The Anusara Sadhana: Raja Yoga: Tapasya, Ishvara Pranidana and Svadyaya

Raja Yoga: Tapsya, Ishvara Pranidana and Svadyaya

A Non Dual Spin of Patanjali’s Niyamas

Written by: Jacalyn Prete

Our contemplation for this newsletter is the teachings of these 3 Niyamas sometimes called Raja Yoga. I will attempt to put a non-dual spin on Patanjali’s Niyamas.

Why study Raja Yoga? 

I have observed many great yoga teachers since my introduction to the yoga community 30 years ago who not only demonstrate the strong tapasya of years of discipline mastering advanced yoga postures (Asanas) but the humility to practice deep self-inquiry along with the study of the wisdom teachings of yoga.

I notice that these individuals are deeply surrendered to a Higher calling. They are not distracted by the power and prestige that come with “Yogalebrity.” 

They are serving a higher purpose than being popular, influential, and powerful among their peers. They are moving not only themselves and their students into a deeper awareness of their own Higher Nature but are serving to support all yogis and beings everywhere to step into their True Essence…to  awaken us all to our Swadharma 

(our true path).


I see the 3  Niyamas working together in a dance of interdependence. In Anusara we speak of our practice and studentship deepening through the practice of Tapasya. 

Tapasya is defined as the intensity of our practice of asana, meditation, and  other disciplines in order to attain Self Realization.  The fire of our desire to move into a deeper state of at-one-ment with our own Deep Essence is what motivates us to move into stronger and deeper practices of daily meditation and asana practice.

The friction or heat of our consistent practice brings about an alchemical transformation of the body and the mind. When the motivation for deepening our practice comes from the ego you can see the practitioner becoming more and more adept at advanced poses but not really doing the inner work that requires deep self-inquiry. The practice becomes more of an acrobatic display instead of a doorway into a deeper inner knowing.

How to cultivate Tapasya? 

Tapas refers to the fire and friction that helps facilitate inner and outer transformation.

If you are a watery person or an earthy person, start to associate with people who are more fiery in nature. (And this does not mean people who are constantly irritated! ) 

In Satchidananda’s book The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali says

“Self discipline ( tapasya) is an aid to spiritual progress, whereas self torture is an Obstacle.

The mind should be purified through practice then you can control the senses.”
If you really want to grow as a yoga student or teacher, cultivate regular home practices of meditation, asana and pranayama.  This is tapasya!  Also finding the time and resources to invest in opportunities to  study with teachers who have skills you have not mastered yet. There is so much opportunity available to us right now to study with each other online since the Pandemic. Who are your favorite teachers in the community? Let’s share our resources!


Here is where Svadyaya is necessary. The self-inquiry takes the form of reading, studying and contemplating the teachings and scriptures of yoga applying the teachings to everyday circumstances and events in your life. 

I have noticed that by being in the presence  and studying with teachers who have gone into deeper states of meditation, Asana, Pranayama and deep self inquiry around the wisdom teachings  of yoga helps to support and deepen my own understanding of myself and the world around me. I am so grateful to all my teachers, especially Rudrani Farbman, Gurumayi Chidvalasanada, Sally Kempton and Cate Stillman.

Raise your Vibration  

When you practice with teachers who are vibrating at a higher frequency, they encourage you to bring your energy to a higher level as well. It is infections in the best way.  I remember hearing about a principle called Entrainment. It is similar to when you put clocks in the same room. They eventually all synchronize their movements with each other.  I remember hearing Gurumayi asking us to “Keep Good Company” as people who are further along the path will support you and your sadhana.

When you are motivated from a deeper longing to get to know your deepest essence and clear out the samskaras of early life conditioning, the work of Svadyaya or self study bears fruit. The practice begins to shift the way the brain processes stress. The body cultivates an inner resiliency and a tolerance for stillness and quiet and contemplation.

Ishvara Pranidhana

The True pathway to discovering our Deepest Essence is Ishvara Pranidhana.  Some folks refer to this as the path of Bhakti yoga. The Devotional practice that comes from the heart. We see these great Bhakti’s like Krishna Das, our beloved Shantala, and many of the kirtan Wallas. They give their lives to open people’s hearts. The surrender to Ishvara Pranidhana does not necessarily mean surrendering to the Guru, or God. It is surrendering to your Higher Self. Your deepest essence.

The physical guru is a manifestation of the deepest essence of your own Higher Self. 

When we surrender to serve the highest in ourselves and in others, the ego is short-circuited. When we are truly in service, our poor little ego does not stand a chance. When you are surrendered and in service, you and your little ego step out of the way and allow a bigger purpose to be revealed.

Here are some of the signs that you or someone in your life is moving into a deeper alignment with their Higher Self or their Life Essence.

  • There is less resistance to the growth process and more surrender (Ishvara Pranidhana) 
  • They recognize and acknowledge their teachers regularly.
  • They are humble and always curious and learning.
  • They share their wisdom generously with others. 
  • They naturally become mentors & guides for others as they become more empowered on their own path.
  • They seek the company of others who are further along on the path to encourage them to continue growing and expanding their wisdom and experience.
  • They perhaps change careers or shift close relationships in order to be in alignment with their true dharma.

Here is a practice that we can do at any time.

Our practice today is a pranayama practice that leads into meditation. The tapasya of kapalabhati breathing leads to meditation practice to tap into the boundless well of effulgence within. This practice will burn away the dross and leave a golden essence that radiates pure love

Let’s find the fire to burn away that which obscures the inner Shri, natural beauty within so you can access your full potential…  Your Vibrant Core. 

10-minute practice of Kapalabhati breathing. Nadhi Shodhana breathing and Bhramari 

Prayanama and Meditation practice 

  1. Do this practice when your energy is flagging in the middle of the day or you didn’t get a full night’s sleep and want to kick start your day.
  2. Sit in a chair or on a cushion in Virasana  or suhkasana
  3. Start with ujjayi breath for 3 minutes pause at the top and bottom of the breath
  4. Begin bhramari breath with or without the mudra of closing off the eyelids, nostrils, lips and ears. Hum on each exhale 10 times. Sit in silence afterwards and feel the inner buzzing bee breath from within,
  5. Kapala biati breath. 3 sets of 20 slow steady exhales and short inhales through the nose. Let the belly relax between each short exhale. Afterwards do a short retention on inhale. 20-30 seconds. Repeat 3 times.
  6. Finish with Nadi shodhana starting with the Vishnu Mudra then continue to do the alternate nostril breath without the Mudra. 
  7. Release the pranayama and sit in silence. Moving into a 5-20 minute meditation.

Jacalyn’s upcoming events

  • Ignite your Vitality, Anusara Yoga Retreat at Kripalu. April 12-14, 2024. Stockbridge, Massachusetts. 
  • Free guided meditation 7 days a week  @ 8:15 am EST please join us at  I lead meditations on Thursday mornings and Rudrani leads Friday mornings. 
  • Anusara Yoga and Meditation Retreat August 22-26, 2024  Dai Bosatsu Zendo near  Livingston Manor, NY on Beecher Lake.

Learn more about Jacalyn Prete

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