The Limitations of the Path of Hatha Yoga

As we would expect from any process that relies primarily on the physical body and its operations, Hatha Yoga tends to require enormous input of time and focus in order to achieve the ultimate results. Those who practice Hatha Yoga simply for the general health and wellness effects may be able to find a “cost/benefit” payoff in the practice, and certainly, applying the science of how the body operates on an energetic level, and gaining partial mastery over some of its processes, is certainly a benefit for helping to optimize the outer life in the world. However, to achieve the end result of union with the Divine through Hatha Yoga tends to involve substantially more focus and time and effort because the body, at the lowest plane of our action, has very little “leverage”, and thus, those who are called to practice this path in earnest will wind up not having time to realistically balance the activities of the outer life effectively, nor therefore be able to provide any effective benefit to others through that activity.

Sri Aurobindo describes the concern: “But the weakness of Hathayoga is that its laborious and difficult processes make so great a demand on the time and energy and impose so complete a severance from the ordinary life of men that the utilisation of its results for the life of the world becomes either impracticable or is extraordinarily restricted.”

He points out further that the inner development that can be achieved through this effort can likely be attained by other paths that provide greater “leverage” for the inner life with much less cost of time, effort and focus.

“On the other hand, the physical results, increased vitality, prolonged youth, health, longevity are of small avail if they must be held by us as misers of ourselves, apart from the common life, for their own sake, not utilised, not thrown into the common sum of the world’s activities. Hathayoga attains large results, but at an exorbitant price and to very little purpose.”

Within the general limits, Hatha Yoga can be a starting point, and provide some general benefits to provide a foundation and basis for more intensive spiritual practices. We are asked, however, to keep in mind the limits within which it can be a benefit to the larger goals.

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Introduction: The Conditions of the Synthesis, Chapter 4, The Systems of Yoga, pp. 29-30