Learning Raja Yoga in Addiction Recovery
Raja yoga is one of the lesser known types of yoga but its benefits for the mind can really empower your addiction recovery. Practicing Raja yoga regularly can give you back control of your thoughts, actions and behaviours. Thereby, installing a sense of peace and serenity within.
Here, Recoverlution explains what Raja yoga is, how to practice it and its proven benefits.
What is Raja Yoga & how can it help my addiction recovery?
Raja Yoga encompasses the mind, body & spirit. Its emphasis is on spiritual development. This is an aspect that is very important to many of us in addiction recovery. Spirituality is achieved by training the mind through the application of Raja yoga’s disciplines and by practicing the eight limbs of yoga
Raja Yoga differs from Hatha Yoga. Whilst Raja yoga still involves asanas (poses), its focus is not on the physical aspect, unlike Hatha.
Raja Yoga is all about expanding the mind and taking control, pushing beyond self-limiting beliefs. Those that regularly practice Raja Yoga consider themselves “heroes of mind training”.
Raja Yoga appeals to those in addiction recovery who want to evolve spiritually and heal mentally. If this is of interest to you, you can learn more about what Raja Yoga involves by reading on.
We also explain how practicing Raja Yoga regularly could really benefit your addiction recovery, and even transform your entire wellbeing.
What is the purpose of Raja Yoga and what does it offer addiction recovery?
The purpose of Raja Yoga is to unite the mind of the person practicing Raja Yoga with their higher self. In doing so, they gain numerous spiritual and psychological benefits.
Connecting with your higher self is a spiritual practice. You are able to stand back from everyday situations. This enables you to see clearly with an unbiased perspective, exactly what is happening in front of you.
Your higher-self is the part of you that is awakened. Your higher self knows your deepest needs, purpose and truths. It is where hidden knowledge, self love and the absolute truth can be accessed in your subconsciousness.
Raja yoga is one of many practices that can be utilised to connect to your higher self. Yet it goes much, much further than this. The aim of Raja Yoga, is to become empowered through complete spiritual liberation and in knowing your true purpose in life.
What Raja Yoga means
In Sanskrit scripture, Raja yoga means “King” or “Royal”. Those who follow the practice are considered to be on a “Royal path”, a path of spiritual liberation and self-realisation 1
Whilst the emphasis of Raja Yoga is on training the mind and spiritual connection, it encompasses all three parts of your being - mind, body and spirit. Raja Yoga therefore incorporates Asanas (poses) and Pranayama's (breathing techniques) that are also taught in other forms of Yoga.
Raja Yoga is also more commonly known as Ashtanga Yoga. It is seen as the penultimate way of attaining the true purpose of Yoga, which is to bring the mind, body and spirit into unison and in perfect harmony with God's will.
Raja Yoga recognises that the biggest obstacle to inner peace is a busy mind. This is something that troubles many of us in addiction recovery. However, quieting a busy mind is easier said than done! This is why Raja Yoga uses the body and breath to keep the mind present and focused in the moment.
The human mind naturally wanders and is plagued by cravings, obsessions, attachments, desires and a need to keep “thinking”.
The eight limbs of Raja Yoga - In simple terms
In pursuit of spiritual freedom Raja Yoga uses an eight limbed path to calm the mind and bring peace and harmony to the spirit.
Raja Yoga was developed as a fourth path to enlightenment, to compliment the original three paths, Jnana, Bhakti and Karma.
Raja Yoga’s eight limbs incorporate “five social observances” and “five moral observances”.
The practice of the eight limbs of Raja Yoga is quite complex for a person just beginning to learn about them. We have therefore tried to simplify the eight limbs as much as possible, so that they are more understandable for someone new to yoga practices.
The 8 limbs of Raja Yoga are:
- Yamas (social observances)
- Niyamas (moral observances)
- Asanas - Yoga poses
- Pranayama - Breathing techniques designed to control the Prana (the vital life force energy)
- Pratyahara - Withdrawal of the senses
- Dharana - Concentration and focus
- Dhyana - Meditation
- Samadhi - Enlightenment or Bliss, through complete realization and unison with God, the spirit and the universe
The 5 social observances (Yamas) of Raja Yoga are:
- Ahimsa - Non violence
- Aparigraha - Non possessiveness
- Asteya - Non stealing
- Brahmacharya - Chastity (abstaining from sexual intercourse outside of marriage and remaining faithful in marriage)
- Satya- Truthfulness
The 5 moral observances (Niyamas) of Raja Yoga are:
- Ishvarapranidhana - Devotion or surrender to God
- Saucha - Purity
- Svadhyaya - Self-study and the study of Yoga scriptures & philosophy
- Santosha - Contentment
- Tapas - Self-discipline & self-control 8
This may seem like a tall and complicated order, especially when it comes to chastity, possessiveness and absolute truth. Indeed, Raja Yoga is not for everyone. However, Raja’s five social observances are kind, respectful and loving in their nature.
For those of us recovering from addiction, Raja Yoga's appeal is in its polar opposite of all things connected with addiction.
The ultimate goal of Raja Yoga
The goal of Raja Yoga is to find unlimited inner peace, freedom and harmony. Becoming your true authentic self, is achieved by stilling the mind and disconnecting emotionally from material attachments and possessions. The devoted practice of the eight limbs of Raja Yoga is a systematic way of achieving this.
According to the original Yoga scriptures, the only real obstacle between the yogi and self-realization is the human mind.
Now, for many of us, we realise that our minds have incredible power, especially when it comes to our emotions, actions and perspective. Attempting to move away from addictive thoughts, behaviours and feelings can be extremely challenging for most of us.
The human mind is a minefield of learned and deluded belief systems, attachments, defects and judgments. Most of which are related to the material world and its people. This is why in Sanskrit scripture, the human mind is said to suffer from five Kleshas, which translates to “afflictions” or “poisons”.
The 5 Kleshas “afflictions” of the mind are:
- Fear of death 8
The aim of the eight limbs of Raja Yoga is to take back control of your mind, still the constant mental chatter, and rid the mind of the five mental afflictions.
“This is the teaching of yoga. Yoga is the cessation of the turnings of thought. When thought ceases, the spirit stands in its true identity as an observer to the world. Otherwise, the observer identifies with the turnings of thought”
– Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, Book 1, Sutras 1-4
The Benefits of Raja Yoga in addiction recovery
Scientific studies have been conducted into the benefits of Raja Yoga. The results of the studies show that regular and long-term practitioners of Raja Yoga experienced an overall vastly improved sense of well-being, along with many other very attractive benefits 2
Proven physical benefits of Raja Yoga include:
- Improved cardio-respiratory function
- Cessation of harmful habits and addictions
- Increased stability of blood sugar levels
- Decreased heart rate
- Decreased respiratory rate
- Reduced cravings
- More virtuous habits such as vegetarianism
- Reduced vices (giving up smoking or alcohol)
- Reduction of lactic acid
- Increased relaxation of muscles
- Improved sleep quality
- Increased activity of the parasympathetic system & reduction in the activity of the sympathetic system
- Increased levels of concentration
- Reduced pain
- Reduced inflammation
- Increased brain power
- Improved function of the gastrointestinal system
- Improved function of the cardiovascular system
- Overall improved well-being
Proven mental, emotional & spiritual benefits of Raja Yoga for addiction recovery include:
- Reduced reactivity to stress
- Mental peace and clarity
- Cessation of cravings
- Increased feelings of contentment and happiness
- Increased positivity & reduced negativity
- Better self-discipline
- Increased awareness
- Increased focus
- Peace of mind
- Increased acceptance
- Clarity of thinking
- Increased patience and tolerance
- Reduced symptoms of anxiety, stress and depression
- Increased levels of self-care and self-worth
- Reduced fear
- Increased tolerance and patience
- Sense of purpose
- Decreased nervousness
- Less stress over emotional relationships
- Decreased attachment to material possessions
- Freedom from finances and monetary gain
- Freedom from anger, honesty, guilt & shame
- Increased connection with God (spirit)
The studies showed that with continued practice of Raja Yoga, overall, practitioners gained increasing levels of inner peace. The longer they practice Raja yoga for, the more contentment and happiness they experienced.
Raja Yoga is proven to assist addiction recovery!
Raja Yoga has been well studied for its benefits in treating substance dependence and in aiding recovery from addiction.
Of the many studies conducted, all of which showed similar conclusions, the following two studies showed extremely promising and outstanding results:
A study conducted in medicine on the effectiveness of Raja Yoga in combating addiction, found that out of 181 participants addicted to tobacco, 74% were able to stop smoking within one month of practising Raja Yoga and a further 19% were able to stop within three months.
That’s a grand total of 93% of participants who were able to stop their addiction of smoking within just 3 months of consistently practising Raja Yoga 3
Another study, of the same nature, that was applied to 80 alcoholics showed that 98% of participants who suffered from alcohol addiction were alcohol-free after only one month of practising Raja Yoga 4
These studies (amongst others) prove that Raja Yoga is an extraordinary tool in overcoming addiction and in establishing a firm foundation in recovery.
How to practice Raja Yoga
Having touched on the purpose and benefits of this ancient practice, you may be wondering “How do I learn Raja Yoga?”
Well, Raja Yoga may seem extremely complex to understand, but it’s actual practice is quite simple. However, that does not mean that it is easy. The results you gain from Raja Yoga will be directly proportional to the effort you put in. Raja Yoga will most certainly prove to be a challenge both mentally and emotionally.
To gain the maximum benefits of Raja Yoga it is recommended that you practice it daily, adhering to the moral and social observances throughout each day.
To begin with you could start with shorter time frames and work your way up to longer periods of time. Or, you could have multiple shorter times of the day devoted to the practice.
The important thing to understand about Raja Yoga is that you do not have to learn and practice all eight limbs at once! Learning about Raja Yoga meditation is a good place to start.
The first stage of Raja Yoga
The first stage is learning to master Raj Yoga meditation. Raj yoga meditation combines focused meditation with Pranayama’s (breathing) and poses.
Focused meditation is great for beginners, as it assists in quieting the mind and you can use the meditation to focus on the breath and/or affirmations as you practice Pranayama’s. Focusing on the breath helps to withdraw the senses from the material world and activates the parasympathetic system in the brain.
Once you have mastered how to stop the constant mental chatter of your mind, you can then begin to connect with your higher self. This will enable you to listen to your intuition and connect with a God (or with the universal spirit). You can then ask your higher-self questions and listen for the answers, learning more and more on a daily basis about yourself and what your true nature and purpose is.
As you can imagine, this practice takes some time to master and requires a lot of patience and self-forgiveness in the beginning.
The second stage of Raja Yoga
The second stage of Raja Yoga is to combine focused meditation with different Asanas to experience Raja yoga meditation to its fullest. Asanas (poses) originate from Hatha Yoga which is the physical form of Yoga. There are hundreds of Asanas to choose from. To start with it is a good idea to choose a very basic and simple Asana, ones that do not challenge you too physically. This way, you can still focus on your meditation and breathing whilst holding a Yoga pose.
Basic Asanas include: Child's pose, Cobra, Downward facing dog, Mountain, Cat-Cow and Cat, amongst many others.
It is always best to attend a Hatha or Raja Yoga class to ensure you are learning the Asanas correctly.
Hatha Yoga was originally developed to physically prepare the body for long periods of Raja Yoga meditation. It is also believed that a stronger, fitter body would find it easier to mentally achieve the disciplines of Raja Yoga.
The third stage of practising Raja Yoga
The third stage of Raja yoga is to change your lifestyle. The more you practice the other two parts, the easier lifestyle changes will become. For many, the Raja lifestyle becomes a natural progression.
How far you submerge yourself in Raja Yoga is a matter of personal choice. Many people still benefit greatly from the Raja Yoga meditation and Asanas without adhering to all of the lifestyle changes and disciplines.
Besides, becoming a full-time Yogi isn't a practical way of life for most people. For those that practice Raja Yoga, their aim is to continually spiritually evolve, finding more and more peace, truth, love and purity the further into the journey they go.
Raja Yoga shares many similarities in its morals, goals, disciplines and principles as Buddhism 9
Finding local Raja Yoga classes in addiction recovery
Raja Yoga and Raj Yoga meditation classes are less commonly available than Hatha yoga classes. You may therefore find that you need to download a Raja Yoga app, or travel a distance to get to your nearest class.
There are many free resources online and books available where you can learn more about the Raja Yoga practice and its origins. Our Recoverlution Yoga teacher will be incorporating elements of Raja Yoga into our Wellness hub Yoga classes.
Raja Yoga is a way of life. Whilst the practice is something to be learned, it also needs to be practised every day, throughout the day as part of the lifestyle.
Raja Yoga in a nutshell
In a nutshell, this is the spiritual form of Yoga. With the purpose being that the student achieves ultimate freedom and enlightenment.
To anyone that is contemplating trying Raja Yoga, we would encourage you to keep an open mind and be kind to yourself. Try to trust that what is meant for you will come naturally the more you practice it. We have a yoga instructor within our Wellness hub to help get you started on your yogic journey.
How far you wish to go with Raja Yoga is entirely up to you. It may be that practising the practical aspects of breathing, meditation and asanas proves to be beneficial enough.
Raja Yoga is a journey that bears great gifts and teachings along the way. It is a spiritual path that is boundless and has endless possibilities. Whatever you wish to achieve from Raja Yoga, just remember to enjoy the process and take from it whatever you can.
Proven yoga benefits: Backed by science
- Raja Yoga https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rāja_yoga
- Does Raja Yoga meditation bring out physiological and psychological general well-being among practitioners of it? https://internalmedicine.imedpub.com/does-raja-yoga-meditation-bring-out-physiological-andpsychological-general-well-being-among-practitioners-of-it.php?aid=6409
- Patel G. Heart disease and Meditation. 3rd edition.PrajapitaBrahmakumaris World Spiritual University New-Delhi. 1993:27-33. International Journal of Collaborative Research on Internal Medicine & Public Health Vol. 4 No. 12 (2012) 2009
- Patel G. Positive Health Exhibition. 3rd edition. Prajapita Brahmakumaris World Spiritual University New-Delhi, 1993:28-29.
- How to do Raja Yoga https://www.google.co.uk/amp/s/www.wikihow.com/Do-Raja-Yoga%3famp=1
- Raja Yoga meditation https://www.brahmakumaris.org/meditation/raja-yoga-meditation
- Raja Yoga https://www.yogapedia.com/definition/5338/raja-yoga
- The four paths of yoga https://www.yogaindailylife.org/system/en/the-four-paths-of-yoga/raja-yoga
- Cope, Stephen (2006). The wisdom of yoga : a seeker's guide to extraordinary living. New York: Bantam Books. pp. 276-278. ISBN 978-0-553-38054-5. OCLC 64098584.