Hatha Yoga is a branch of yoga that contains a system of physical techniques, including the practice of asanas (postures) and pranayama (breathing exercises). The Sanskrit word ‘hatha’ can be translated two ways – to mean forceful/wilful (alluding to the yoga of activity), or as ‘ha’ (sun) and ‘tha’ (moon), alluding to the yoga of balance. This style of yoga is a process of purification of the gross, subtle and spiritual aspects of the body. By using the body as an instrument we build greater awareness of our selves and our consciousness, and we prepare to enter deeper spiritual practice, such as meditation.
As the term ‘Hatha Yoga’ really just indicates a physical form of practice, many of the styles of yoga practiced now (Ashtanga, Iyengar, Vinyasa etc) also fall under the umbrella of Hatha Yoga. The practice itself emphasizes proper diet, processes to internally purify the body, regulation and control of the breath (particularly during the physical practice), and the sequence of postures designed to allow a free flow of energy throughout the body.