R?ja yoga is traditionally referred to as a???nga (eight-limbed) yoga because there are eight aspects to the path to which one must attend.
Patañjali’s Yoga Sutras begin with the statement yoga? citta-v?tti-nirodha? (1.2), “Yoga limits the oscillations of the mind”. They go on to detail the ways in which mind can create false ideations, and advocate arduous, dedicated meditation on real objects or subjects. This process, it is said, leads to a state of quiet detachment, vair?gya, in which there is mastery over the thirst (t????, ta?h?) of the senses.
Practices that serve to maintain for the individual the ability to access this state may be considered r?ja yoga practices. Thus r?ja yoga encompasses and differentiates itself from other forms of yoga by encouraging the mind to avoid the sort of absorption in obsessional practice (including some traditional practices) that can create false mental objects.
In this sense r?ja yoga is called the “king among yogas”: all honest yogic practices are seen as tools in the quest to cleanse karma and obtain mok?a, nirv??a or kaivalya. Historically, schools of yoga that label themselves “r?ja” offer students a structure of yogic practices and a solid viewpoint on dharma.
Lord K???a describes the yogi as follows: “A yogi is greater than the ascetic, greater than the empiricist, and greater than the fruitive worker.