8. Raja Yoga or the path of meditation
This is one of the mainstream paths of yoga. It works by gradually increasing the ability of mind to focus. It has eight steps. The attainment of a higher step is possible only if one meticulously follows the steps leading to it.
These eight steps are the following:
Yamas: If you practice yoga but do not live a life that goes along with it, you will have no progress. Your surroundings, your body and your life style constitute the foundation on which your mind is built. It is important to follow some ethical rules like non violence, truthfulness, chastity etc.
Niyamas: A certain amount of discipline and structure is necessary to achieve anything significant. Yoga requires cleanliness of body, mind and speech. It also requires introspection, acceptance and persistence.
Asana: The ability to sit comfortably in a stable body posture or asana is a prerequisite for meditation. Among other asanas which help to keep the body strong and healthy, Padmasana or the lotus posture is very important because it is possible to sit in this posture for a long time. During mediation it is important to keep the spine, the neck and the head erect.
Pranayama: It is a set of techniques to increase the mind’s ability to concentrate through conscious regulation of breathing. Regular practice of pranayama can be tremendously beneficial for mental health.
Pratyahara: Our minds compulsively generate thoughts, even when we are sleeping. The practice of pratyahara enables the mind to stay detached from both thoughts and the sensory world.
Dharana: Once the mind is able to remain detached for a while, it can be trained to focus on a single object. Dharana is the practice of holding the mind at one inner object for a time period, without any distraction.
Dhyana: You can think of dhyana as a deeper stage of dharana.
Samadhi: As the mind’s ability to concentrate intensifies, there comes a state when the thinker, the thought and the object of thinking all become one.