The Process of Qualifying Yogas

by Hank Friedman

[Note: I learned Vedic astrology from the master Jyotishi Hart deFouw. Without his teachings, none of my Vedic articles could have been written. Also, thanks to Bette Timm for her valuable feedback and suggestions.]


In order to make this article more useable for beginners, I've added a set of definitions of the Vedic terms and concepts used here.



The benefics in Vedic astrology are Venus, Jupiter, and the Moon, plus Mercury when it is either not influenced by a malefic, or is influenced by a benefic. However, in the creation of yogas, Mercury is always treated as a benefic.


The malefic planets in Vedic astrology are Mars, Saturn, Rahu (the North Node), and Ketu (the South Node), plus Mercury if it is only influenced by other malefics (not counting the Sun), and, for some assessments, the Sun.

True Planet: Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn are classified as true planets for determining planetary war and combustion and in yogas.

Types of Houses:

Dusthanas: Also called Trikasthanas or Trik houses, these are the "bad" houses. Houses 6, 8, and 12 govern many of the unpleasant themes of life (e.g. debt, obstacles, loss, death, disease, anxiety, enemies, etc.), and therefore planets ruling these houses embody challenging themes, as do planets occupying these houses.

Trikonas: Also called Trines, houses 1, 5, and 9 are the most fortunate houses, in that they represent blessings, opportunities, good fortune, wisdom, and spirituality, and planets in them and ruling them bring positive themes to the life.

Kendras: Called angles or angular houses in the West, houses 1, 4, 7, and 10 boost the power, action, and initiative of planets, and therefore can support greater success.

Lagna: The Ascendant or Rising sign. Also the First House itself, as in the phrase "a planet in the Lagna". The owner of the Ascendant and the planets in the First House both represent the person more than any other planets. Planets aspecting either the ruler of the First House or the First House itself also are quite influential, and their influence is integrated into the person's makeup.

Chandra Lagna: A chart constructed by rotating the horoscope until the Moon occupies the First House. This is also used to calculate yogas, and a yoga that occurs in both the Lagna chart and the Chandra Lagna chart will be much more powerful.

Surya Lagna: A chart constructed by rotating the horoscope until the Sun occupies the First House. This is also used to calculate yogas, and a yoga that occurs in both the Lagna chart and the Surya Lagna chart will be more powerful.

Temporal Benefics and Malefics: Also called Functional Benefics and Malefics. When a planet only rules bad houses it becomes a temporal malefic, bringing challenges into the person's life. If a planet only rules good houses (especially kendras and trikonas), it brings positive experiences into the person's life. (Note: for assessing a planet's temporal nature, houses 2 and 11 are considered mildly good, and house 3 as mildly bad. So Jupiter ruling the 8th and 11th would still be considered a temporal malefic, and Mars ruling the 3rd and 10th a temporal benefic.)


Aspect: When one planet "sees", i.e. influences, another planet (or house) by being in a specific angular relationship with the other planet (or house). (See the next two items.)

Vedic astrologers use Whole Sign aspects, where planets affect every planet in the aspected house, regardless of orb.

Mutual Aspects: In Vedic astrology, when planets occupy the same house or are in opposite houses, they are said to aspect each other, I.e. to see and influence and impact each other, mutually. (In classical Jyotish texts, planets in the same house are said to be in association with each other.)

Aspects to Houses: All planets aspect the house opposite to the one that they occupy, whether there are any planets in that house or not.

Unilateral Aspects: Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn have special unilateral aspects (I.e. they see and influence other planets who do not see or influence them).

Mars aspects all planets (and houses) four and eight houses ahead (counting the house occupied by Mars), Jupiter planets (and houses) five and nine houses ahead (I.e. in the same element as Jupiter), and Saturn aspects planets (and houses) three and ten houses ahead.

Whole Sign Houses: Unlike modern Western astrology, Vedic astrology uses whole sign houses, I.e. where each house is one whole sign (i.e. begins at zero degrees and ends at thirty degrees of the sign), and every planet in one sign occupies the same house as the others in the same sign.

Planetary Weaknesses:

Planetary war: When a true planet is within 1 degree of another true planet, a planetary war takes place. It is as if they are fighting for territory, and even the victor of the war gets bloodied. (The victor can be the planet having higher latitude and/or brightness.)

[Note: Planetary wars never involve the Sun, Moon, Rahu, or Ketu.]

Debilitated: The sign a planet is weakest in. This is called Fall in Western astrology. I.e. Sun in Libra, Moon in Scorpio, Mercury in Pisces, Venus in Virgo, Mars in Cancer, Jupiter in Capricorn, and Saturn in Aries. The degree of deepest debilitation, after which strength begins to return to the planet, is, respectively, 10, 3, 15, 27, 28, 5, 20. E.g. Jupiter is weakest at 5 degrees Capricorn.

Dark Moon: When the Moon is within 72 degrees of the Sun, it grows dark and loses strength. A waning Moon is significantly weaker than a waxing Moon (given their distances from the Sun being equal).

Combust: When a true planet is within 6 degrees of the Sun, it is said to be combust. If within 3 degrees, it is seriously combust. A combust planet has difficulty expressing its gifts, is weaker, and the themes of the houses it rules can become challenging.

Planetary Strengths:

Rulership: Like Hellenistic and Medieval Western astrologies, Vedic astrology employs traditional sign rulerships: Mars rules Aries and Scorpio, Venus rules Taurus and Libra, Mercury rules Gemini and Virgo, the Moon rules Cancer, the Sun rules Leo, Jupiter rules Sagittarius and Pisces, and Saturn rules Capricorn and Aquarius. Planets are strong and stable in the signs they rule.

Exalted: The sign a planet is strongest in. The sign opposite to the debilitation sign: Sun in Aries, Moon in Taurus, Mercury in Virgo, Venus in Pisces, Mars in Capricorn, Jupiter in Cancer, and Saturn in Libra.

[Note the degree of deepest exaltation is the same as the degree of deepest debilitation, just in the opposite sign. E.g. Saturn is strongest at 20 degrees of Libra.]

Bright Moon: If the Moon is in the sign opposite to the Sun, or in either of the two adjacent signs, then it is considered bright. E.g. if the Sun is in Gemini, the Moon is bright in Scorpio, Sagittarius (the opposite sign to the Sun), and Capricorn.

Retrograde: While both Western and Vedic astrology recognize retrogradation as the movement of a planet in the opposite direction across the sky, Vedic astrologers utilize the fact that retrograde planets are at their brightest and largest (closest to the Earth), and that therefore, retrograde planets are strong.

Dig Bala: Aka directional strength. Each planet has its favorite house (akin to the Traditional Western notion of Joy). When in that house, the planet gains both strength and stability. The houses in which planets gain dig bala in are: Jupiter and Mercury in the 1st, the Moon and Venus in the 4th, Saturn in the 7th, and the Sun and Mars in the 10th.


The "AND" principle: Unlike planetary strength systems like Astrodynes in Western astrology, which add and subtract points to determine the final strength of a planet, in Vedic astrology, if a planet is both strong and weak, then both its strength and its weakness will express themselves in a person's life. E.g. Mars in Cancer (debilitated) in the 10th house (dig bala), will manifest in both pioneering strength in career, and in career instability.


Yoga: a specific configuration defined by one or more planets in specific signs, houses, or relationship with other planets. While there are many challenging yogas, Vedic astrologers usually focus upon the yogas that uplift ones life. Therefore, in this article and most others, unless otherwise specified, the word yoga implies a positive yoga.

Maha Purusha Yoga: A true planet in its own sign or exalted sign in a Kendra. This makes the planet very powerful and increases the person's success.

Dhana Yoga: Wealth-producing combinations. The ruler of house 1, 2, 5, 9, or 11 in mutual aspect to the ruler of another of these five houses.

Raja Yoga: There are many configurations that create these "kingly yogas", but the predominant ones are the ruler of a Trikona (1, 5, 9) in mutual aspect (usually in the same sign or opposite sign) as the ruler of either another Trikona, or a Kendra (1, 5, 7, 10).

The most powerful Raja Yogas occur when there is a mutual aspect or association between the lords of the 9th and 10th houses, or the lords of the 4th and 5th houses.

Principles for Qualifying Yogas

Finding yogas in a person's chart is an essential part of Vedic horoscopic analysis. Positive yogas show where a person has their greatest gifts and achievements, while negative yogas indicate the areas of most challenge. A simple rule: Where will the blessings of a positive yoga occur? For the house themes of the house where the yoga-forming planets reside.

For example, if a person has a powerful yoga in the 4th house, they may own wonderful homes, or drive great cars, or come from a revered lineage, or have a deep understanding of psychology, or have an amazing mother, or any other 4th house theme might be enhanced, depending upon the nature of the planets involved.

Yogas vary in their impact upon a person's life. It is important to determine how effectively each yoga is going to operate. I am calling this process qualifying yogas.

After finding yogas in a person's chart, we need to assess to what degree each yoga will manifest by examining additional conditions. There are many different factors to evaluate. In most cases, what makes a good yoga more fortuitous is the opposite of what makes a bad yoga more difficult. E.g. if a good yoga is formed by strong planets, it becomes more auspicious; while if a bad yoga is formed by weak planets, it becomes more harmful.

A. Relationship of Yoga-Forming Planets to the Specific Ascendant of the Chart

Vedic astrologers understand that planets perform differently for each Ascendant. In fact, this is the basis of the concept of functional or temporal benefics and malefics. E.g. Jupiter does not function well for Libra and Taurus (Venus) Ascendants because of the houses it rules for each Lagna. For Taurus rising, Jupiter rules the 8th and 11th houses; for Libra rising, Jupiter rules the 3rd and 6th houses. Positive yogas formed by Jupiter for these Ascendants have less potency. This illustrates how important the Ascendant's influence is upon the effectiveness of yogas. The following table shows the most productive and least productive planets for each Ascendant.

Best and Worst Planets for Each Ascendant (Yogakarakas are shown in bold.)

Ascendant Best House Rulerships Worst House Rulerships
Aries Sun, Moon Mercury
Taurus Saturn, Mercury Jupiter, Moon
Gemini Mercury, Moon Mars, Sun
Cancer Mars, Moon, Sun Mercury
Leo Mars, Sun Moon
Virgo Mercury, Venus Mars, Sun
Libra Saturn, Moon Jupiter
Scorpio Moon, Sun, Jupiter Venus, Mercury
Sagittarius Sun, Jupiter Venus, Moon
Capricorn Venus, Saturn, Moon Jupiter, Sun
Aquarius Venus, Sun Moon
Pisces Moon, Jupiter, Mars Venus, Sun

In John Belushi's chart, below, his powerful Dhana yoga, formed by Jupiter as lord of the 1st and Venus as lord of the 11th, is weakened by Venus' unhappy rulership of the 6th house, and by the planetary war between them.

John Belushi's Chart

His Venus not only kept the yoga from giving him as much wealth as it would have, but indicated (as the 6th lord) his insecurities, health issues, and eventually fatal drug addiction.

(His Moon, debilitated, dark, waning, and in a dusthana as ruler of the 8th, also contributed to his addiction patterns and emotional angst.)

A planet having challenging rulerships for a specific Ascendant noticeably weakens its ability to uplift a life through the positive yogas it forms (and magnifies the challenges in a person's life through the negative yogas it forms). It does not, however, nullify a positive yoga completely; and one must always take all of the relevant factors into account.

B. The Strength of Yoga-Forming Planets

Many yogas, by definition, require at least one of the yoga-forming planets to be in its own sign or exalted. Nevertheless, for any positive yoga to have a notably uplifting effect upon a person's life, at least one of the yoga-forming planets should be strong. If none of the yoga-forming planets is strong, then the yoga may still be beneficial to a lesser degree.

Planets gain strength by being in their own sign, or exalted (or even in own nakshatra, ), by direction (dig bala), by brightness (Bright Moon or retrograde planet), in the same sign as in the Navamsha (Vargottama), or in Parivartana Yoga (mutual exchange, I.e. in each other's signs) with another planet. The more types of strength a yoga-forming planet has, the more powerful the yoga.

For a negative yoga to be seriously problematic in a person's life, the yoga-forming planets should be weak. Weakness can be by sign (the sign of debilitation), by dimness (combustion or Dark Moon), or by proximity to another planet (planetary war).

In Marilyn Monroe's chart, one of the major reasons why the Sasa Yoga formed by Saturn is powerful is because Saturn is doubly strong (retrograde and exalted).

Marilyn Monroe's Chart
It brought her, along with many other things, very powerful life partners (since, as lord of the 7th, Saturn represents her spouses). These men definitely added to her fame and fortune.

C. Yogas Reproduced from Chandra or Surya Lagnas

For most of the yogas commonly found in charts, such as the Maha Purusha Yogas (where a true planet -- Mercury through Saturn -- is in an angle and either in its own sign or exalted), the presence of the same yoga in the Chandra Lagna or Surya Lagna chart gives it significantly greater influence.

In the chart of Marilyn Monroe, above, Saturn is also in an angle from the Moon; therefore her Sasa yoga is even more significant.

D. Aspects to Yoga-Forming Planets

When planets forming a positive yoga receive no aspects or only aspects from benefics, then the yoga is much better able to function. The aspect of even one malefic can significantly impair the expression of a positive yoga.

When planets forming a negative yoga are aspected by one or more malefics, the yoga becomes more arduous. If a strong benefic aspects a planet participating in a challenging yoga, significant amelioration of that yoga will occur.

In Arnold Schwarzenegger's chart, his Bhadra yoga has only the aspects of Jupiter and the Bright (and waxing) Moon and no malefic aspects ; and it repeats from the Chandra Lagna.

Arnold Schwarzenegger's Chart

His Mercury, in other words, is completely well-supported in his chart, and has brought him great success and prosperity.

E. Placement by House

While many yogas, by definition, must occur in kendras (angular houses), others do not. When positive yogas occur in houses 6, 8, or 12 (the dusthanas) or in Dagdha Rashis, they still can deliver benefits, but often not as easily nor as prominently as yogas occurring in positive houses. When negative yogas occur in dusthanas, their challenging effects are amplified.

Again, in Arnold's chart, above, Mercury is in the best house it could be in, because the Lagna (First House) is a very positive house, and because Mercury rules the Lagna, and because it gets directional strength (dig bala) in the First House. All of these further contributed to his phenomenal rise in life.

F. The Connection of Yogas to the Lagna

Since the Lagna (First House) and its lord represent the person, for an individual to be able to fully utilize the gifts represented by a yoga, the yoga-forming planets need to have a relationship with either the First House or the Lord of the First House (or both). Yogas without any connection to the First House or its Lord are more difficult for the person to access, and therefore less likely to transform a person's life.

In Arnold Schwarzenegger's chart, Mercury is both in and lord of the First House.

G. The Strength of the Lagna

Not only does the strength of the ruler of the Ascendant (and the First House itself) determine a person's vitality, likeability, popularity, common sense, and ability to bounce back from life's travails, but also the degree to which a yoga can fully manifest.

If the First House is occupied by malefics (not in their own sign or exalted) or aspected by malefics, and not occupied or aspected by benefics, while the ruler of the Ascendant is similarly only connected to malefics and is weak, then these weaknesses can very well prevent yogas in the chart from fully expressing themselves.

Conversely, if the First House and the ruler of the First House are only influenced by benefics, and the ruler of the First House is strong, even weaker yogas will find easy expression.

For example, Arnold Schwarzenegger's Ascendant and Ascendant lord Mercury meet the conditions for a strong Ascendant very well, and he has been popular, resilient, and greatly successful.

H. Reinforced Yogas.

When a yoga-forming planet participates in more than one yoga, the yogas augment each other. In other words, there is a synergistic effect.

In Arnold's chart, Mercury forms two Bhadra Maha Purusha yogas (in its own sign in a kendra from both Lagna and Moon), a Dhana Yoga with the Moon (Lords of the First and Second in mutual aspect), a Shubha Vasi yoga (Mercury in the house before the Sun), and a Chamara Yoga (First House and Lord only influenced by benefics). Therefore, Mercury is an incredibly powerful yoga-forming planet and will bring great blessings to Arnold even during its bhuktis.

A much subtler but noteworthy example of reinforced yogas exists in Marilyn Monroe's chart. The association of Mars and Jupiter in her chart doesn't, at first glance, look very promising. Neither has strength, they are in the 8th house, and neither has any relationship with the Lagna or Lagnesa. While neither planet receives any aspects from malefics, and both are friends of the Lord of the First (the Moon), these factors are not enough to explain her huge celebrity.

However, Mars and Jupiter together create two of the most important Raja yogas. Mars and Jupiter are Lords of the Ninth and the Tenth, and Lords of the Fifth and the Ninth. The combined effect of two such incredibly important Raja Yogas more than compensates for the lack of other distinguishing factors.

I. Running the Relevant Dashas and Bhuktis

A yoga will only reach full fruition when a person runs the dasha of one or more of the yoga-forming planets. From then one (I.e. for the rest of the person's life) the yoga will be active.

Marilyn Monroe achieved great fame during her Jupiter dasha, when the above-mentioned yogas became activated.

Even if one doesn't run the dasha of a positive yoga-forming planet during one's lifetime, the bhuktis of that planet can also give very good results.

J. The Influence of Orbs

While Vedic astrologers see planets as aspecting whole houses and every planet in them, they do, just like Western astrologers, do pay attention to orb, and know that planets with tighter aspects (smaller orbs) are more potent. Therefore, in the formation of yogas, the stronger the connection -- by orb -- between the yoga-forming planets, the stronger the yoga.

In John Belushi's chart, above, his Jupiter and Venus are very close, which strengthened his Dhana yoga.

Two situations where closeness of connection weakens the yoga are when a yoga-forming planet is combust (within 6o of the Sun) and when the planet forms a planetary war (two true planets within 1o of each other).

The serious evaluation of yogas must take into account these considerations. Otherwise, Jyotishis will over-emphasize yogas that cannot deliver their full promise, or pay too little attention to yogas that may significantly affect a person's life. Being able to distinguish which yogas are the most important adds life and depth to each chart reading


A Checklist for Qualifying Yogas

In order to use the principles in this article easily, I decided to create the following checklist for assessing positive yogas.

Major considerations:

1. Are any of the yoga-forming planets strong? If not, then the yoga is not likely to give rise to much success unless the yoga-forming planets are participating in more than one yoga. So the corollary question is: Are the yoga-forming planets creating more than one yoga?

2. Does the yoga recur (involving the same planets) from the Chandra or Surya Lagnas? If so, then the yoga is more powerful.

3. Do the yoga-forming planets receive aspects from malefics? If so, the magnitude of the yoga's effects will be notably diminished, and additional issues might arise.

4. Do the yoga-forming planets have any relationship with the First House or the ruler of the First House? If not, the abilities and gifts represented by the yoga will be hard to access.

5. Are the Ascendant and lord of the Ascendant predominately strong or weak? If both are strong and influenced by benefics, then the yoga will be easily expressed, if both are weak and influenced by malefics, then not.

6. Is the person running or going to run the dasa of one of the yoga-forming planets? If so, then the yoga is likely to reach full fruition. If not, then has the person already run the dasa of one of the yoga-forming planets? If not, then the yoga may not reach full fruition.

7. For the person's specific Ascendant, do either or both of the yoga-forming planets have good house rulerships? If not, then the yoga's effect will be significantly diminished.

Minor Considerations:

8. Does the yoga take place in houses 6, 8, or 12? If so, then the themes of that house will be enhanced (e.g. medical skill for the 6th, or occult gifts for the 8th), but the yoga may not give as notable results in conventional ways.

9. Are the yoga-forming planets close to each other by orb? If so, then the yoga may be a bit more powerful.

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