In yogic literature we have a number of reliable texts on hatha yoga. The Hatha Yoga Pradipika by Yogi Swatmarama is a very well known one. Another by Yogi Gorakhnath is known as theGoraksha Samhita. A third text is Gherand Samhita by the great sage Gherand. Besides these there is a fourth major text known as which was written later Hatharatnavali by Srinivasabhatta Mahayogindra. All these texts are considered to have been written between the 6th and 15th centuries A.D. There are also minor references to hatha yoga in the ancient Upanishads and Puranas. The Upanishads date back earlier than the Bud dhist period, which was around the 6th century B.C. The references made in the Upanishads indicate that the science of hatha yoga was known well before this period. There is another very important text known as Srimad Bhagavatam, the story of Krishna. In t hat voluminous book, there are references to hatha yoga in several chapters. Evidence of hatha yoga has also been found in the preColombian culture of the Americas. Even now, at St. Augustine, a southern province of Colombia in South America, there are l arge stone figures and carvings depicting hatha yoga practices. However, the systematic form of hatha yoga began to emerge in India sometime in the 6th century A.D. This gives us a glimpse of the historical aspect of hatha yoga. For centuries these books h ave guided spiritual aspirants. Many sects were also formed in India, Nepal and Tibet on the basis of hatha yoga.
What is the subject matter of these books? Is it just to maintain a youthful body, or to obtain psychic powers (siddhis), or is it to develo p the capacity to awaken the potential energy (kundalini) and attain supraconsciousness (samadhi)? As we analyze these texts carefully the purpose becomes very clear. In ancient times hatha yoga was practiced for many years as a preparation for higher stat es of consciousness. Today, however, the real purpose of this great science has been forgotten altogether. The hatha yoga practices, which were designed by the rishis and sages of old for the evolution of mankind, are now being understood and utilized in a very limited sense. Often we hear people say, “Oh, I don’t practice meditation, I only practice physical yoga, hatha yoga.” Now the time has come to correct this point. Hatha yoga is a very important science for humanity today.
Hatha Yoga Pradipika