The great sage Patanjali defines yoga as the restraint of the modifications of the mind. Hatha yoga is a method of cleansing and bringing the mind under the control of the will through physical postures. The body is used as a tool to control the mind and work the pranic body. Hatha is a Sanskrit word which has different levels of meaning corresponding to different realisations of our reality. At the grossest level it means a gentle forcing of old habits out of the body and new ones in. When we understand where the gentle forcing comes from, we move from body awareness to cosmic truth – universal energy fields: sun and moon, which is what hatha literally means. As we cognise our physical relationship with the universe our understanding shifts, taking us into deeper levels of realisation.
The physical is used to obtain the deeper philosophy of yoga by drawing the attention from the grosser parts to the finer parts: first to witness our posture from head to toe – sitting, standing, walking, in every moment. This is the beginning of mind-fulness. Then working deeper – feeling the organs in the body and feeling subtle energies throughout the body. The experience of anything gross is a pointer to something finer and less visible. And in hatha yoga we become aware on how the gross impacts or inhibits the finer: physical posture impacts on internal organs which impact on the flow of energy. Hatha yoga means becoming increasingly conscious from one level to another.
When you are holding a yoga posture, observe what the mind is doing: is it grumbling at having to hold the position? Does it want to go back to bed? When you gently exercise your will over your mind, you are training the mind to remain calm, the breath to remain slow, and the body to remain relaxed in any stressful situation you might encounter in life. Not only are you developing a good physical posture but you are developing an inner posture as well. You are learning to go to your edge and then go that little bit further, so when someone pushes you to your limit; you will find you can go that little bit further in tolerance, peace and love.