The Principles Underlying the Practice of Hatha Yoga

There is a link between mind and body which Western science is now acknowledging. This link has been known and utilized for millennia by the practitioners of Hatha Yoga to bring about changes in the state of consciousness through changes made to the physical body through a series of modifications known as mudras (gestures), bandhas (locks or holds) and specific placement of the body’s limbs to facilitate specific flow or holding up of energy (asana), combined with control of the vital force, most notably through breath control as the means (pranayama). The seeker following the path of Hatha Yoga undertakes strenuous and disciplined practices in order to control and direct the flow of energy, and with it the conscious awareness, to eventually bring about a state of higher awareness, and the development of the facility of the yogic trance.

Much of what we see and hear of “yoga” in the modern world is the practice of the physical poses, asanas, utilized for their secondary benefits of health, energy and wellness, without paying attention to the deeper significance and use of these practices.

Sri Aurobindo describes the background and principles that underpin the practice of Hatha Yoga in its original sense: “The body is the key, the body the secret both of bondage and of release, of animal weakness and of divine power, of the obscuration of the mind and soul and of their illumination, of subjection to pain and limitation and of self-mastery, of death and of immortality. The body is not to the Hathayogin a mere mass of living matter, but a mystic bridge between the spiritual and the physical being…”

“In fact, the whole aim of the Hathayogin may be summarized fro mour point of view, though he would not himself put it in that language, as an attempt by fixed scientific processes to give to the soul in the physical body the power, the light, the purity, the freedom, the ascending scales of spiritual experience which would naturally be open to it, if it dwelt here in the subtle and the developed causal vehicle.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Two: The Yoga of Integral Knowledge, Chapter 27, Hathayoga, pg. 507