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Liberation from the Afflictions which Cause Suffering:
Niyama are basic practices for the purification of the body, mind and spirit. It is the cultivation of purity, light ad wisdom. While Yama reduces the purities of rajas (desire and agitation) and tamas (darkness and negativity), Niyama increases mental clarity and discernment (sattva). Patanjali writes in the Yoga Sutras, “On the purity of sattva, arise cheerfulness of mind, conquest of the senses and their organs, and fitness for self-realisation. ”
What we normally consider as hath a yoga- the practice of asana and pranayama- also plays an important rolls in the eight step system of raja yoga. Awareness of where we hold tension in the body and breath and self-regulating those imbalances with asana and pranayama is an amazing first aid when the mind becomes overpowered by the forces of rajas and tamas. When asanas are practised regularly body and mind are made strong and steady and one is free from the disturbance of the pairs of opposites (likes and dislikes). Then the mind’s darkness is removed by the regular practice of pranayama so that it can become fir for concentration. The body and breath provide a tangible field for our emotional imbalances. By thus purifying the body and breath, we open the space for the deep mental transformations. This is a major step to reclaiming our emotions.
Abstractions of the senses (pratyahara) is the bridge between the external practices and the internal practices and ultimately leads to the supreme mastery of senses. Only by establishing pratyahara can we be free from the distraction of senses. Raja yoga unravels layers of dysfunctional emotional training, by transforming physical, emotional, and conceptual habits. This work demands continued practice and a willingness to let go of afflictive habits. The effort can be mild, moderate or intense. Each person is welcome to practise at their own level, at their own pace, realizing that the practice will eventually lead to liberation from ignorance and suffering.
Both Swami Sivananda and Swami Vishnudevananda were masters of hatha and raja yoga. Practising in this tradition we experience the empowerment of emotional transformation in our lives. With will, faith and practice thousands of yoga practitioners have overcome huge obstacles to lead strong, healthy , productive lives.
Srinivasan is the director of the Sivananda Yoga Ranch in Woodbourne,NY, and a direct disciple of Swami Vishnudevananda, having personally served and lived with Swamiji for many years.