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Yoga Sutras For Modern Day Life: Why Are We Here?

Yoga Sutras of Patanjali 2:18– The objects of experience are made up of light, action, inertia, the elements and the sense organs. The universe exists for the purpose of experience and liberation.

Defining the Sutra

This Sutra tells us why we are here. All the components of the Universe came together so that we can experience life in this time space continuum and be liberated.

Modern Day Application

Contrast and the illusion of separation allows us to fully experience the world. We cannot fully know dark without light, sour without sweet, and hot without cold. In a state of oneness, there is bliss but there is also no contrast. We came out of the state of oneness to experience contrast.

Everything, including the pain the joy, the beauty and the ugliness, the emotions and the emptiness, money and poverty, sickness and health are here to be experienced.  When we really understand this, we don’t take anything personal. We understand that all the events happening in our life, even the painful ones are just experiences. Our experiences don’t define us and we are not limited by them because at the end of the day, we are all returning back to the infinite source of energy that cannot be created or destroyed.


Have you ever heard the chant above from the Upanishads? Sharath really loved this verse and talked about it in conference. For most of us, it is pretty hard to swallow. When your life is falling apart, loved ones are sick, or you have no money in the bank, it is hard to think, “everything is perfect.”  It is perfect because we are experiencing the perfection of contrast. Think about all the things that had to happen for us to be here right now. No matter if you believe in the Big Bang or God, all the things that had to perfectly come together to create you and all the things and people you interact with in this world is miraculous.  It all came together perfectly to create this moment. The only reason we don’t appreciate it is because we are attached to the opposite state which is pleasure. However, don’t you appreciate money more after not having any? After you are sick, and you finally feel well, are you not on cloud 9? After working for years on Marichyasana C and finally getting D, aren’t you elated?

Think about your favorite movies. Do you like the ones where nothing happens or where the main character has problems and challenges that they have to overcome? How about inspirational stories? They are only inspiring when the person overcomes something seemingly insurmountable.  Contrast gives us the ability to become the heroes of our own perfect story.

When someone says they are bored they are saying, “there is nothing going on in my life right now.” The reality is that we want something to be going on. We want to have new and different experiences. This is one of the reasons we are here.

The second is liberation. Whenever I first arrive somewhere for vacation, I am over the moon with excitement. By the end of it, I am tired and ready to go!    We were created as perfect vessels to experience the contrast of this earth. When we stay with anything physically or mentally past its usefulness, suffering comes. As scary as it may seem, we need liberation.

In yoga, liberation starts as a “staycation”. We use the tools of yoga to find peace within our own bodies, minds and hearts. The ultimate liberation in yoga is to exit the cycle of birth and death and reunite with the energy that birthed us into this world of contrast.

Why It is Important?

Other then answering one of the biggest questions in human history, “why are we here?”, this Sutra reminds us that there is more to life then what we perceive with our senses.  As beautiful as the experience of being human, in this body on this earth is, it is not the end. We came from something bigger and are eventually liberated back to that state.

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