Hatha yoga, the process of purification, has significant relevance in many cultures of today's world. Leading the lifestyle as outlined in the teachings of hatha yoga is extremely beneficial on a personal level, and it could be, and indeed is, for the culture I was born into.
I come from Scotland, a historical country with a mystical and mythical heritage. In ages past, it was a place in which paganism thrived. Nature was worshipped as a divine provider and sustainer of life and recognized as a definite part of who we are and of consciousness. Mother Nature was respected, adored and the pagans were able to live in harmony with the rhythms and cycles of the universe.
However, things have changed, and the culture has adapted to modern ways of living, which appear to be quite separate from nature. There are still pockets in Scotland in which people live in tune with nature and themselves. Nevertheless, the young generation has opted for alcoholism, shopping, technology and quick fixes. Teenage pregnancy is on the rise and children are conditioned from a young age to adopt the habits of their young parents, who are still going through the thralls of adolescence and self-discovery.
Although many beautiful aspects of the Scottish culture remain, we seem to have forgotten our unity with all that is. We seem to have forgotten that what we put into the earth we become, that what we think and do to ourselves and others directly affects our lives, and most of all, we seem to have forgotten our potential in the face of quick fixes, pleasures and depression. For many reasons, hatha yoga is relevant in this culture.
I'll begin by talking about the Scottish diet. Fish and chips on Friday evening, deep fried pizza next, bangers and mash for school dinners and ready-made macaroni cheese stuck in the microwave to be eaten in front of the TV. I have been lucky enough not to have this kind of upbringing, but I know that for many people in Scotland all of the above foods are a normal part of everyday life and not even thought of as unhealthy or lacking in nutrition.
The same things work on the other end of the scale; for those who have enough money to `eat well', people can also become obsessed about taste and presentation of food and lose appreciation and sensitivity for the more simple meals, which subsequently can lead them to craving and dissatisfaction in the long term.
Hatha yoga offers a solution for both these extremes, by teaching that simple, nutritious food gives us what we need to survive and is best for body and mind. This could be so relevant for the culture, since it provides a balance between the divide of the rich and poor, the tasteful and tasteless. People could come to understand that to eat healthily, they need not go to expensive restaurants to have a huge variety of flavours. Instead, they can eat a satisfying, affordable diet at home, stay healthy and in harmony with their bodies.
Hatha yoga teaches that in order to purify the mind and other levels of consciousness, the body must also be purified, since all levels are interconnected and affect each other. Asanas give flexibility to body and mind by releasing blockages in the energy centres of the body and allowing energy to flow and be open.
Through opening and unleashing blocks in my body, I have felt myself grow more confident, self-accepting, compassionate and open to others. I can't put it down only to yoga, because there are many factors in my life that have affected and inspired my growth. However, yoga has certainly helped me in growing from a shy, stiff, unconfident, fearful girl into a slightly more confident, less afraid being.
I feel asana could benefit the people of Scotland so much. Since many people are not open to spirituality, the physical practice of asana is a good place to start. For whatever reason someone goes to a yoga class, whether it be for the body, mind or spirit, fashion, athletic reasons or ego, I feel a seed is planted which will slowly, slowly open and grow within each individual at their own pace.
In Scotland, I think people would attend asana classes for many different reasons, but all are relevant, because purification and stress relief are certainly needed and stiff muscles need loosening up from their reaction to constant chilly weather. Whatever leads them, yoga is a sure step towards light, self-understanding and acceptance.
Pranayama is also a wonderful method of purification. It helps to purify ourselves on more subtle levels of consciousness. I find it clears my mind. When I practice, subtle sweating comes that feels like things are coming out from more subtle levels of my existence through the body. Through regular practice of pranayama, I have felt the overall benefit for my mind, body and spirit and I make it part of my everyday life. Like other yoga practices, pranayama makes us understand and work within our limits in order that we may transcend them through acceptance.
Culturally, pranayama can benefit so many people in Scotland. With pranayama, lifestyle is important because in many ways there is not much point in purifying oneself just to go out to the pub and re-toxify afterwards. Lifestyle is important, because pranayama works on such subtle levels and can leave people feeling confused, light-headed and unprepared. Heating pranayamas are also relevant for Scottish weather to keep people warm and their bodies in order.
As I have discussed, hatha yoga has remarkable relevance for both me and my culture. Thanks to my upbringing, I was left to figure out for myself the ancient whispering in the winds and the gentle humming of the mountains. They have left strong impressions and inspired me greatly. The Scottish culture helps me to respect and feel one with nature, and yoga also points towards that respect and suggests living it in our lifestyle.
Our body is composed of the elements and consciousness existing within everything we are. Hatha yoga reminds us to respect the total connection and unification with all that is within and without, through purifying ourselves. We are led to self-understanding, our actions become pure and the mind is ready to develop meditation.
Culturally, hatha yoga is relevant in Scotland to help develop people's consciousness and plant the seeds of purification that can lead naturally to a greater understanding of the way things are, a higher state of awareness and self-acceptance, which can solve so many of our problems such as depression, stress, lack of love, compassion and a misunderstanding of ourselves and our condition. Hatha yoga helps us live with ourselves and each other in unity, harmony and love and in a higher state of conscious awareness and presence. It benefits us, our environment and consciousness on every level of our being.