What is the aim of Hatha yoga? The aim of Hatha yoga is a methodised effort by which you can attain the perfection of the body. This is the minimum aim of Hatha yoga. The perfection of the body is not sought after by Raja yoga, nor by Bhakti yoga, nor by Jnana yoga, nor Karma yoga. But Hatha yoga insists upon the perfection of the body. It is yoga because it aims at perfection. What is the instrument? The instrument is the body itself. The body has potentialities and possibilities and Hatha yoga proposes to use the potentialities of the body so that you can arrive at its total perfection. The next question is: What is the process? The process is asana. Hatha yogis have found out the means of perfecting the body, by a process. If you sit in special and different kinds of postures then various potentialities of the body develop. This is the secret knowledge found out by hatha yogis. Hatha yogis found out that merely by sitting in a particular posture certain faculties and capacities of the body develop. There is another process called pranayama. Pranayama is the control of breath. If you breathe in a particular manner it develops the faculties of the body. This is now known very well. In fact, all over the world when they speak of yoga they mean only asanas and pranayama. They only refer to Hatha yoga. That they are many other yogas is even not told to people. People are simply told yoga is breathing exercises and asanas. There are many kinds of postures for the body and the greatness of this yoga is that they discover so many, intricate processes of postures. To make a study of Hatha yoga itself is a long process and if you practice Hatha yoga it is a very-very long process.
And the results, the aims of Hatha yoga are known. It gives you tremendous health, even if muscle power is not developed. Hatha yogis are not muscle men but their health is extremely great. They can bear any kind of cold, any kind of heat. The body has become so powerful that even in winter they can go into the Ganges and swim without any difficulty at all. We have heard the story of the yogi Dayanand Saraswati who every night used to go to the bank of Ganges almost naked and sleep on the cold sands even in mid-winter without any effect of cold at all. This is only one of the potential achievements of the body. The body can achieve this perfection. The processes are only two: pranayama and asana. So, the instrument is the body and pranayama and asana are methodised. The minimum method of pranayama is inhalation and exhalation — but methodically. Normally we breathe just like that but in yoga you make it a methodised effort. You breathe in a certain process and there is a time limit given: your inhaling is half the time of exhaling, and then there is what is called Kumbhaka when you keep the breath steady in your body neither exhaling or inhaling and you slowly increase this time so the breath reaches every part of the body.
Normally we exhale and inhale so fast that the breath does not reach all parts of the body. Keeping the breath in the body is very important. There are many results that come such as strength and other capacities many methodical methods have been found out by hatha yogis as the result of which you get tremendous capacities of the body. There are many hatha yogis who attain such strength they can bend steel merely by puffing up the breath in the breast; the body can be made as light as possible, like a feather; it can be made as heavier as an elephant. These are the potentialities which have been tested, verified. I have myself seen a hatha yogi in a big conference where the yogi lay on the floor and said, you lift me now. And four muscle-men came forward and they couldn’t lift him. It was a very heavy body. After sometime he said, now lift me again, and he was so easily lifted, like a feather. It is only a question how you breathe, and the power of breathing, as the result of which you can be heavy or very light. The hatha yogis can even live without breathing. The yogi can be put down in a cave of earth where no oxygen moves, it is purely solid, and the yogi can remain for hours and when you open the soil afterwards he comes out as alive as you and I are. These are proven facts; it is not as if these are stories or fictions. In many part of India you have hatha yogis who can manifest these powers. They can prolong their life for an indefinite period. I have met a yogi in Uttar Pradesh called Devariya Baba, a very famous name. How old he was nobody knew, but it was said that he was at least four hundred old and he used to remain absolutely naked in summer and in winter. When I met him it was winter and he was sitting far and when I went there he himself told to his disciple to call me. There were many people, it was a big crowd but from far he spotted me and said, call him. He said some very nice things about me and then he said: “Now I want to swim.” His platform was on the banks of Yamuna, the water was absolutely cold, and he just jumped into the water, naked, and swam in the water for quite some time and then he came out. I have seen a man of this kind myself. His eyesight was perfect at this old age; he could spot me from such a long distance; he could speak very nicely, there was no sign of any feebleness in his voice, only his body looked quite old, that is a fact. But he was more that a hatha yogi, he was doing also a lot of other yogas. In India you have many extraordinary feats of Hatha yoga and these results are not imaginary: they can be verified. It is a proof that yoga is a scientific process, as in a laboratory you can see the results, even so by the practice of yoga you can produce effective results.
Let us now summarise. Hatha yoga is a process of breath control and posture of the body by means of which the potentialities of the body are developed to their highest possible perfection. The aim is perfection of the body; the instrument is the body; and the method is asana and pranayama.