Introduction to ASTANG (or RaJ) YOGA of Patanjali.
History of Raj Yoga, Patanjali Yoga, Astanga-Yoga or 8 steps of Yoga.
It is easy to speak and understand that "Presence of soul means life and its absence means death". Such words sound simple and true but it needs deep meditation of months and years to really get convinced. These words are perfectly understood when one reaches Samadhi - the 8th step of Raj Yoga.
In libraries of Western countries one finds 50 to 100 books on Yoga. They describe mostly postural exercises (Asanas), breathing exercises (Pranayama - 4th step of Patanjali Yoga) and relaxing techniques of simple meditation. Books on Hath-Yoga which also describe Yoga postures or a few higher steps of meditation. Real Hath Yoga is a very difficult subject.
There are no organized schools of Yoga nor there are authentic text books on Yoga. The Gita is an ideal
'Yog-Shastra', the best book for Yoga study. Its 18 chapters describe many Yogas like Karma Yoga, Raj Yoga, Dhyana Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Purushottama Yoga and so on. Yoga is a world popular philosophy (Darshan) of India and an integral part of India's Religious and Cultural Heritage.
Yoga knowledge in daily life creates quick and correct decisions making ability. He/she becomes a positive thinker during all events occurring in individual, family, social and national life. He/she clearly understands problems of unhappiness, and does right actions to solve them with patience, perseverance and great success.
Just as music can't be learnt with instruments and books and a student in primary class can't do any calculation without knowledge of math tables, in same manner Raj Yoga can't be learnt from books and pictures of Yoga postures. A self-realized and spiritually enlightened teacher will always be required for learning all 8 steps of Yoga. Without theoretical knowledge of 8 steps Yoga, it can't be practiced and translated in daily life. To live in good health and enjoy best things till the end of life's journey, one needs theoretical knowledge of Raj Yoga's 8 steps.
Raj Yoga is a science of spirituality.
In first primary course prayers, chanting of Mantras and OM, postural and breathing exercises (Asanas and Pranayamas) and simple meditation are taught. A student has to climb the Yoga ladder step by step. One can't jump to the 7th and 8th steps of deep meditation on the first day. Dhyana and Samadhi are the last steps of Raj Yoga. They unfold wonderful spiritual powers. Never try to reach Samadhi in short time. It is very dangerous if done before mastering the other 7 steps.
The first 2 steps of Yoga teach morals, noble behavior, control of anxieties, angers, temptations and emotions arising in mind. Material worldly knowledge (Veda) is gained by 5 senses and stored in sub-conscious mind or Chitta in Yoga words. This is explained by giving examples of daily life during the 3rd and 4th sessions of the 1st Primary Yoga Course.
By practice of the higher steps of Yoga a union of self (Atma) gets established with formless God (Paramatma). This vision of Cosmic God occurs by the path of meditation and contemplation. One SEES Cosmic Light of God after mastering the Samadhi step. It is possible for any person of any faith to mentally evolve to level of great saints or religious prophets like Buddha, Jesus, Mohammed or Moses by practices of Raj Yoga and study of the Gita.