It irks me that the current usage in the Yoga community of the sanskrit term “Haṭha Yoga” (हठयोग) is taken to mean a gentle (sometimes restorative) style of Yoga.
Haṭha means persistence or force. In Haṭha Yoga Pradīpikā, the author sage Svātmārāma ascribes the traditional methods of persistence or force to the austerities (or self-torture) performed on the physical body in preparation for Yoga.
In Siddhasiddhant Paddhati, Gorakshanath relates the word to the spiritual union of Shakti with Shiv (God Principle), where ha (ह) refers to Shivabija (breathing through the right channel), and ṭha (ठ) refers to Vahnibija (breathing through the left channel). Haṭha definitely does not mean sun-moon in sanskrit, despite what every Yoga teacher thinks or says!
In modern times, Haṭha Yoga, the post-modern revival of a diasporic culture, popularized by the celebrity appeal of the imagery of body beautiful and of physical culture, presents itself as a lifestyle choice and recreational activity for those who can afford the luxury.
The diverse range of Yoga brands and styles are living testament to the exoteric modernity of the tools of Yoga, no longer provincial to the esoteric few. Without the base of ancient traditions and lineage to ground and direct, Haṭha Yoga educators can choose to separate what they want out of the practice (e.g. health aspect), omit what they do not want (e.g. religious aspect), and draw on inspiration to add new ideas (e.g. Hot Nude Yoga).
Is it any wonder that some people think that Haṭha Yoga is Evil dressed in lambskin?
What are your thoughts?