tl;dr: Life is hard but there’s a way to make it suck less.

At the root of yoga is the same realization we find in other philosophies: there’s a damn lot of suffering in the human condition. To put it simply, wise yogis understand that the cause of suffering is ignorance of our true nature (Avidya) and to weaken this ignorance and bring about self realization, the practice of the 8 limbs (Ashtanga) is recommended.

To go back to my past post about yoga and religion, I think that one of the aspects of yoga that make me confident it’s not a religion is the fact that it is not dogmatic. Basically, nobody cares if you follow the path of yoga or not. They just tell you: “Look, we think we’ve figured out how to get enlightened, and if you wanna get there, you should do this and that. If you don’t, nothing bad is going to happen, you’ll just make it harder for yourself.”

So, what are these 8 limbs?

You’ll probably be familiar with some of them.

  1. Yama (moral discipline)
  2. Niyama (observances)
  3. Asana (physical postures)
  4. Pranayama (breath work)
  5. Pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses)
  6. Dharana (concentration)
  7. Dhyana (meditation)
  8. Samadhi (self realization)

The main thing I’d like to point out from this is the fact that the postures (Asana) are just one of the 8 limbs and it’s not even the first one. Yet, it’s what we think about when we hear about yoga in the west. And then, we have Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and finally Samadhi which are all meditative practices.

A simplified way of looking at it…

… would be to say that if we live an ethical life, we practice the postures to open our body and the breathwork to still our mind, we can improve our meditation which will eventually lead to self realization.

So what are we waiting for? :)