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Yoga Sutras for Modern Life: Every Experience is a Valid Experience

Yoga Sutras of Patanjali 2:21- The seen only exists for the sake of the Atman.

Defining the Sutra:

In Sutra 2:18, we explored the idea that we are in this time space continuum simply to experience what this world has to offer. By saying, that the seen (everything we experience through our senses and mind) is here for the Atman (soul), Patanjali is reiterating it.

Modern Day Application

The big lesson is “don’t take it personal”.  This life is to be experienced. The only reason we need liberation is because we start to define ourselves by what happens to us, our things, our friends, our certifications and what sequences we are on.  There is energy within us that cannot be created or destroyed. Some believe that we are made in the likeness of God. We came from something that is infinite. We are much bigger then our experiences.

Our lives are not in service of the voice inside of us that has made a deity out of our thoughts and experiences. That voice will never be happy or pacified. Yoga brings liberation from that voice so that we can simply experience life without our story.

Think of how free you would be if you could just see everything as an experience. If you lose all your money, it is an experience. If you are rich, it is an experience. If you are beautiful, it is an experience. If you are plain, it is an experience.  If you are well, it is an experience. If you are sick, it is an experience. It would be so freeing to know that no one else is better or less then you for their experiences. How freeing would it be to not define yourself or anyone else by the experiences they are currently having?

Why It is Important:

Energy always existed as infinite potential. What we experience here is just a few of those potentials being made manifest so that they can be seen.   I will use an oversimplified example. It is the difference between having the potential for a cake and having a cake.  To really experience cake, the ingredients have to be mixed and baked. To enjoy the cake, we need a body. We can enjoy the cake without being attached to the cake or our bodies.  Attachment is what ruins our enjoyment.  When the cake is gone, we get sad. If we grow attached to the flavor and eat too much, we get sick.  It is hard to fathom a life without attachment, but this simple example shows that we can enjoy life more through non attachment then through attachment.  If we understand that we are here to experience how infinite potential looks when it is made manifest, we don’t take life seriously.



Picture by Wanda Koch Photography

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

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