Hatha Yoga is one of the first types of Yoga with which people have become acquainted world over. Most of the physical formats of Yoga as are popular today are all types of Hatha Yoga. The word ‘hatha’ consists of two seed words – ‘ha’ (sun) means ‘prana’ or energy flowing within the body and ‘tha’ (moon) means the mind or mental energy. Hatha means to bring balance in the energies of the sun and moon, or unify the vital energy of the body with the mental energy.
Hatha Yoga practices seek to still the mental waters to prepare the practitioner for the higher practices of Yoga. It is essentially a manual for scientifically taking one’s body through stages of control to a point at which one-pointed focus on the un-manifested Self is possible. It takes the practitioner to the peaks of “Raja Yoga i.e. the state of one pointed mind”. Hatha Yoga Pradipika states – “There can be no perfection if Hatha Yoga is without Raja Yoga, or Raja Yoga is without Hatha Yoga. Only with practice of both, perfection is attained”. Therefore, hatha Yoga is not a system of its own, but is merely a preliminary step for reaching to higher practices of Yoga.
Hatha Yoga involves maneuvering the body through its distinct practices i.e. through particular postures (asanas), along with breathing techniques (pranayama) involving neuro-muscular locks (bandhas), gestures (mudra) for controlling the life airs within the body and calming of the mind through relaxation and meditation. The term Hatha Yoga also has a specific measuring, to connote a special set of internal Yogic cleansing techniques, known as ‘Shat Karmas’. The main goal of Hatha yoga is to help keep the body in shape and free from disease, the mind peaceful and steady for spiritual pursuits, and the inner energy balanced and flowing.
Hatha Yoga is very useful in whatever spiritual process we pursue. If our body is too diseased, and if our mind too restless and unsteady, they become a hindrance in our quest for spiritual awareness and perfection. Having said this, although it is a part of spiritual process, even when taken as an isolated exercise technique without any spiritual interest one can still use it and acquire its benefits.