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Yoga Sutras For Modern Day Life: Yoga Is Not an Escape From Life

Yoga Sutras of Patanjali 2:10: When the five types of colorings (kleshas) are in their subtle, merely potential form, they are then destroyed by their disappearance or cessation into and of the field of mind itself.

Defining the Sutra

5 Kleshas

  1. Ignorance (avidya)
  2. Ego (asmita)
  3. Attachment to Pleasure (raga)
  4. Aversion to Pain (dvesa)
  5. Fear of Death (abhinivesah)


The Kleshas don’t completely go. We need our mind to interact with life.  Without a sense of “I”, we couldn’t function.  In order to use our mind and our bodies, we have to connect with them. We have to know they are ours to use.

The  Yogi eventually gets the Kleshas to a point where their impact is minimal. For example,  a subtle  aversion to pain may keep a Yogi from jumping into fire, but they will not be afraid to use fire. Because of a subtle sense of “I”, a Yogi may enjoy their hair and spend time on its styling but they will not feel defined by their hair.

The Kleshas, in their subtle form, is what gives people their “human” quality. We are here on this planet as humans because of the breadth of experiences we can have in this form. The Kleshas don’t completely go away until we leave this body and dissolve back into the energy we came from.


Modern Day Application

Though the Kleshas may always be with us in their subtle form, Patanjali cautions us against allowing them to become manifest in our lives. In the last installment, I gave examples of how the Kleshas manifest. Please go here for those modern day examples.


Why It is Important

This yoga is not for exercise. Yoga is showing where to look for the soul – that is all. Man is taking a human body – this is a very rare opportunity. Don’t waste it. We are given 100 years to live, one day you have the possibility to see God. If you think in this way it is giving you good body, good nature and health.” Sri K Pattabh Jois

 The Kleshas stay in their subtle form because they provide a framework to experience life. People enjoy games life football or chess because it is fun to see what they can accomplish within the scope of the rules of the game. If we could move the pieces wherever we wanted or run the ball in any direction we felt like, it wouldn’t be fun. We enjoy traveling to different parts of the planet because the different environments provide different experiences. Being born into the body of a man or a woman provides different experiences. We would not understand the full meaning of being healthy if we had never been sick. Having a since of “I” and a need for self preservation allows us to stay in our body long enough to experience life.

There are certain experiences that we can only have if we are in a state of ignorance of our true nature. How many crazy things have you done, from a place of ignorance, that you wouldn’t change but you have no desire to experience again? How many times has a fear of death kept you alive to have another wonderful experience?

In the Bhagavad Gita, an important text on Yoga,  the warrior Arjuna was known  for being upright and conscious and he was tight with Lord Krishna who was a powerful being. Arjuna’s enemies pretty much knew that it was nearly impossible for them to win a war against Krishna and Arjuna. Arjuna knew this as well and yet, when it was time to go to battle, he was full of questions and emotions. People love the Gita because of Arjuna’s very human response to his situation. Yoga is accepting of our humanity. It is par for the course. At the end of the day, we acknowledge the Kleshas but we don’t give them a big piece of our life. To do so, would be to introduce additional suffering into the world and into our lives.

To be human is also to open ourselves up to very human experiences. The strength and the character of someone like Jesus is revered not because he never felt anguish or frustration. He is revered because even though he did feel challenged at times, and at times felt great despair, he still followed through with his destiny. He was still a very autonomous person. He didn’t try to escape from his life, from his experience. He didn’t try to run inside to some meditative state that would ensure him that he’d never have to feel the ups and downs of human life and human affairs. And through his human experience, he was able to manifest something quite extraordinary, a very extraordinary life, a teaching that was quite unique and dynamic.

To be born as a human, to take this particular form, is to be challenged. Even for the awakened ones, life is not always smooth. As I like to remind people, even when enlightenment comes, even when you realize the innate and natural freedom of being, it doesn’t get you a pass on life. It doesn’t mean you’re never going to go through anything difficult. Quite the opposite. The more awake we become, often the more capable we are of having life hand us bigger and bigger situations as our capacity to accept and embody our spiritual essence grows. So life can and does respond to that growth, and in many ways it tends to demand more and more from us.

This isn’t what a lot of people have in mind when they think of spiritual freedom. Generally, it seems most people have the idea that I used to have about spiritual freedom, which is that freedom is defined by what we are free from. And other words, we can be so transcendent that we’re literally free from life. But at some point in time, we come to see that this is a relatively immature idea of what freedom is. Only an immature idea of freedom is defined by what we’re free from. Something more mature, something that develops within us as we become more spiritually mature is not freedom from, but a freedom to. We can look at it this way: are we free enough and open enough to meet life? A big enough freedom to live life, to really stand in our own two shoes, to actually occupy the ground on which we stand? Even though we’re not separate, even though the whole universe is contained within us, theres still a human component, an individual person with the capacity to allow spirit to flow out into the world. We can either open to this or shy away from it.

Adyashanti: Falling Into Grace

Shanna Small has been practicing Ashtanga Yoga and studying the Yoga Sutras since 2001. She has studied in Mysore with Sharath Jois and is the Director of AYS Charlotte, a school for traditional Ashtanga in Charlotte NC. She has written for Yoga International and the Ashtanga Dispatch. Go here for more information on AYS Charlotte. For information on workshops, please e-mail