Particularly as promoted in the West, Hatha Yoga is seen as a form of healthful exercise to bring stability and flexibility to the physical body; and of course, it can provide the individual practitioner extraordinary results along these lines when practiced consistently. What is frequently overlooked, however, is the original intent and use of the path of Hatha Yoga. Practitioners of this science were seeking to reach and liberate the divine Force that resides within the body in order to utilize it for higher realisation.
Sri Aurobindo explains: “All the power of the body is stilled, collected, purified, heightened, concentrated to its utmost limits or beyond any limits by Asana and other physical processes; the power of the life too is similarly purified, heightened, concentrated by Asana and Pranayama. This concentration of powers is then directed towards that physical centre in which the divine consciousness sits concealed in the human body. The power of Life, Nature-power, coiled up with all its secret forces asleep in the lowest nervous plexus of the earth-being,–for only so much escapes into waking action in our normal operations as is sufficient for the limited uses of human life,–rises awakened through centre after centre and awakens, too, in its ascent and passage the forces of each successive nodus of our being, the nervous life, the heart of emotion and ordinary mentality, the speech, sight, will, the higher knowledge, till through and above the brain it meets with and it becomes one with the divine consciousness.”
Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Four: The Yoga of Self-Perfection, Chapter 1, The Principle of the Integral Yoga, pg. 583