The primary purpose of Hatha Yoga was and is to release the latent powers of the body...  powers that can facilitate radiant health, self healing, enhanced abilities and numerous other benefits.   Particular poses – called asanas – are sustained for ever increasing durations of time.  The Sanskrit word ‘asana’ means a pose which is both stable and pleasant. The practice of asanas can create a body that is firm, flexible and light.   There is a shamanic element inherent within many of the poses that is often reflected in the names...cobra, tree, cat, lotus etc.

Asanas alone do not constitute the whole of hatha yoga, there are also kriyas (cleansing practices), pranayama (breathing exercises), mudras (attitudes, gestures), bandhas (muscle locks) and mantras (sounds to focus the mind).  
Hatha is practiced for three reasons.   The first is therapeutic and is to promote wellbeing. The various practices and asanas counter the effects of toxins and stress, allowing for the regeneration of cells, tissues and organs.   The asanas can also stimulate the production of hormones, antibodies, antitoxins and enzymes that delay degeneration of cells and so promote health and longevity.

The second reason is to often immobilise the body for a special kind of concentration .We fill the body with awareness, with sensation, distinct from thought. In this way we can develop a sensitivity to the subtle energy, the pure vibration of prana called chi in martial arts.
We also practice the poses for self-mastery . All true magic is a power of mind over matter. The inner struggle of self-discipline can awaken our hidden potentials.

Traditionally Hatha Yoga was seen as a path to youthfulness and longevity for the sake of spiritual liberation. It was also seen as a stairway to meditation.
In our time, Hatha Yoga has often become  distorted, diluted or distanced in relation to its ancient role .
Of course, there are as many styles of yoga now as there are qualities of cheese in France yet all physical yoga is culled to varying degrees from the original Hatha yoga.

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