hatha yoga

lit. "forceful yoga." A system of physical and mental exercise developed in ancient times as a means of rejuvenation by rishis ("seers" or Vedic bards) and tapasvins (ascetics) who meditated for long hours, and used today in preparing the body and mind for meditation. Its elements are 1) postures (asana), 2) cleansing practices (dhauti or shodhana), 3) breath control (pranayama), 4) locks (bandha, which temporarily restrict local flows of prana) and 5) hand gestures (mudra), all of which regulate the flow of prana and purify the inner and outer bodies. Hatha yoga is broadly practiced in many traditions. In the West, hatha yoga has been adopted as a health-promoting, limbering, stress-reducing form of exercise, often included in aerobic routines. Esoterically, ha and tha, respectively, indicate the microcosmic sun (ha) and moon (tha), which symbolize the masculine current, pingala nadi, and feminine current, ida nadi, in the human body.