Hatha Yoga strives to bring balance between the sun and the moon within you, or the Pingala and Ida in you. It is a physical preparatory tool for higher possibilities. Taking it further, one can deduce someone's mental/emotional state just by looking at their posture; for example, if someone is angry they will sit differently than if they are happy. This science of Asanas works in reverse, whereby consciously changing your posture can also elevate your consciousness.
The mechanics of the practice as you see it in most places today are simply of the body.
To lead you towards the experience of Yoga - union, and boundlessness, we use physical postures, understand the mechanics of the body, and create an atmosphere to drive energy in specific directions. This is what Hatha Yoga is about. It isn't exercise – asana means posture. If a person sits in one way it is one asana. Eighty-four fundamental postures have been identified out of the immense amount of postures that can be taken by the body.
In English, the Sanskrit word “hatha” is translated as “willful” or “forceful,” as the active path of yoga, or as “sun” and “moon”, as the yoga of balance. A set of willful and active practices, hatha yoga aims to bring harmony and balance to the mind, body, and spirit when taken together. This approach to yoga is often called “the forceful path” and includes the practice of physical postures and breathing techniques.
In the history of yoga, hatha yoga is a relatively recent technique that was developed from the theories and techniques of Tantra Yoga. During the tantric era, physical-spiritual connections and body-centered practices led to Hatha Yoga, as the tantric saw the physical body as the means to attain enlightenment. In contrast, Hatha Yoga aims to transform the physical body through purification and cultivating subtle energies within it.
This type of yoga aims to draw vital energy up toward the crown chakra by directing it into the central channel. The majority of modern yoga classes do not teach esoteric exercises such as breath retention, bandhas, and mudras that are effective in channeling and elevating one’s energy levels. Raja yoga is characterized by meditation and enlightenment that can be achieved by following the techniques of this form of yoga.
It is the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, the oldest and most widely used ancient text regarding Hatha Yoga's physical practices. In the 15th century CE, Swami Swatamarama wrote this book based on Sanskrit texts, teachings from well-known teachers, and his own yogic experiences. This text aims to illuminate the physical disciplines and practices of Hatha Yoga and integrate them with the higher spiritual goals of Raja Yoga.
Over the last two decades, Yoga has gained increasing traction. Nonetheless, its health benefits are undisputed no matter where you live and what you do. This newfound popularity could be attributed to the scientific community's realization of its far-reaching potential; yet if improper practices take hold, fifteen years down the line, research will reveal its risks and potentially cause a decline in its popularity.
Thus, classical yoga should be revived as it was. It is a terrific process of shaping your system into an amazing vessel, a fabulous device for receiving the Divine if it is taught in a proper atmosphere with a sense of humility and inclusiveness about the whole process.
Hatha Yoga gained popularity in India due to its healing properties and advantageous effects. This paved the way for more Western and Indian teachers to carry on the practice, getting millions of admirers. Today, there are a variety of styles that focus on specific areas of this system.