, or in the ethnological studies, is advantageous in improved analysis and better formalization.
Finally, the fifth and last observance is Ishvarapranidhana, an encouragement to let go in order to evolve. The second part of the word, pranidhanat, proposes the surrender of oneself to something greater, such as our inner divine nature. The idea is that only an input from outside our psyche, like energy, inspiration, or ideas, can bring about change, or a renewal. Otherwise, our process becomes self-referential and quickly suffocates for lack of new "oxygen". To use the rest of the world, Alterity, as a source of evolution requires us to let go of our certainties, our beliefs, and to abandon ourselves to life. However, it is not a letting go where we do nothing; on the contrary, we listen to life, we let ourselves be penetrated by the movement in progress and... we surf it.
In order to prioritize our actions, to choose among the 8 means [p36] the one to be implemented as soon as possible, it is important to know that it is the last three elements of Niyama that have been proposed in the aphorism II.1, the first sutra of the second part (sadhana-pada):
II.1 Tapah-svadhyaya-isvarapranidhanani kriyayogah ie:
II.1 The yoga of action, Kriya-yoga, leading to the union with the soul is: Tapah, establishing a healthy lifestyle, Svadhayaya, studying the inner temple, and Ishvarapranidhanani, letting go to evolve.
Starting with this sutra, Patanjali emphasizes the "kriya" aspect: doing, or action. Kriya-yoga is the actual aspect of yoga, the essential step. It is preliminary in the etymological sense, "before the limit (threshold)," in other words "the basic practice", which leads to the union with the light of the soul. Patanjali thus insists that Raja Yoga is not about dreaming and waiting, but about doing something, and in prioritizing: self-discipline, self-knowledge, and transpersonal otherness. These three actions act in an inter-relationship for a synergy that allows one to walk the path.
Here we have gone through the 5 observances that will allow us to create a quality inner temple, a space that is available in all circumstances and that can become an ideal place of tranquility and serenity if we decide to get to know it. In this temple, our Ego has no hold, and our Self can be connected. It should be noted that the means 1 and 2 have the mind as a gateway, and proposes a positive vision of life and not to "chase demons" to change our ground. Since 20214, neuroscience clearly highlighted that it is impossible to change when we are under stress. Yet the mere thought of going on a hunt or war against our inner demons is inherently... stressful. Raja Yoga proposes instead a "Bodyfulness" way to free ourselves from our sabotaging programs that have become useless, in favor of the passage through the body, such as breathing and meditation to liberate ourselves. These two first means establish a calming of the mind and the emotions by allowing us to live consciously, acknowledging our passions and instincts, but no longer being their toys. Our life becomes virtuous not in the moral sense, but in the pragmatic sense insofar as we bring ourselves well-being.
Means 3 : Asana, posture
The third way of Raja Yoga is both the most known, under the name of Hatha Yoga, and the least understood, the form having taken the upper hand over the content during the Middle Ages. First, we should emphasize that the "static posture" of the Hata Yoga of the XXth century is not the "Asana" of the third means of Raja Yoga. Instead defining the word “posture” as a "way of positioning" provides far more accuracy, and this is also true for all of the PEMS planes [p66].
II.46. The adopted posture, Asana, must be stable and established in a "happy space".
II.47. The stability and ease of the posture is achieved through a light and sustained effort of the mind on the infinite and the renunciation of the effort-will.
Hatha Yoga, as it is known in Europe, was not recognized there until the beginning of the 20th century; and it is important to note that Hatha Yoga has only existed since the 15th century, not since the year zero or before. From a historical point of view, at the beginning we find the Golden Age of India (-1000, +600) with an oral tradition formalized for the first time in the 4th century BC via the Yoga-Sutras. However, from this period, there is no description of a body practice based on complex postures like those found in all the Hatha Yoga books. Following India’s Golden Age, was the Indo-Muslim period (712-1749) which produced the book "Hatha Yoga Pradipika" written in the Middle Ages, more specifically in 15th century. This book describes the postures, both simple and complex, and most of the other practices attached to Hatha Yoga (cleansings, bandha, mudra, sounds, kundalini,...). When reading the text, one clearly recognizes the influence of medieval thoughts, if only in the description of the practice cell: “as austere as those of our monks of the time” (see description at the end of the chapter), which is the opposite of the "happy space" of Raja Yoga seen above (II.46). The important thing for us, within the framework of the third means of Raja Yoga, is said from the beginning, chapter I - aphorism 2 of the work Hatha Yoga Pradipika (HYP):
HYP_I-2) After paying homage to Consciousness through his own guru, Yogi Svatmarama explained the science of Hatha Yoga for the sole purpose of attaining Raja Yoga.
It is a book that details a practice to obtain the union of our Solar facet, Ha, and our Lunar facet, Tha. In this sense, and by proposing many postures - Asana -, it is indeed one of the eight means of Raja Yoga, one of the elements in order to reach Raja Yoga; so it is not an end in itself. Therefore, the postures are a medieval creation and not a multi-millennial heritage, which is why we do not find any description of them in the Patanjali sutras. Moreover, no ancient bas-relief (before J-C) presents a Hata Yoga posture, only a temple of the 7th century, Mahabalipuram, presents an ascetic in the tree posture.
However, the descriptions in this book are the basis of "20th century Hatha Yoga." Of course, we can use the superb choice of physical postures that the "Hatha Yoga Pradipika" proposes, taking into account the instructions seen above (II.46). Above all, we must give back the holistic, global point of view of Raja Yoga and think while in posture, Asana, mental, emotional and of course spiritual: the stable and comfortable posture takes another meaning. This does not mean that we will neglect or suppress the physical posture side, but to integrate all the PEMS planes [p66] to this practice.
The following sutra II.47. tells us how to master the Asana, the posture: by a release of tensions (sustained effort, but without tension) and the immersion in the "endless," the meditation on "what has no end". Then right after Patanjali tells us what we can expect from this practice:
II.48. When this - the mastery of the posture - is achieved, the pairs of opposites no longer obstruct.
To be able to hold a physical, emotional, mental or spiritual posture without tension, in no-stress, by simply focusing one's attention on the infinity of the moment, allows one to no longer suffer the attacks of the ego via duality. In Raja Yoga, non-duality is a matter of posture, of positioning, and a way of being that does not require effort in the sense of tension, will, or power. At the level of physical postures, the first and simplest one is to sit here and now as if this moment were to last... eternity. Sitting without physical tension requires a relaxation, not a hardness, but also not a softness. When we focus our attention on the infinite, we can perceive tensions in the body which are the reflection of psychic tensions (emotional or mental). In the framework of the third means, it is advisable to just observe these without will, without duality good/evil or success/failure, and naturally, the happy space will increase; it will settle. Let us specify right away that this third means will naturally follow on from the fourth:
I.49. When the correct posture has been achieved, it is followed by a correct control of the vital energy, Prana, and a proper process of inhalation and exhalation of the breath, Pranyama.
Means 4, the breath, will assist. It is at simultaneously the ideal complementary tool to means 3 to dissolve tensions without effort, and the ideal tool to enter in a modified state of consciousness for means 5, 6 and 7. Apart from the basic postures such as standing, sitting, and lying down, the choice of physical or energetic postures should pedagogically allow for work on tensions and/or breathing. For the emotional or mental field, the posture will be chosen for its symbolic significance. Hatha Yoga proposes the union of the opposites; the Solar facet and the Lunar facet, are in perfect adequacy with the third means of Raja Yoga. It is thus a source of inspiration of quality, but it is necessary to keep in mind that it is a means, not a goal.
In the West, yoga is often reduced to gymnastics, to relaxation. Patanjali reminds us that it is first and foremost a path of liberation from the mind, the emotions and the limitations of the ego. Patanjali's Royal Yoga, Raja Yoga, is a complete spiritual process, a transformative alchemy oriented towards the total fulfillment of the human being. Integrating Asana into our daily routine is a plus that will be increased tenfold by the action in synergy with the other means.
HYP_I.12) He who desires to practice yoga must place himself in the center of a small isolated cell, without stone, water, or fire. It should have the size, in its radius, of a bow, and be in a well-governed country, which is free from disasters and conflicts, and where the law is observed and alms are lavishly dispensed.
HYP_I.13) The characteristics of this cell, described by the Siddha, who practice Hatha Yoga, are the following: it must have a small door, no windows, it must be without holes or hollows in the floor, neither too high nor too low, well smeared with cow dung, clean, without insects. The outside should have a pavilion, a reserved area, a well and be surrounded by a wall.
Means 4 : Pranayama, breathing
This fourth means, Pranayama, will naturally follow on from the third, Asana. A simultaneous practice of means 3 and 4 is even quickly desirable.
II.49. When the correct posture has been achieved, it is followed by a correct control of the vital energy, Prana, and a proper process of breathing in and out, Pranayama.
As soon as the posture is found, with stability and ease, we experiment Pranayama, which is the conscious control of the PEMS breathing [p66]. First, it is a question of stopping the disturbances of the physical breath, then of the control of the breath, and its associated energy. We now know that the lengthening of the breath and the control of its rhythm will lead to what is called cardiac coherence, which is very favorable to all PEMS bodies.
Here is the basic cycle formalized and validated by the HeartMath Institute: HeartMath since 1995:
It is called circular breathing, and the most universal basis is 6 breaths per minute (inhale=exhale=5sec). Experienced yogis, of course, can extend the cycle to 5 breaths per minute (6sec+6sec), or even 4 full breaths per minute (a little more than 7 seconds on the inhale and exhale).
The important thing is the control by the consciousness of inhale=exhale. Note that with a priori there is no blockage, retention or apnea: the transition is smooth. The sutra II.50. gives us complementary indications to those of the HeartMath institute, indications more open to experimentation:
II.50. The movements of the breath are the exhale, the inhale and the transition. By paying attention to where the breath is placed, its amplitude and rhythm, we obtain a subtle and elongated breath.
The practice of suspension by blocking the breath is useless in Raja Yoga; the suspension comes quite naturally after the hyper-oxygenation due to a sufficiently long and intense practice. Let us specify first that introducing a suspension phase, apnea, with a full or empty lung, requires on the one hand, requires a certain experience and on the other hand, mandates that we have a different intention than the one of the 3rd means which is again, non-duality, the balance of opposites, and the harmony of opposites. Let us note that from the point of view of vocabulary, we call Vinyasa the sequence of the 3 means 3, 4 and 5: Asana, Pranayama and Pratyahara.
VINYASA process = Asana + Pranayama + Pratyahara.
Vinyasa means synchronization of movement and breathing. The name of this process "Vinyasa," sequence of the means 3, 4 and 5, was made famous in the West by Shrî K.Pattabhi Jois and B.K.S. Iyengar’s approach, "Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga," which is an indirect declination of Raja Yoga created in 1930 (see the end of the chapter).
It is the second part of the sutra "With attention on..., " tells us that we should include the following means, Pratyahara, inward attention, in the Vinyasa process. This second part also gives us a fundamental indication for choosing the posture. In fact, the sutra specifies "Paying attention to the place where the breath is placed." Also for each practice, for each asana, for each vinyasa, it is interesting to have a privileged place where the attention for this inner listening, Pratyahara, is placed. In this context, revisiting all the postures of Hatha Yoga is interesting because we will indeed be able to locate bodily proposals which naturally allow us to put our attention on a specific part of the body (thorax, spinal column, side, kidney area, ...) and thus to be better and more easily listen to our interiority.
Patanjali then invites us to go beyond the physical side of breathing, to go beyond the work on the three basic modalities of inspire-expire-transition:
II.51. A fourth modality of breathing goes beyond the ordinary plane of consciousness where we distinguish between breathing in and breathing out.
Let us return to the holistic aspect of Raja Yoga, namely PEMS breathing [p66]. Often the practice of breathing exercises leads one to focus on the physical breathing apparatus, to the exclusion of the analogous practice of mastering the rhythm of the emotional or energetic life, the Prana. While this deep physical breathing in posture is an excellent start, it is insufficient in creating a lasting action on the Ego or in producing a quality spiritual connection. Transforming our body into a coherent and rhythmic instrument "PEMS" [p66] for the union with the Soul requires at least a physical, energetic and mental practice. The latter will be better explained by the following means. As is often the case in the sutras, Patanjali then tells us what is obtained by regular practice:
II.52. Thanks to this, what obscures the light gradually disappears.
No longer being in a fog, clarifying our vision of the world, and overcoming the illusion of the ego has the following result: what obscures the light gradually disappears! This sutra is therefore a very good incentive to practice postures in coordination with the breath supported by a particular intention or attention (Vinyasa process). The more the light of the Soul can incarnate in our vehicle, the more the Ego is put in its rightful place with kindness, and that is really a plus to walk the path of Awakening. To further convince us to practice this Vinyasa process, Patanjali adds that it is the ideal way to start the next process, that of meditation:
II.53. And the mind is prepared for the polarization of attention - Dharana -.
Often neglected, and yet present in all translations, the "And" at the beginning of the sentence is fundamental, because it indicates that the process of meditation, whose first step is Dharana, the sixth means, is only done once the PEMS body is filled with Prana, aligned, and harmonized. This is why the meditation proposed by Raja Yoga must come at the end of the practice and not independently. This does not mean that a meditation class is useless, no, it means that in the context of Raja Yoga and its objective, it is infinitely more efficient to meditate after having properly prepared the vehicle. Once cleansed of all the useless elements, including mental programs, emotions, and toxins and once it is filled with a beautiful energy of light, then the meditative process can build on this new potential to better lead us to the light of our Soul, to our deeper Self.
Let's take an example of the Vinyasa process: I will choose the back half-moon pose, hasta uttanasana, which is very well known, as it begins the famous "Sun Salutation" (first figure below). It is a standing posture with arms raised to the sky. If you have ever done or seen Hatha Yoga, you know this posture in static mode. Here the movement is life; the position will be easy, comfortable and lively (cf sutra II.46.), in light movements linked to the breath for example. The attention will be focused on the rib cage and, like a bellows, it will inflate and then deflate, with each 5sec-5sec breath. To begin, we amplify the movement of the whole body that accompanies the movement of the breath. It is not necessary to arch strongly, just enough to better feel and sense the tensions of the body or the movement of the breath in the thoracic area. We breathe 10 complete breaths, letting the body inflate and then deflate, the attention is on the lungs, and on the thorax. On the inhale we accentuate the extension, the stretching, while on the exhale we accentuate the relaxation, and the slackening.
Then comes the "PEMS" passage, and we will start to inhale Prana, energy and exhale the toxins. When we breathe in, we imagine, we visualize the light coming in through the lungs either directly or through the nose. This light-energy cleans our vehicle and when we exhale, we eject the things that have become useless such as the emotions accumulated during the day. We have thus passed to the energetic and emotional plane. If for the physical plane the inhalation is often done through the nose and the exhalation through the mouth, for the energetic plane, as far as possible, the breathing will be done exclusively through the nose.
The mental level will be solicited by the constant vigilance on all the parameters:
inhale=exhale=5sec (or 6sec or 7sec if you are experienced),
opening of the rib cage and the heart on inspiration with extension towards the sky,
on the exhale, maximum relaxation of the heart area (while keeping a minimum tone for the overall look of the pose),
on the inhale, visualization of the energy that enters directly through the skin and via the lungs,
on the exhale, visualization of the miasmas which are expelled via the skin and the breath,
Once this posture has become easy and comfortable, rather than static and immobile, the phase S for spiritual follows. To the physical and energetic breathing get the addition of a transpersonal breathing, greater than our simple being. The energy has now become pure, the inhalation and exhalation only carry light energy which resources us, the "cosmic" dimension can then intervene. We are no longer a body in space that breathes, instead, we are the space that densifies and lives in a body. We radiate who we are through our whole being, and we drive a light when we inhale towards the inside: our skin, our flesh, our bones, and when we exhale towards the outside: our magnetic field, our etheric, our aura. A good practice can be 3x5, which is 5 breaths in physical mode, then 5 in energetic mode and finally 5 in spiritual mode, that is to say 3-4 minutes per Vinyasa.
The mind is very much solicited to set intentions, pilot flows, and monitor all parameters simultaneously if possible; this is an excellent use of the mind, the opposite of the one made by the Ego. Recent discoveries in neuroscience (2016-2018) show that this type of brain activity, along with movement and oxygenation, increases cognitive abilities. It is common to talk about an increase of 3 to 7 IQ points! Of course, this is not the purpose of Raja Yoga, but this collateral effect is, nevertheless, very nice.
The fact of breathing directly through the skin, or at least setting the intention with the help of visualization or imagination, may seem totally virtual. In reality, for more than a century it has been known that the skin plays an important role in the process of breathing and oxygenation of the body. For example, burn victims are in respiratory failure because they can no longer breathe through their skin! The proposal made to your body is therefore not a pure idea, but a realistic intention.
At the energetic level, the Prana absorbed comes mainly from planetary Prana, but it can also be in the elements of solar, lunar, and... cosmic in the sense of stars and galaxies. As the practice progresses, one can feel that this connection to the energy of the stars is particular, because it is totally "new" (in the non-earthly sense). However, if we are in a process of change, we want to create something new by definition. So, it is obviously preferable to feed ourselves with new energy. This fourth mode of breathing announced by sutra II.51 is therefore most useful on the path to Awakening, but also in everyday life, which is full of changes.
"Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga" is the name of a school of physical and dynamic yoga developed by Shrî K.Pattabhi Jois. It has strongly contributed to the expansion of yoga in general in the world and in the US in particular. Pattabhi Jois follows the tradition initiated by his master Sri Krishnamacharya in the 1930s in Mysore. He studied with B.K.S. Iyengar, both strong young men at the time. The style of this school is a dynamic form of postural yoga suitable for young constitutions. The class always begins with a 15 to 20 minute warm-up, as with any high level sport. Then the postures are arranged in a hierarchy of difficulty, and even for the first level postures, there are pedagogical steps. The final performance is done with a very fast synchronized breathing 2 sec - 2 sec most of the time, 3 sec - 3 sec for the calmer periods of posture holding. No need to do Pilates, stretching, aerobics, or fat burning, with this version "Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga", everything is integrated, hence its success.
Means 5: Pratyahara, inner listening
Before attention, meditation, and contemplation (the last three means of Yoga) can be satisfactorily undertaken, three things must be acquired: the right attitude towards all things must be cultivated, the vital currents must be in order accordingly, and the ability to subjugate the outward tendencies of the five senses must be worked upon.
In order to emphasize the importance of this fifth means - Pratyahara – below are the favorite sayings of high level teachers:
Without control of the senses... we are distracted,
... When we are distracted, we cannot concentrate,
... Without concentration, there is no meditation,
... And without meditation ... there is no yoga!
Anyone who has immersed themselves at least once in a busy activity has experienced this act of withdrawal from the world. This ability to isolate oneself from what is going on around us is Pratyahara. It is like losing track of everything around us. Yet, we naturally interact with the world around us through our five senses. Also, all this information adds fluctuations to our thoughts and makes it more difficult for the mind to be calm and coherent with the soul. Patanjali, from the second sutra, tells us that the cessation of the fluctuation of the mind is THE fundamental point in Yoga:
I.2. Yoga is the ensuring consistency of the modifications of the thinking principle.
The sutra II.54, shows us the first step towards this ensuring consistency:
II.54 Pratyahara, the inner listening or withdrawal of the senses, consists in filtering the sensory transmissions towards the mind.
Therefore, the method consists of preventing the changes in thinking from the start: by stopping the disturbances. This is more effective than removing the disturbing thoughts afterwards. Being able to consciously withdraw from the world around us helps us to be able to find peace of mind. And it is through this peace of mind that we are able to achieve enlightenment (connecting the light of the soul).
As represented in the diagram above, for Patanjali, Pratyahara is a bridge, a hinge between the external aspects of Yoga - Bahiranga Yoga -, and the internal aspects of Yoga - Antaranga Yoga -.
This visual perspective of the 8 means of Raja Yoga - Asthanga Yoga [p36] - allows us to situate each means in the secondary processes: Bahiranga, Antaranga, Vinyasa, Nidra, and Samyama, but also reminds us that a good practice is like a good pyramid, with a solid base. (NB: We will discover the Nidra and Samyama processes later on). This cumulative aspect typical of the pyramid incites us to be very vigilant with regard to the currents which have privileged only one means. The risk is, as with a construction, that it does not hold up over time, that it collapses at a certain point, or that the foundations are not solid enough to climb the upper floors. Still, in this existential philosophical approach, one may ask why the base of the pyramid is not Niyama and even more particularly the three of the five observances clearly stated in the first sutra of the second part:
II.1 The yoga of action, Kriya-yoga, leading to the union with the soul is: Tapas, establishing a healthy lifestyle, Svadhayaya, studying the inner temple, and Ishvarapranidhanani, letting go to evolve.
As we saw when we studied Yama and Niyama, one of the main differences between these two first means of Raja Yoga is that the first is turned toward others, toward the rest of the world, while the second is turned toward oneself. By putting Yama first, Patanjali thus insists that Raja Yoga is embodied in the real world, the world of others who are not doing Yoga. It is not a disembodied spiritual practice, far from the real world, on the contrary, the first thing is to live with others, hence the positioning of Yama - the 8 attitudes towards others - in first position.
But back to Pratyahara ...
Pratyahara is commonly defined as the stage where the yogi's consciousness is internalized so that the sensations of taste, touch, sight, hearing and smell do not disturb the thinking principle, the cognitive left brain, and pave the way for the next three stages of Raja Yoga grouped under the name, Samyama by Patanjali. One can say that the goal is to bring the various sensory perception pathways to a condition of quietude. This step can be a simple formality for some and a genuine challenge for others. For example, many mediums or hypersensory people are naturally very good at experiencing the Samyama meditative process. However, they are also very often prone to hyperacusis for example and therefore very disturbed by ambient noise. As a result, they will naturally seek to set up a place of meditation that is ultra-calm and far from any noise. In Raja Yoga, we do not validate this solution, which is in a way an escape from Pratyahara. Also, even if it takes years, the raja-yogi will learn to develop this inner listening which leads to the abstraction of the senses, while the following process, Samyama, is a gift to him. It is given to him from birth and therefore available immediately without going through the "Paryahara" box! This may seem paradoxical or useless, but it must be remembered that the 8 means [p36] are a dynamically interacting whole oriented towards one goal: union with the light of the soul. The weak link will always be the weakness of the system. Even if the sutras present the 8 means in a linear form or in a pyramidal form as seen above, it is for pedagogical purposes from the onset. In reality for the expert, this apparent linearity does not exist; everything is in dynamic interrelation with... everything else. As often in the sutras, Patanjali then gives us the expected results if this means is sufficiently mastered. Here is a commonly found translation:
II.55. Tatah parama vasyatendriyanam
II.55. Then follows the greatest mastery of the senses.
The attentive reader will have the impression of a tautology, a pleonasm: of course when we learn to master our senses, the result will be mastery of the senses, an additional sutra was not needed to figure that out! So where is the trick? The trick always remains the same in Raja Yoga, it is the holistic approach (the four bodies PEMS p66). Indeed, when we hear "mastery of the senses," we spontaneously bring ourselves back to the senses of the physical body, to the 5 senses. However, on the contrary, we must widen our field of investigation in order to make it holistic. To better understand the translation or to refine it, we need to know that the Sanskrit word endriya serves as a suffix for jnanendriya, the faculties of perception, and karmendriya the powers of action. This brings us back to a very "physical body" view via the 5 senses of perception (sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch) and the 5 powers of action (speech, grasping, walking, excretion, reproduction). Also, it should be taken into account that endriya has the same root as indra, which means the active aspect of God, "the faculty of," or "the power of." This spiritual aspect of endriya allows us to consider a more holistic vision in the interpretation of this sutra and not to limit ourselves to the mastery of the 5 senses as a positive consequence of Pratyahara. We are therefore interested in what lies beyond the 5 physical senses. In energetics, behind each sense we find what is called "psychic powers." We prefer to speak of the extra-sensory abilities of the hypersensory ones, because the word "medium" often brings us back to communication with the dead, which is absolutely not the purpose of Raja Yoga. These "powers" are called clairvoyance, clairaudience, clairolfaction, clairgustation and clairsentience. Some people are naturally clairvoyant by birth: they see energies. Others may be born clairaudient, they hear information in the form of voices, which is extremely disturbing, especially in an environment where it is considered pathological. There are also people who perceive emotions (hyper-empaths), and others who perceive information (claircognition or intuition). It is the mastery of these "clair-senses" that sutra II.55. speaks of, a variant of which is:
II.55. From this - Pratyahara -, comes the perfect mastery of the holistic senses, the PEMS or clear-sense abilities.
In other words, it is a more essential notion, broader than the physical phenomenon. This consequence of the practice of Pratyahra on the full mastery of "clair-senses" is most important. As mentioned above, clair-senses are either considered as powers or as a curse, and one can quickly go from one to the other! In our western context at the beginning of the third millennium, clair-senses, which are present from birth and even from conception, are no longer taken care of by "the clan shaman". As these extra-sensory abilities take us considerably away from the academic norm, they are often experienced as a curse to be managed more than a blessing to be nurtured. And it's true that after putting on a protective shell in childhood, the release of these "powers" causes more problems than they solve solutions. For example, for voices in the head (clairaudience) many people have to resort to neuroleptics to subjugate the phenomenon. This sutra II.55. tells us that Pratyahara, the withdrawal of the senses, once well installed by a regular practice on the 5 common senses will result in a good mastery of the clear-senses, which is an important point to ensure the psychic stability of the yogi.
In the chakra model, we generally associate the clair-senses with the third eye (in connection with the pineal gland, the epiphysis). The "opening of the third eye," which is an objective in certain practices, and a consequence of the practice in Raja Yoga, requires a good mastery in order not to be assailed by thoughts, voices, or visions which exceed us and transform our life into hell. Being bothered by noises, energies and smells is not insignificant; it is a sign of weakness for the future mastery of clear-senses. So we might as well learn this withdrawal of the senses, this inner listening as soon as possible in order to be sure we are prepared the day these clear-senses are activated, or even over-activated.
One of the most common practices for Pratyahara is Pranayama, in which we gradually withdraw from the external by simply focusing on our breath. Connections with the external senses and their stimuli are then gradually cut off, or at least greatly diminished. We can see here how means 4 is the best support, the best lever to reach the mastery of means 5. This pedagogy can be found in all of Raja Yoga.
Another common technique to induce Pratyahara is to focus on one sense, such as hearing. As the mind has a natural tendency to wander between sensory inputs, we propose to fully observe one sense, hearing in our example. The idea is, therefore, no longer to not hear, but on the contrary, to hear everything, to be present to all sound sources, even the weakest and most subtle. Even silence is heard as an absence of sound, of noise. In this situation, as no sensory input is significant, the mind naturally turns inward after a few minutes.
Since the writings of Patanjali, and especially in the last century, many discoveries have made industrial technology evolve, of course, but also sacred technology: the tools of personal development. Thus, the Nidra Yoga process, the more modern process of self-hypnosis, or the latest Mindfulness are also very good tools to better appropriate the 5th means of Raja Yoga (as well as the 6th and 7th).
Part II of the book of sutras ends with Pratyahara. Part III will deal with the Samyama process with the presentation of the last three means. As mentioned above, there is a certain continuity between each means, and the next means, Dharana, the polarization of attention, will not be an exception to the rule.
Means 6: Dharana, polarization of the attention
Part II of the book of sutras ends with the fifth means Pratyahara, the withdrawal of the senses. Part III follows with Dharana: the polarization of attention. Dharana is one of the internal aspects of Yoga (Antaranga Yoga), and the first step of the meditative process Samyama: polarization, meditation, and bliss. It is important to remember here that the 8 means [p36] are the 8 elements of the Raja Yoga system and, in this sense, they are in dynamic interaction and therefore they are not necessarily hierarchical in a linear or pyramidal way. For a "particular living system," understand for a singular person, the optimal order of the means to walk the path might be:
8, 2, 4, 3, 2, 6, 2, 4, 7, 1, 5, 8
and for another atypical person it could be:
6, 5, 4, 6, 7, 3, 4, 1, 2, 7, 8.
In order to make the teaching transmissible, from a pedagogical point of view, it seems logical to privilege an order, from 1 to 8, and sub-processes 3 to 5 (Vinyasa), and 6 to 8 (Samyama).
As we will see, some well inspired yogis have even formalized a Nidra sub-process, 5 to 7, which is one of the most efficient pedagogically speaking. However, because there is an order that is pedagogically valid for the logico-rational brain (called left brain), it is not a universal panacea for all people who are more "right brain." The wisdom is to take the path that suits us, that is the most structuring for us and the most adapted to who we are or simply the most available in the context. The word Dharana is often translated as "concentration," which is right, but can lead one to believe that it is done by force, more specifically by force of Solar will (Yang). In the framework of Raja Yoga which integrates the two polarities Solar and Lunar, it is most often a sustained, non-violent effort (Lunar or Yin). This is why we have chosen "polarization of attention," but others will prefer "guidance of intention" which is also true. Beyond the words, it is the process that is important.
III.1. Dharana, the polarization of attention, is the maintenance of the mind on a particular subject (the object of concentration).
In the common sense, concentration is a voluntary action, a conscious effort, a deliberate choice to focus one's mental activity on a certain object. The polarization of attention, in Raja Yoga, is the same thing with an enlargement of the object of concentration to a "PEMS" object [p66], to a holistic object. The object can, of course, remain a physical object, but also an area of the body, or even an energetic, mental or symbolic (spiritual) process. It is for this reason that we have preferred to use "subject" in the sutra's statement: "...on a particular subject", rather than "object," but we could have instead said "PEMS object".
Dharana being the first step of the Samyama meditative process, we will jump to sutra III.24. from which Patanjali evokes the different possible subjects of polarization, just after having exposed the means 7 and 8. So let us now discover the nature of the possible subjects in order to better grasp the "particular subject":
III.24. The Samyama on friendly feeling, awakens benevolence (PEMS).
III.25. The Samyama on the vigor of the elephant, awakens strength (PEMS).
III.27. The Samyama on the sun, awakens the systemic dimension.
III.28. The Samyama on the moon, awakens the knowledge of the cosmic order and its cycles.
III.29. The Samyama on the Pole Star, awakens to the alchemical knowledge of the orbits of the planets and stars.
III.30. The Samyama on the center of gravity (near the navel), awakens the knowledge of the physiology of the body.
III.31. The Samyama on the throat center, awakens the control of hunger or thirst (PEMS).
III.32. The Samyama on the central channel "Kurma Nadi", awakens stability (PEMS).
III.33. The Samyama on the crown area awakens the perception of realized (spiritual) beings.
III.35. The Samyama on the heart area, awakens the perfect awareness of the mind.
We have added PEMS in brackets at the end of each sutra whose common translation tends to make us forget that the approach is holistic: the four PEMS planes are always involved.
If you have already experienced the Samyama process, you may remember that the first stage is far from being a great vacuity! However, by polarizing the attention, the flow of thoughts gradually focuses on the object of polarization and new ideas, thoughts, and inspirations related to the chosen theme arise spontaneously. The choice of the subject, the theme, the object of concentration is therefore not neutral at all. And since during this first step of the process, a lot of "quantum", transpersonal, akashic information will come through us, we might as well take advantage of it to enrich ourselves. As you may have discovered by browsing through the list above, Patanjali gives us some precious hints to choose the theme of his/her Samyama.
Dans la présentation et l'introduction, nous avons insisté sur le fait que le Raja Yoga est d'avant notre ère et que de nombreux ajouts datent de bien après: du moyen âge, ou du XIXe siècle. Il en est ainsi pour le modèle des chakras qui date du VIe siècle environ (*voir en bas de page). Il ne peut donc y avoir de références aux chakras dans les sutras. C'est pourquoi vous trouverez plutôt le mot zone ou centre. Enfin, pour comprendre "Kurma Nadi" (III.32.), il faut plutôt se rapprocher de l'ayurvéda et ses nadis. Comme nous sommes en dehors du processus purement "santé du corps" de l’ayurvéda, le nadi proposé ici n'est pas un nadi traditionnel, mais alchimique. Dans l'hindouisme, Kurma est la deuxième incarnation de Vishnu qui, sous la forme d'une grande tortue, a porté le monde sur son dos! C'est dire la portée symbolique de ce nadi: vous aidez à porter votre monde sur votre dos. Il consiste en un canal qui permet de faire monter l'énergie du bas vers le haut (comme dans le modèle "Kundalini" si vous le connaissez, ou "Zhong Mai" en alchimie Taoïste). L'idée est d'avoir une belle réserve énergétique dans la zone sacrée (le bassin) grâce aux pratiques, puis de la faire monter vers la zone du cœur par l'intention, voire l'esprit. Ce canal n'existe donc pas chez les non-pratiquants, il n'a pas de support direct dans le corps et se forme à force de pratique en conscience. Quand on est suffisamment avancé sur le chemin, il est possible de continuer le canal vers la zone de la tête. Toutefois, notez bien que la stabilité PEMS évoquée dans le sutra est assurée si l'on fait toujours redescendre l'énergie "en bas" avant de reprendre le cours de la vie. On peut même avancer que c'est le fait de savoir parcourir le canal dans les deux sens, et notamment de savoir le redescendre, qui assure cette stabilité à toute épreuve.
In the presentation and introduction, we insisted on the fact that Raja Yoga is from before our era and that many additions date from much later: from the Middle Ages, or from the 19th century. This is the case for the chakra model, which dates back to the 6th century or so (*see bottom of chapter). So there can be no references to chakras in the sutras. That is why you will find the word area or center instead. Finally, in order to understand "Kurma Nadi" (III.32.), one should rather approach Ayurveda and its nadis. Since we are outside the purely "body health" process of Ayurveda, the nadi proposed here is not a traditional nadi, but an alchemical one. In Hinduism, Kurma is the second incarnation of Vishnu who in the form of a large tortoise, carried the world on his back! This is the symbolic significance of this nadi: you help to carry your world on your back. It consists of a channel that allows energy to rise from the bottom to the top (like in the "Kundalini" model if you know it, or "Zhong Mai" in Taoist alchemy). The idea is to have a nice energetic reserve in the sacred area (the pelvis) thanks to the practices, then to make it rise towards the heart area by the intention, even the mind. This channel does not exist in non-practitioners, it has no direct support in the body and is formed through conscious practice. When one is sufficiently advanced on the path it is possible to continue the channel to the head area. However, please note that the PEMS stability [p66] mentioned in the sutra is ensured if one always brings the energy "down" before resuming the course of life. We can even say that it is the fact of knowing how to go through the channel in both directions, and in particular knowing how to bring it back down, which ensures this foolproof stability.
Let us now look at two sutras which we have deliberately excluded from the above list. First of all III.26. which tells us:
III.26. By directing the inner look towards the light center of the object, we know it’s subtle, it’s hidden, and it’s distant.
This is the classic case in shamanism, where one concentrates on a flower, a stone, or a manufactured object and discovers its hidden side, like its origin, its experience, its properties, etc... (This faculty is called "psychometry" by European mediums).
Finally, sutra III.34. :
III.34. This knowledge of all things can also be a natural intuitive knowledge.
This sutra reminds us that some people are born with a gift that allows them to connect information, and even complete teachings, without having practiced Raja Yoga for many years. However, as we often remind ourselves, in Raja Yoga walking the path of awakening is walking the path of Life via the 8 means [p36], the weak link being ultimately more important than the strong link.
Here we have discovered this activity of the mind, which widens the sphere of experiences and develops the cerebral capacity: Dharana. Through the polarization of attention, we can be more effective in whatever area we apply it to. In Raja Yoga, we can practice Dharana in different ways as we have seen, but also on several points at the same time:
in the Vinyasa practice, subtle listening of the sensations, of the breathing, and of the inner space,
in the Samyama sitting, observation of the functioning of the mind, of passing thoughts, and of spaces without thought.
This step, easy for some, a significant challenge for others, is very rich in benefits. It is integrated in most of the performance processes, whether in sports or cognitive coaching, and it is also one of the bases of hypnosis.
We will now continue the discovery of the means of Raja Yoga with the other two steps of Samyama.
Chakras: It is in the Tantric tradition, between the 6th and 8th centuries of our era, that the chakras and the kundalini become integral parts of the yoga philosophy. As early as the 6th century, we find these Tantric cults in the Shivaite or Shaktist schools. Then we find this "chakras" concept in the Yoga Chudamani Upanishad (composed between the 7th and 10th century), and the Yoga Shikha Upanishad (8th century). Writings from the 10th century entitled "Goraksha Shataka" gives us indications on meditation on the chakras. The main book on the chakras that has come down to us in the West is a translation of Tantric texts by the Englishman Arthur Avalon in his book "The Power of the Serpent," published in 1919. These texts, the "Shat Chakra Nirupana," written by an Indian yogi in 1577, and the "Paduka-Pancaka," which dates back to the 10th century, contain descriptions of the chakra centers and related practices.
Means 7: Dhyana, méditation
If for a long time Raja Yoga has been equated with Dhyana – meditation; it is because this purely "brain-right" process was non-existent in the West since the Celts and, therefore, very much expected. Many forms now exist, the Zen form "Zazen," the Buddhist form "Vipassana," the Maharishi form "Transcendental Meditation," the Taoist forms, and of course the new atheistic form "Mindfulness." The good news is that all these current forms of meditation are "100% Raja yoga compatible." Moreover, as all these forms of meditation are excellent, following an initiation course can be interesting for all people who want to discover meditation in a structuring "school" setting. However, let's first discover the definition of meditation given by Patanjali in the context of Raja Yoga:
III. 2. The polarization of attention (Dharana) into an uninterrupted flow is meditation (Dhyana)
So it is simply the continuation of the previous step. We can say that in concentration it is the mind which is solicited, while in meditation it is the deep consciousness: "being." In the Samyama process, Dhyana is the logical and pedagogical continuation of Dharana. Likewise, this seventh means will be the prerequisite for the last stage Samadhi, the eighth means. We are approaching the operational objective of Raja Yoga, announced in the second sutra of the first part:
I.2. Yoga is the subjection of the modifications of the mind.
I.5. The modifications of the mind are of five kinds, they are painful or not painful.
The mind refers here to the thinking principle, the "logical-deductive left brain," but also to the Ego. It is the Ego "by definition," creates pain, and suffering. Indeed, as Eckhart Tolle has so well explained, the Ego can be seen as a mental structure that triggers psychic suffering in us. This suffering will then turn into emotional suffering and finally into physical suffering. We can also say that the Ego is this little voice in the head that does not stop comparing, judging, blaming, devaluing or overvaluing, ... And all this starts with a thought, a modification of the mind!
Regarding the modifications of the mind, two possibilities exist, with pain (Ego) or without. Also the subjection of the modifications of the mind will allow us to avoid the pains related to our thoughts:
II.16. Future pain can and should be avoided.
II.11. Mental disturbances (painful changes) can be avoided by meditation, Dhyana.
IV.6. Among the forms assumed by consciousness, that which is the result of meditation, Dhyana, is solely freed from latent karma.
As we can see from these sutras, the key is Dhyana meditation, that state where the ego has no hold. Dhyana does generate thoughts, but thoughts of Life, non-dual forms of thought; thus it is free from immediate or distant karma and its associated sufferings. Therefore, the daily practice of meditation is the best guarantee of an ecological, structuring, spiritually connected future, and we understand why Raja Yoga is intimately linked to meditation in the minds of yogis or people in personal development.
As said above, there is no wrong meditation practice, nor a wrong method. On the other hand, since nothing is universal, there are methods that are not adapted to everyone and practices that do not have a spiritual impact on some. The holistic PEMS approach [p66] allows us to understand that some practices with the label "meditation" will relax the body, others will calm the emotional, others will calm the mind, which is of course a definite advantage in everyday life, but is not the objective of Dhyana. Dhyana - the meditation of Raja Yoga - has a spiritual, existential objective, an objective of Awakening. The other means are there to ensure peace and quiet in the other planes. Patanjali instructs us, for the "Dhyana" methodology, to simply prolong Dharana. But if one needs more methodology, drawing from all the methods available to us at the beginning of the third millennium is an excellent strategy. What we need to check, or have checked by a competent person, is whether your practice is active in the desired plane (Spiritual, not egotic for Raja Yoga).
To finish this analysis of the changes in the mind that can be so easily painful, let us discover the "Patanjali model":
I.6. These modifications are correct deduction, incorrect deduction, imagination, sleep (Nidra) and memories.
Of these five modifications, the first two will not be used in Raja yoga, because they almost always create pain, and suffering. Indeed, philosophically speaking, any right deduction in a logical framework can be wrong in a metaphysical framework (and vice versa), deduction is to be avoided in Raja Yoga. One can even say that the goal of Patanjali's Yoga is to abolish the experiences resulting from logical error or metaphysical error, and to replace them by an enstatic, suprasensory and extrarational "experience," thanks to Samadhi (8th way). On the other hand, we know now thanks to neurosciences, that during a deduction, the cognitive bias, speciality of the Ego, makes the deduction either incorrect, or right, but with pain (cf cognitive dissonance or the art of bad faith in all good faith).
That leaves as work material the last three items:
the imagination including the imaginal which has a range of symbolic living,
the yogi sleep therefore not ordinary, and
memories, including unconscious ones.
If in Patanjali's time we did not know how to use these three modifications in a constructive and non painful way, this last century gave us innumerable keys of access, notably C.G. Jung and his psychology of the depths. It is thus by completing the ancient knowledge of Raja Yoga and its wisdom, by the tools and methods developed this last century, that we are going to now provide you now with a Yoga Nidra process version "Free Awake Dreaming." It is, therefore, a proposal that integrates Jungian transpersonal psychology (LeTranspersonnel.fr) and its ramifications and one that we hope enriches the Raja Yoga of Aquarius.
The idea is to use the new experiential knowledge about the subconscious, the collective subconscious, the altered states of consciousness and of course about the Ego, to fully use the "Dhyana" state as a real tool to clarify our psyche, to purify our connection channel to our soul.
Reading the definitions of sutras I.7. to I.11., we can understand that at the time of Patanjali all the modifications of the mind were either feared or to be over-mastered, but not to be used as work material:
I.7. The right deduction is obtained by inference from direct knowledge (experiences) or indirect but verified knowledge (testimonies).
I.8. The incorrect deduction is based on illusion and not on deep awareness.
I.9. Imagination is based on images that have no real existence.
I.10. Sleep is based on the inactivity of the mind.
I.11. Memory is the non-abandonment of a previously experienced object.
It is therefore necessary to rely on more recent definitions to establish a new process in accordance with the spirit of Raja Yoga:
creative imagination, imagination that integrates the archetypes of the collective subconscious, imaginal and its power of symbolic co-creation
ordinary sleep of the physical body, during which the brain does not respond to any sensory contact, but also non-ordinary sleep such as Samadhi or Yogi sleep, resulting from the conscious withdrawal of consciousness or REM sleep such as the modified states of consciousness.
short, medium and long term memory of what has been consciously or unconsciously experienced, therefore memory of all that we have experienced consciously, unconsciously or that we have repressed.
The sutra II.16. seen above tells us that the suffering of incarnation linked to the Ego, the mental structure also called "suffering body," can and must be avoided and that Dhyana is an excellent way (II.11.), one without karmic side effects (IV.6.). Besides the meditative methods recognized as valid for experiencing the Dhyana process, (Zazen, Vipassana, TM, Mindfulness...), there are lesser known techniques, which are very effective on certain points. This is the case of Yoga Nidra or its modern version: Free Awakened Dreams, which are based on new knowledge related to the power of imagination, altered states of consciousness and the existence of pathogenic programs that are totally unconscious, but which are present in our memory and active without our informed knowledge. The personal development, and therapeutic aspects will not escape anyone.
The Yoga Nidra process was reformulated by Swami Sahyananda in 1962, based on an ancient Tantric technique. It is often translated as Yoga of Sleep, which can be confusing. The process can be seen as the sequence of Raja Yoga means 5, 6 and 7 (see diagram above). It is based on the "Nidra" state defined in sutra I.10. and on the proposal of sutra I.38. :
I.10. Nidra is a modification of the mind that occurs when the mind abandons its activity on all real objects of sense.
I.38. Stability of mind, or peace, can also be achieved by meditating on the knowledge that arises in a dream.
This yoga, which has been successfully taken up by sophrology, is not only intended for sleeping well, even if its practice considerably improves the quality of sleep. This Yoga, as we will discover, will allow to work on oneself without any negative consequence, suffering or karma, because it allows to live a Dhyana process (Cf II.11. and IV.6.). At the beginning of Yoga Nidra (1962) and its applications in sophrology (Dr. Alfonso Caycedo 1960), the cerebral state of work during the "Nidra" process was an "Alpha" state, a sophroliminal state just at the door of sleep (the word Alpha comes from the name of the cerebral waves that we can see on the electroencephalogram). Since then, thanks to hypnosis, neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), and recently to neuroscience, we have realized that the Alpha state is not the only one that can be used, and that the Delta state is much closer to what we can observe in an experienced Tibetan meditating monk. The Delta state is not a state of drowsiness, but on the contrary a state of full Lunar, Yin, Zen vigilance. Hence the idea of doing Yoga Nidra not in Alpha, but in Delta...
At the same time, in 1938 Robert Desoille formalized the technique of directed awakening dream (DAD), a therapeutic approach closer to hypnosis than to psychoanalysis, which would offer new therapeutic possibilities. This technique was enriched in 1970, thanks to Georges Romey (Desoille's student) and his free awakening dream (FAD). Romey experimented that, during the awakening dream (Delta state), the non-intervention of the therapist gave even more precise and spectacular results than the directed awakening dream. He chose to let the patient express himself freely. For him, the subconscious has an objective: the development of the individual, and he brings everything that is needed at the appropriate moment to favor this evolution, including at the transpersonal level. Romey will, thus, put forward the therapeutic potential that is possible with this technique which solves problems and psychic blockages by triggering a process of transformation thanks to symbols.
Unlike classical Dhyana meditation which can be practiced alone, Yoga Nidra, like awakening dream, requires a facilitator, an instructor or a master. Therefore, it is necessary to have two people. The one who helps must have a sufficient technical background, a background, one that most Yoga Nidra teachers and humanistic therapists possess. Let us note, however, for the instructors of Nidra Yoga, sophrologists, hypnotherapists, etc., that in this version "Raja Yoga" it is about a free awakening dream, or the person evoking aloud his/her journey*. It is of course a constraint to find a companion because few people are trained, however, as it is not a daily practice, it can be easier to find this person. Once a week for 9 months is a good complementary practice to classical Dhyana.
It is important here to understand the issues, because, as mentioned above, before our era all problems related to the subconscious were little or poorly understood. The principle is the clarification of the spiritual channel. Jung compared access to the spiritual, to the Self, to the Transpersonal, to something greater than oneself, and the Soul, to a minefield. These mines Jung referenced are simply all the subconscious programs that we put in place in our childhood to adapt ourselves, and to reduce our suffering. And often, unfortunately, the solution has been to add highly disruptive cognitive dissonance to the path of the soul. These pathogenic programs, if they were useful in our childhood, become significant handicaps for accessing to the awakening. Therefore, deprogramming or reprogramming is necessary. Of course, all humanistic therapies allow for this type of work, but the "Nidra Yoga undirected in Delta state," or free awakening dream, is in the direct line of Raja Yoga since it is meditation. Paradoxical meditation, of course, but entirely in accordance with the criteria stated by Patanjali for Dhyana and with all the advantages we have seen above.
At the beginning of the third millennium, a Dhyana approach based on the Nidra process in the Delta state for working on clarification of the subconscious, is possible. The free awakening dream is 100% compatible with Raja Yoga and especially Nidra Yoga. It has the disadvantage of requiring a trained guide, but allows us to avoid the traps of the ego and to clarify our channel. It is thus, a certain plus for the union with the Soul, for Yoga.
Of course, this is only a proposal, a possible extension of Raja Yoga. If you are interested in this approach, as said before, a basic training is necessary, but if you have already acquired it, you will find at the bottom of the page the key technical points of this "Nidra Yoga of Aquarius".
Small technical complement on the Free Awakened Dream (FAD)
Prerequisite: In addition to being a yogi, you have followed an initiation or a training in Nidra Yoga or in Sophrology or in Hypnosis or in NLP or ..., in short you know how to guide a brain-right process of the Directed Awakened Dream (DAD) type.
Difference between DAD and FAD: In group, Yoga or Sophrology in general, we are obliged to do DAD, there is a scenario and we follow it, we take the group with us. In Hypnosis or NLP there is often also a standard script or at least a guideline. In FAD there is no script, no guideline, the dreamer goes on her/his own, telling you out loud what she/he is experiencing and how she/he is experiencing it (in Yoga it is therefore a private lesson).
Main line of the process: As the alpha state is not necessary, we can start with about ten circular breaths and then move on to the seed, the key image of departure. This seed can be an object determined by biotesting (Nadi Pariksha for example) or the beginning of the scenario that one would usually use (the beginning of the DAD). Then it is the dreamer who is in charge and who lets the story build itself according to the images that appear spontaneously and with ease. Since it is officially a dream, everything is allowed: from the use of audiovisual materials from everyday life, to cartoons such as Alice in Wonderland or Tex Avery cartoons! The accompaniment consists of listening to the dreamer and if necessary, helping him/her by asking questions about the dream: the color of the table, the smell of the room, the surrounding sounds, ... If the dreamer encounters an anxiety-provoking difficulty, the accompanist helps him/her to find a resource to add to the dream. The dream lasts 20 to 40 minutes depending on the intention set at the beginning by the accompanist. The dream is preferably stopped on a positive and structuring feeling. It is possible to use the final image as a starting image during the next session.
Means 8: Samadhi, transpersonal contemplation
Let's start with the definition:
II.3. In meditation, Dhyana, when there is only awareness of the object and no longer of the self (our mind), it becomes Samadhi, transpersonal contemplation, an enstasis rather than an ecstasy.
Samadhi is the ability to become one with the perceived object, nature for example. It is the establishment of full awareness, full presence, of the state of unity, and equanimity with the object chosen as support. In Samadhi the consciousness reaches the absolute, the union with the soul and the great whole, whereas in Dhyana there was still a certain duality in the perception.
This connection to something greater than oneself, not feeling dissociated, but instead "being part of," is a modified state of transpersonal consciousness (LeTranspersonnel.fr). It can occur spontaneously in our childhood or adolescence, especially with nature. To know at least once this oceanic feeling, as Romain Rolland called it, is a grace that allows us to keep a firm internal conviction for decades in order to reach this state of Samadhi in full consciousness. To live it once allows to put aside all the doubts of the Ego, and, especially in France, the doubts linked to the questioning of others, because they are "not scientifically validated." This direct spiritual connection with nature, this type of Samadhi, has been practiced since the dawn of time by shamans on all continents. For example, Ayahuasca, the famous drink that puts people in a modified state of consciousness, in a shamanic trance, is a combination of 10 plants among 30 of a possible 1000, many of which are deadly. So either Ayahuasca is developed by a scientific approach, and it takes thousands of experiments with a lot of mortality, or the shamans have connected themselves to nature and its knowledge to deduce the alchemical recipe. The interesting point is that Samadhi with nature is a prerequisite for the establishment of a helping brew. In Raja Yoga, one does not use any external drugs, one establishes the connection through sustained effort and regular practice, thus in full consciousness.
Let us see the additional information that Patanjali gives us in relation to the Samadhi:
III.4. The fulfillment of the three means, Dharana, Dhyana, Samadhi, is Samyama (polarization of attention, meditation, and contemplation).
III.5. The light of wisdom, or transcendent knowledge, appears through its practice.
III.6. Its progression is gradual, step by step.
Sutra III.5. tells us that as we practice Samyama, wisdom, often translated as "knowledge," will come. Be careful here to put the word "knowledge" in its original context and not in an academic context of the year 2000. It is the knowledge of what is, of the true nature of things, of getting out of the great illusion. Everything is already there; we just don't see it.
Sutra III.6. reminds us that, for the vast majority of us, enlightenment is not a sudden, spontaneous illumination: it is the result of a long journey with effort. Even if we have experienced the state of Samadhi once or a few times, to know how to return to it in consciousness and then to maintain it requires great work, perseverance, and effort.
III.7. These three practices are much more interior than the previous ones,
III.8. But are still outside of the ultimate "seedless" stage.
As we have seen in a previous graph, we can see the last means as internal, Antaranga, compared to the others which are external, or Bahiranga. Bahiranga is accessible to everyone for the greater good. On the other hand, Antaranga is more involving, and requires more commitment, and more investment. It requires an existential quest. From a pedagogical or communication point of view, it is important to remember this sutra III.7. and to approach the Antaranga part only with people who are ready or open.
Finally, sutra III.8. tells us that the whole process we have just described is a process "with seed." There is an object of mediation at the beginning, either conceptual or real: the friendly feeling, the vigor of the elephant, the sun, the moon, the North Star, our center of gravity, the center of the throat, the central channel "Kurma Nadi," the area of the crown, the area of the heart, nature, a flower, a rock, etc… The Samadhi, thus obtained, is called Sabija Samadhi, transpersonal contemplation, and it is the fruit that any yogi can pick. However, since it requires a seed, a meditation support, it is external to a Samadhi without seed. The latter is called Nirbija Samadhi. There is no pedagogical progression to reach this seedless contemplation. It happens with practice, but especially with letting go; you don't have to want it; instead, one day it just happens... if it is to happen. This seedless meditation was a huge urban myth in the West at the arrival of the Zazen practice via an inappropriate pedagogy (1970). The sayings "don't think about anything," "clear your mind," gave people the impression that seedless meditation was within the reach of everyone, and even the only true meditation! Of course, this is not the case, and the MBSR pedagogy of mindfulness is much more effective and adapted to the West and uses "seeds."
Samadhi experiences are often described as moments when our consciousness expands, and intensifies. We transcend, and without effort of will the worries that normally preoccupy us and experience a sense of exhilaration or serenity. Often perceptions of the world around us become more vivid, and we may feel a sense of connection to nature, to other human beings or even to the entire universe.
We feel what it is like to be in a state of unconditional love or compassion or ... it doesn't matter what the words are, it is a strong feeling, which transcends a limited state, and gives access to a more authentic consciousness. At higher intensities of Samadhi experiences, we may even feel that we have lost our normal sense of identity and have become one with the whole world. However, the most important thing about Samadhi, awakening, and transpersonal consciousness experiences is going to be their consequences. Even though they are usually very short in duration, from a few moments to a few hours, they often have a life-changing effect. Many people have described an awakening experience as the most important moment of their lives, reporting a major shift in their outlook on life and in their values. "One glimpse of sky is enough to confirm one's existence," A. Maslow, a prominent founder of the transpersonal movement, told us. In a 2017 study of 90 so-called awakening experiences, the two most significant side effects were a greater sense of confidence, and trust in oneself and in Life, and also more optimistic view of the World. This shows that Samadhi, awakening, and transpersonal experiences have a powerful therapeutic effect. Moreover, the transformation is long-lasting; ten or twenty years later people still attest to the same.
In conclusion, let us remain humble and accept that Samadhi with seed is the first step to awakening, if and only if it is practiced with the other 7 means. Then the veil is gradually lifted and we can love "what is," quite simply. Awakening allows us to say yes to Life as it is, and to walk it with joy and enthusiasm, and that is what makes our heart and our soul happy.
As a partial conclusion, since we have arrived at the eighth step of this non-linear "Ashtanga Yoga" process, it may be interesting to look back at the strategy of Ego liberation put in place by Raja Yoga. First of all, Raja Yoga starts from the principle of working on the ground, rather than proposing corrective actions. At the beginning of chapter II, Patanjali gives us the key to "why suffering," why the Ego creates suffering, simply out of ignorance, Avidya, and not out of malice:
II.3. The 5 causes of suffering are: ignorance (Avidya), identification (Asmita), desire (Raga), aversion (Dvesha) and attachment to life (Abhiniveshah)
II.4. Avidya, ignorance, is the source of the other causes of suffering, whether dormant, attenuated, intermittent, or fully active
II.9. Abhinivesha, attachment to life, fear of death, is the strong desire to live and dominates even the sages
In the Hindu cosmogony, Avidya is "the mother of the manifested universe," it is like the original sin of the Christians. At the beginning, this veil, this non-knowledge is necessary for the path of awareness in the incarnation to begin. Therefore, it is the cause of all causes, but at the same time an absolute necessity to be able to walk the path of incarnation throughout the millennia.
From this point on, it all follows logically, Avidya causes Asmita, the fact that the human being identifies with his vehicles, the fact that when he acts through his physical body he says "I act," when he experiences a change in his emotional body he says "I feel," and when he produces changes in his mental body he says "I think." Asmita then becomes the source of the three obstructions listed next: desire (Raga), aversion (Dvesha), and attachment to life (Abhiniveshah). Note that for this last source of suffering, sutra II.9. tells us that even the wisest are subject to it
Sutra II.4. reminds us that "Kleshas," or sufferings, can be latent, subtle, episodic or continuous. In other words, we can say that suffering can be subconscious and contextual. The absence of apparent suffering at a given moment is, therefore, good news in and of itself, but it is not necessarily a fact that everything is resolved. Vigilance is necessary throughout our lives. Also it is necessary that this vigilance is Lunar, Yin, and no-stress otherwise, we will never go the distance. It is just a sustained effort, without stress, and the practices are there to enable us to install this. Coming back to Avidya, or ignorance, we see it is, of course, a misconception of the nature of things, but not voluntary, just a natural result due to the fact that man does not know who he is, or what his own source of Life is. We cannot blame the Ego for being ignorant, as for a young child; we can only welcome it and take care of it. Once the Ego has been welcomed, in therapy we would say re-narcissized, in coaching we would say that we have reconnected the self-esteem, we must of course educate it, but with a Yin, Lunar, no-stress pedagogy. All the new discoveries in neuroscience in recent years tell us that a pedagogy allowing a change, or a sustainable education, is through joy, play, and no-stress. It is not a question of a "hard" education, with punishments that have nothing to do with the facts. Instead, it is an education of union, of doing with; it is the adult who knows and he shows the example or does with the child. It is easy to understand that all these notions were not, or hardly, formalized before our era. Also, the method of Raja Yoga is mainly based on ground work.
On a well-prepared ground:
attitudes + observances +body-mediation practices + breathing + meditative process,
the ego is put in its right place, and it cannot take power and become a tyrant child, or an internal despot. This reduces the immediate karma due to our thoughts since they are non-dual, because they come from the meditative state of Dhyana.
If we wanted to find a modern vocabulary word for the Raja Yoga approach, we could choose bodyfulness. Indeed, in mindfulness, we position ourselves a bit like a mind observing a body. Also to emphasize cellular awareness, bodyfulness has the advantage of focusing our attention on the body, i.e. the "I am experiencing," and not on the mind, i.e. the "I have understood everything." This is of course only a conjunctural proposal, a vocabulary to decompartmentalize our mind and give more openness on our incarnated experience of this holistic Raja Yoga process.
Here we have gone through the 8 means of Raja Yoga which allow, in synergy, to reposition the Ego and to better connect to one's soul. Patanjali, through the formalization of Raja Yoga in 195 sutras or aphorisms (concise affirmations, easy to memorize, transmitted from teacher to student), allows us to better understand the meaning, the intention, and the philosophy of this multi-millennial approach that is Raja Yoga. It encourages us both through Kriya Yoga, the yoga of action, to establish a healthy lifestyle, to study the inner temple, to let go in order to evolve, and through Ashtanga Yoga, an 8-point method to achieve Alchemical transformation. Little by little, through a daily practice and a sustained but non-violent effort, the raja-yogi can master his/her mind, his/her emotions, and transcend the obstacles to his/her spiritual evolution in order to reach the "Kaivalya," the Union with the Soul, the Divine, the Tao, the Energy of Life, .... The awakening here is a state of incarnation in full consciousness, a state where one sees the reality of the great plan while saying "YES" to it, saying "yes to life." The veil is lifted and one loves what is, the thoughts of the ego that create immediate karma are gradually replaced by non-dual thoughts from the meditative or transpersonal state. The joy and happiness of incarnation are there!
We have not commented here on all 195 sutras, but only on those that allow us to be operational, to practice in a proper spirit, with a structuring intention. It may seem logical to the raja-yogi aspirant that reading all the sutras is the next logical step. Perhaps, but it is important to know that the most important text in Yoga is the Bhagavad-Gita, not the famous Yoga-sutras of Patanjali. Of course, there is no disagreement between the Gita and the Yoga-sutra! Apart from the Bhagavad-Gita, the Yoga-sutras are based on the Samkhya school, an orthodox school of Indian philosophy. Therefore, it is possible to go further in Raja Yoga either by immersing oneself more in the Hindu culture, or by studying the sutras more thoroughly. I then advise the comparative study of Cedric Metal.
What will you find by reading the other sutras? The book is in four parts. In Part I, "Samadhi Pada," Patanjali explains what yoga is, how its objective is to calm the automatisms of thought to allow the deep consciousness to reveal itself and thus open the access to life. In the second part, "Sadhana Pada," he shows us the practical means to create the conditions in which this state of unity can exist. This is the part that presents the first 5 means. In the third part, Vibhuti Pada, Patanjali gives us the last three means to reach these higher states of consciousness. He describes the happy state, the manifestations of power, and energy that are the result of right action, thanks to a deconditioned mind. Finally, the fourth and last part, "Kaivalya Pada," deals with the liberation, the emancipation of the yogi.
Then, as a continuation of reading, on the practical side, there is the "Memento of Life no-stress," a complete support in Vinyasa. It also deals with the symbolic meaning of the choice of postures for breathing, giving examples from everyday life. You will, therefore, find something to practice without an instructor. Of course, a weekly class with a teacher would be an excellent complement, or even an essential basis if self-discipline is not your strong point, or if you are a true beginner.
Good practice of this "Royal Yoga" will make you the king/queen of your inner temple.
Reminder on marking choice:
The choice was made not to use accents: Aṣṭāṅga, rāja-yoga, Patañjali, Āsana, âsana, Prāṇāyāma, prânayama, prânâyama, pratyāhāra, dhāraṇā, dhāraṇā, dhyâna, samādhi, sûtra, sūtra, Bhagavad-gītā, .... These help with pronunciation, so we suggest you refer to Tilakpyle.com which shows you the words in Sanskrit, in accented translation and with audio.
As for the hyphens and capital letters, we have made the following choices: Yoga-sutras, raja-yogi, Raja Yoga, Hatha Yoga.
To go further...
How to adapt your practice to Raja Yoga?
The sutras of Patanjali give all the directives, all the intentions, all the guidelines for Raja Yoga, however, no precise method is described, in the same way no exercise is exposed in an operational way. If the technical details are not part of the sutras, it is because many tools and methods can be used, provided that the framework described by Patanjali is respected. The key point is to be coherent with the two facets of the goal of Yoga: UNION with our Soul and the reframing of the Ego. So whatever technique we use: Hatha Yoga, Qi-gong, Zazen, sophrology, Vinyasa yoga, etc., for each exercise we must check if it tends towards more union with our inner transpersonal being and leads the Ego not to use our potential for more power or suffering.
For example, for the first two means, if you already practice the Four Toltec Agreements, or Buddhist attitudes, or another spiritual approach, it is easy to keep your current ethical framework, and its associated practices. A simple comparative analysis will immediately highlight the gaps and surpluses, then draw inspiration from the sutras to refine your approach and your methods and tools: "your way."
At the level of meditation, we can use all the modern and ancient methods; we just have to integrate them into the general Asthanga process [p36] and then into the Samyama sub-process. Often, people find it very easy to adapt their meditation practice to Patanjali's instructions for the Samyama sub-process. However, they forget that in Raja Yoga, meditation is only one element which must be put into dynamic interaction with the others! Also, to sit down to meditate when we have not previously regulated and reharmonized the energy is useless since we have "nothing new to transmute." If we don't want to have a pyramid that "floats" in the air, one that is not embodied, we need to add a Vinyasa type practice for example (Yoga flow, Qi-gong, Neuro-sensory Movement, Taichi, etc.) and an ethical framework as seen above.
In the same way, trying to subjugate the Ego through the Vinyasa sub-process is useless if we have not put in place a lifestyle that starts with a good ethic (the 5 attitudes and the 5 observances) and integrates a meditative practice.
Lastly, Raja Yoga being a spiritual approach, during a sequence of postures, movements or meditations (Hatha Yoga, Vinyasa or Samyama), it is important to always start by re-anchoring the connection to the greater self. The practice is not a simple self-regulation of energy circuits (nadis), emotions or thoughts, it is first and foremost a connection to something bigger than oneself, the soul if we want to call it that. It is this creative source of the manifested world that will feed our energy or prana, and our thoughts during the practice.
II.23. The association of the soul with the mind, and thus with what the mind perceives, brings about an understanding of the real nature of what is perceived, and of the perceiver.
Without this, the risk is to remain in an "in isolation" and to maintain the illusion or the Ego.
For example, a simple way to re-anchor this intention of being taught by our soul is to start with the "mudra padme" before each sequence. By doing this hand movement that leads to the lotus flower position, in consciousness, we set the intention to connect to the greater whole.
How to adapt your asanas to Raja Yoga?
To go even further in precision, if you are already a yogi, the use of postures that you already know will require the same vigilance and the same adaptation towards the instructions of the sutras. All the postures proposed by all the Yogas can be appropriate a priori in Raja Yoga, provided that they are recontextualized to the goal of Raja Yoga and that the instructions are respected:
II.46. The adopted posture, asana, must be stable and established in a "happy space."
As we like to say in Raja Yoga, yoga is for everyone, but not all postures are for everyone. In each posture or sequence you should take only what you need and nothing more!
II.49. When the correct posture has been achieved, it is followed by a correct control of the vital energy, Prana, and a proper process of breathing in and out of the breath, Pranyama.
Follow the breath to know if it is OK for you, if the posture is comfortable and stable. To be in the spirit of Raja Yoga, in a posture you will start by giving yourself the freedom to observe your breath and then your body. Knowing if we have "the good position" is completely incongruous here, as the feeling prevails on the posturology. It is never necessary to force oneself in Raja Yoga, one just comes to his or her limit with benevolence and only exceeds one's comfort area a little bit. As this area depends on the morphology of each person and his or her body history, no one but the practitioner can know if he or she is at the limit of his or her comfort zone. Listening to one's inner self is more important here than looking in the mirror.
Once the posture is established in a happy space we will focus our attention on one area of the body:
II.50. The movements of the breath are the exhale, then inhale and the transition. By paying attention to where the breath is placed, its amplitude and rhythm, we obtain a subtle and elongated breath.
When we begin, the postures, asanas, or the fluid sequences, vinyasas, are chosen according to where on the body we want to place the attention. Thus, the posture will allow one to better feel the place of the body in direct relation with an area which works during the breathing. This breathing will remain "in cardiac coherence," which is with an inhale and an exhale equal to 5 seconds (or more) and without retention. The more the practitioner evolves in their practice, the more they know themself and more sophisticated points of attention become possible to their mind and body.
It is easy to do an excellent stretching or Pilate with postural yoga as a base. On the other hand, to do a true Hatha Yoga in the first sense "to harmonize the solar (Ha or Yang) and the lunar (Tha or Yin) in our body" requires one to leave the mode of thoughts which currently prevail, and the declinations: effectiveness, action, productivity, tangible physical objective, etc. It will be necessary to at least genuinely return to the Tha, the Yin, the feeling, the slow movement, and the proprioception. This is a true challenge that, fortunately, many Hatha teachers have already integrated in their classes.
How do you know which posture is therapeutic?
Now comes the most magical, mysterious, or esoteric point: how do we choose an asana or a vinyasa according to a goal, an objective, or a sub-objective? As we have seen, the goal of Raja Yoga is the union with our soul, that is to say, the unfiltered and undual knowledge of the reality of things inside and outside of us. From a pedagogical point of view, it is impossible to achieve this goal in a single practice or posture. Therefore, it is common in pedagogy to break down the goal into sub-goals, a process into sub-steps, a concept into sub-axioms. Patanjali himself uses this pedagogical approach by presenting Raja Yoga in the form of 8 means. Thus, the most classical sub-objective is wellness, which gives a therapeutic vocation to the choice of practices and postures. Yoga-therapy is indeed a subsection of Raja Yoga, and if we integrate the holistic side to the therapy, we can say that Raja Yoga is therapeutic; it is a "PEMS therapy" [p66].
To choose a set of asanas, or vinyasas, to work all the joints or all the muscular chains is far from the objective of Raja Yoga. Therefore, it is necessary to have a tool which allows us to determine for a given person, in a given context, or for a given sub-objective, which asanas and vinyasas are the most adapted for them. The first key is the symbolic approach, and the first tool is intuition. The symbolic relationship between the problem and the body position can be obvious. For example, a body position in a backward arc as in the camel pose, Ustrasana or kneeling bow, can be related to an opening of the heart, and a fearless commitment to openness; this symbolic relationship may be less obvious, or squarely unsuspecting. This is where intuition takes over from the mind. Obviously, this intuition is clear, precise and efficient in raja-yogi who have been on the path for decades. However, at the beginning we need a tool to objectify the sensibility, and the intuition. This tool is the pulse test or Nadi Pariksha which is also called Nadi Vigyan. Te use of this tool has been taught in the Ayurvedic health approach as early as the 17th century, so it is in this type of training that we can find a complete teaching of Nadi Pariksha. However, in Yoga, one needs a simple biotest. A "Yes" or "No" answer is enough to determine if the posture is or is not in adequacy with the person and their problematic elements. So a simple initiation is enough, and there is no need to explore all the possibilities of the energy pulse.
The magic of pulse reading lies beyond appearances: taking one's own pulse is also a diagnostic technique, a therapy and a spiritual practice. Indeed, as it is a symbiotic reaction of the body, we can say PEMS bodies, when we place our fingers to feel the rhythm of our pulse; we put ourselves in a situation to listen to our heart, our deepest being. This connection with the seat of pure consciousness has been considered from time immemorial in India, China, Tibet or Egypt as a spiritual technique and a therapy.
The book "Memento of Life no-stress - Raja Yoga"
A logical follow-up to this book is the "Memento of Life no-stress - A personal yoga without an instructor to end stress," by Pascale and Marc Polizzi, available for free on Etherapie website https://www.etherapie.fr/livres/lns. This resolutely practical memento provides solutions from Raja Yoga, or compatible practices. Moreover, in this book, all the postures and practices are presented in a form that is accessible at home, and without an instructor. If you are a yogi, you will surely have gone beyond the basic postural proposal, but you will discover the area of attention of the breath as well as a symbolic explanation allowing you to do Yoga-coaching, or Yoga-therapy. You can then easily transfer your understanding to other asanas or vinyasas. For each asana or vinyasa of the book, you have an example of a situation from everyday life, and its diagnosis to understand the problem at stake. Finally, you have a simple description of the practice.
Memento of Life no-stress, topics covered:
Integrating our experiences | Mobilize your energy | Finding optimism | Broadening your vision | Know how to relax | Return to calm | Be comfortable | Preparing for a confrontation | Living a paradox | Starting off on the right foot | I allow myself to position myself | Unleashing its potential | Taking into account the context | Getting back to concrete things | Staying the course | Breaking out from vicious circles | Making peace with yourself | Flexibility of the mind | Managing your powerlessness | Finding the action/reflection balance | Making structuring choices | Solving a doubt problem | Showing restraint | Reorienting your inner attitude| Accepting the context | Dealing calmly with differences | Having a free mind | Moving in stagnation | Exiting comparison | Living self-esteem | Gaining consistency | Cultivating patience | Acting with order | My well-being is my job
This is the first time this adaptation and recontextualization has been done, and with this practical life memento you will quickly find a yoga solution to situations of physical, emotional, mental or metaphysical (spiritual) stress. Based on your own experience, and the pulse biotest, you can easily extend the book's proposals to your way of practicing and teaching yoga while integrating the Raja Yoga dimension.
NB : We have chosen not to focus on Indian transliterations. These accents help the pronunciation that you will find, as well as the accents, on Tilakpyle.com