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Raja Yoga: Yoga for Mental Development

By Diane Kern

There are many ways that practitioners of yoga think about their practice. The term Hatha Yoga has been associated with physical training. Raja Yoga (also known as Royal Yoga) in contrast, has been associated with mental training by a variety of means.

In practice, the two are inextricably bound. Anything one does is profoundly affected (we might even say ‘controlled’) by the real-time state of both the physical body and the mind.

The benefits of yoga were little known in the US until Swami Vivekananda spoke about them in 1893 at the Parliament of World Religions. His speech caused quite a stir and significantly influenced ‘spiritual thinkers’ of the day. He generously characterized a variety of activities as, in effect, a type of yoga. That view allows us to slide a yogi platform beneath much that we do during the course of each day. It allows us to infuse much of what we do with spiritual intention.

As we build our businesses in the spirit of making a positive contribution to our communities, we are engaged in a ‘Karma Yoga’ practice. As we educate ourselves and share what we have learned with others, we are engaged in a ‘Gnani Yoga’ practice. As we devote time and effort to doing our part to build religious communities, we are engaged in a ‘Bhakti Yoga’ practice.

As you ponder life’s many great questions, as you allow yourself to sink into a peaceful moment and gaze at a flickering candle, it can be said you are practicing ‘Raja Yoga.’ You are allowing your mind – or possibly directing your mind – to hold a particular mental state.

It is known that particular states of mind are accompanied by emotions which influence health and well-being. It is also known that past actions pre-dispose us to experience particular types of thinking and particular emotions in the future. Many spiritual leaders, philosophers, psychologists and yogis have given us the benefit of their experience and suggested ways we can work with our own mental processing to liberate ourselves from constraints born of past experience.

Raja Yoga, as it has evolved over time, has become inclusive. Many of the tools of psychotherapists such as ‘affirmations,’ constitute in effect, a Raja Yoga practice. Use of quiet space where perhaps you burn incense is in effect, a Raja Yoga practice. Meditation is also, in effect, a Raja Yoga practice.

Think about the many things you do that are intended to benefit others – to create and sustain wellness for yourself and your loved ones, and/or to make a useful contribution to community life. The meaningfulness of these activities will be enhanced if you make them a part of your yoga practice. How? By remembering your good intention daily. By feeling gratitude for the opportunity you have to do these things at all. It is a blessing. That mental platform which you create for yourself, is in effect, a Raja Yoga practice.

Dr. Diane Kern is the owner of Phenomenal Mind Studios. She studied in India, is a former college professor, and a licensed psychotherapist (mft 3935). Combining yogic teachings with cutting edge science, Dr. Kern helps clients mobilize Mind Power through year-round Tele Seminars and classes in Palm Desert during the winter season. Visit www.phenomenalmind.com or palmdesert.patch.com/blogs/phenomenal-mind-studios. Contact: diane@phenomenalmind.com. 760-565-3484.

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