What is Raja Yoga? Comparison of Raja Yoga and Hatha Yoga

What is Raja Yoga? Comparison of Raja Yoga and Hatha Yoga

Raja Yoga – The Royal Path or the Path of Meditation

Raja Yoga is one of the oldest systems of yoga referenced by many ancient spiritual texts. It is thought of as the ultimate goal of yoga practice as it leads to samadhi, or the ultimate state of consciousness. Raja Yoga emphasizes the practice of meditation for spiritual growth and self-realization.

Raja Yoga is known as the key to all yoga or the Royal Path. It is called Royal Yoga because it speaks to having direct control or mastery over our mind to experience a transcendental state or Oneness. Raja Yoga has been compiled and unified by Rishi Patanjali in his famous text, Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, where he outlines Ashtanga Yoga- the eightfold path.

Rishi Patanjali describes in detail about the eightfold path or eight limbs as:

  1. Yama – Self-restraint or Social code of conduct
  2. Niyama – Self-Observance or Personal Discipline
  3. Asana – Postures
  4. Pranayama – Breathing Practices, Control of Prana
  5. Pratyahara – Inward journey of Senses or withdrawal of Senses
  6. Dharana – Concentration
  7. Dhyana – Meditation
  8. Samadhi- Super-Conscious State or Transcendental State

Comparison of Raja Yoga & Hatha Yoga

You may be wondering what the difference is between Raja Yoga and Hatha Yoga. Here is a simple breakdown:

  • Yoga Sutra’s of Patanjali is the classical text describing Raja Yoga and its eightfold path and practices. Hatha Yoga Pradipika is the main classical text describing Hatha Yoga and its practices
  • The goal of Raja Yoga is to achieve the highest state of consciousness known as samadhi; meditation is the main practice for samadhi. The main purpose of Hatha Yoga is to awaken the kundalini (the subtle energy source); the main practices are asana, pranayama, mudra, bandha, and shatkarma
  • Raja Yoga is considered as the ultimate goal of human life, whereas Hatha Yoga serves as preparatory means to Raja Yoga.
  • Raja Yoga adopts the methods of controlling the mind and mental force to achieve the transcendental state of consciousness; Hatha Yoga adopts the methods of controlling the prana, or vital forces, to awaken the kundalini
  • Raja Yoga is the union of Shiva or Purusha- the Supreme Consciousness with Shakti or Prakriti- also known as the Primordial Energy; Hatha Yoga is the union of Ida- the Prana Shakti and Pingala- also known as the mental Shakti.