Starting in March Mary is going to be changing the format of her Wednesday 6pm class to Raja yoga. We are excited about this change and wanted to share more!
What is Raja yoga?
Mary: In the last few pages of the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, Svatmarama prescribes Hatha yoga as preparation for Raja yoga. Some say Hatha yoga disciplines the body and allows one to gain control of physical functions, where as Raja yoga disciplines the mind. In a Hatha yoga practice, we often explore a few of the limbs discussed in the Yoga Sutras, such as asana (physical postures) and pranayama (breath control), but in most classes we don’t explore other limbs, such as dharana (concentration of mind) or dhyana (meditation). Therefore in a Raja yoga practice one might incorporate all the techniques and practices of Hatha yoga (asana, pranayama, mudra, etc.) while also incorporating the other limbs in order to prepare the body and mind for meditation. This leads one to the ultimate goal of Raja yoga, controlling the mind in order to reach or attain Self-realization.
How will the class be different from Deepening Hatha?
M: I will spend some time at the beginning of class discussing a philosophical theme. This theme will be woven into the physical practice and final meditation. In order to prepare the body for meditation, I will offer more of a full-body focus, unlike Deepening Hatha where I might spend the whole class working on one pose. The physical practice will also be a bit more active then what I typically offer in Deepening Hatha. The class may culminate with pranayama and/or chanting and will always conclude with meditation.
Can you give us an example of a philosophical theme that you will explore and how it connects to the Raja yoga practice?
M: When specifically practicing Raja yoga, the aim is to control the mind in order to know the Self. As Swami Satchidananda says, “Every thought, feeling, perception, or memory you may have causes a modification, or ripple, in the mind. It distorts and colors the mental mirror. If you can restrain the mind from forming into modifications, there will be no distortion, and you will experience your true Self.” A yogi can take a concept like ahimsa (non-injury or non-harming) and practice it on the mat by observing their body and mind with the intention of non-harming. This not only protects the body from injury during asana practice, which allows them to sit comfortably in meditation, but it also trains the mind as it requires one to observe their reactions by restraining from harmful thoughts or emotions. For example, people often express judgments regarding their physical practice or lack of mental control during meditation. These judgements can be harmful as they “distort and color the mental mirror,” clouding our knowledge of the Self. Therefore, incorporating concepts like ahimsa are extremely important to the practice of yoga on and off the mat.