Most forms of yoga in the West can be classified as Hatha Yoga. Hatha, defined as ‘force’ simply refers to the practice of physical yoga postures and practices, meaning that styles such as astanga, vinyasa, Iyengar and Power Yoga classes etc. are all hatha yoga. ... Hatha practices are designed to align and calm your body, mind and spirit in preparation for meditation. Getting to a point where your mind can be stilled is in essence what you are trying to attain - so the fluctuations of the mind are controlled: the mind is not the master, rather you are in control of your mind. In the yoga sutras, the main yoga text (by Patanjali), the second sutra 1.2 states ‘yogasgcittavrttinirodhah’ which means ‘yoga is the ability to direct the mind exclusively toward an object without any distractions’, i.e. being able to sit with yourself comfortably without anything distracting you so you are comfortable in every aspect; physical, mental, emotional and spiritual.
The sutras give the most precise and clear instruction on practicing yoga in a systemised, coherent and accessible form. The teachings direct the practitioner towards leading a happier and healthier life away from duhkham (suffering).
There is far more philosophy and psychology contained within the sutras than focus on postures (asana) which the West tends to think of as yoga. However, the asana have become a far more necessary part of yoga with our increasingly sedentary lifestyle, so it is unsurprising that they have more focus nowadays. A natural evolution. Unfortunately however, there is also an increased focus on the ‘image’ of yoga and what things look like. There are millions of pictures all over the media of slim, fit, young people doing tricky poses or rather ‘affected’ moves. Yoga is not meant to be like this. It is about what it does, not what it looks like. When I teach I give focus to function before form; this always takes priority. I.e. we must look at why we are doing something, what we are trying to achieve rather than pushing bodies into positions that are unsuitable for that person; perhaps they are too inflexible or maybe 'too' flexible to be getting any benefits, or the 'textbook' posture may be unsuitable because of injury. This is a crucial aspect of my guidance when teaching. Yoga is a powerful tool for healing and self transformation and is for everyone, of all shapes and sizes, creeds, sexes etc. Yoga is not what it is often portrayed as being, but is an individual and practical experience that will make you healthier and happier. You cannot just read about it, you have to do it... perhaps this is the reason for its success and its saturation within the media; it works!