In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali tells us that when the fluctuations of consciousness cease we have the experience of our true nature, which he calls the drastuh. The closest English equivalent we have for drastuh is the Witness, or Seer. In other texts it is called the Atman or Soul. Ultimately, all of the techniques of yoga are designed to facilitate this experience of soul, or Essence. When we are fortunate enough to have this experience, we begin to realize that deep within us is an awareness that is unconditioned and eternal. This realization is a crucial step in preparing for death because it allows us to make the distinction between the Seer and the Seen. The mind, the body, and the emotions are all part of the seen, which has only a temporary existence and is highly conditioned by our experience. If we attach ourselves to these things, wittingly or unwittingly we are inviting suffering because they will all come to an end.
The key to practicing a highly physical discipline like hatha yoga without becoming more attached to our physical form is to recognize that the intention of this practice is the refinement of awareness. Asana and pPranayama are forms of tapas (which is translated literally “to burn”)–physical practices that are done for the purpose of purification. Patanjali tells us that tapas eliminates impurities and cleanses and strengthens the Indriyas (the organs of perception), which include the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, skin, and mind. When the Indriyas are clean and strong, our discriminative faculty is greatly enhanced. We can move easily and clearly distinguish between the Seer and the Seen.
We begin to recognize that we are not the form we animate, but the force of animation itself. We have a body, but we are consciousness. The body is born; it grows, ages, and dies. The seer watches this process dispassionately. Pattabhi Jois says, “The body is just a rented house.” Through the practice of hatha yoga, we keep the body clean and healthy so it lasts a long time, and at the same time we refine our awareness so we can realize that what dies is the outer covering. Essence endures.
Excerpt from Yoga Journal Article How Yoga Can Prepare Us For Death, by Tim Miller
Today yoga has a large following in the West and many consider it synonymous with posture practice. How has hatha yoga, specifically asana practice, taken center stage, and what role has the West played in that? These are questions addressed in two new releases: Yoga Body: The Origins of Modern Posture Practice, by Mark Singleton, and The Subtle Body: The Story of Yoga in America, by Stefanie Syman.
Yoga Body begins by examining perceptions of hatha yoga before and during Vivekananda’s time. Singleton writes:
At the time of Vivekananda’s synthesis of yoga in the 1890s, postural practice was primarily associated with the yogin (or more popularly, “yogi”). This term designated in particular the hatha yogins of the Nath lineage, but was employed more loosely to refer to a variety of ascetics, magicians, and street performers. Often confused with the Mohammedan “fakir,” the yogi came to symbolize all that was wrong in certain tributaries of the Hindu religion. The postural contortions of hatha yoga were associated with backwardness and superstition.
In his talks, Vivekananda never used the word “yoga,” a curious fact in light of some current scholarship which proposes that modern, transnational yoga began with him. Moreover, Vivekananda did not contort himself into the bow pose or any other asana. In India a yoga revival connected with Indian nationalism was in full swing, and Vivekananda was an advocate of the movement. But he avoided the word “yoga” because he thought Westerners would find it too foreign and frightening, and he avoided hatha yoga altogether because—along with the majority of his compatriots—he found it distasteful and wholly unsuitable for the yoga revival.
Excerpts from Mindful Article Yoga’s Twisted History by Andrea Miller
The Haṭha Yoga Pradīpikā (Sanskrit: haṭhayōgapradīpikā, हठयोगप्रदीपिका) is a classic Sanskrit manual on hatha yoga, written by Svāmi Svātmārāma, a disciple of Swami Gorakhnath. Said to be the oldest surviving text on the hatha yoga, it is one of the three classic texts of hatha yoga, the other two being the Gheranda Samhita and the Shiva Samhita. A fourth major text, written at a later date by Srinivasabhatta Mahayogaindra, is the Hatharatnavali.
Its titles in the A.C. Woolner collection are described by the Library of the University of Vienna as Haṭhayogapradīpikā, Haṭhapradīpikā, Haṭhapradī, Hath-Pradipika. The text was written in 15th century CE. The work is derived from older Sanskrit texts and Swami Svatmarama’s own yogic experiences. Many modern English translations of the text are available.
The book consists four Upadeśas (chapters) which include information about asanas, pranayama, chakras, kundalini, bandhas, kriyas, shakti, nadis and mudras among other topics. It runs in the line of Hindu yoga (to distinguish from Buddhist and Jain yoga) and is dedicated to Śrī (Lord) ādi nāthā (Adinatha), a name for Lord Shiva (the Hindu god of destruction and renewal), who is believed to have imparted the secret of hatha yoga to his divine consort Parvati.
Excerpt from Wikipedia Article Hatha Yoga Pradipika