“In India physical methods have been used for religious ends since at least 1000 bce. For two millennia these methods were simple techniques of privation in which the body was mortified, usually by holding a particular posture for long periods, in order to acquire tapas, ascetic power. The details of their performance were not transmitted in texts but, we must assume, passed on orally within ascetic lineages.
In the early part of the second millennium ce, a somatic soteriology whose physical methods are body-affirming appears in textual sources; some of its practices are depicted soon after in the material record. In certain Sanskrit texts these methods of yoga were classified as hatha, which means ‘force’; hathayoga means ‘yoga by means of force’. In this chapter I shall analyse the history of the codification of ha. thayoga techniques up to the composition of the 1400 ce Hathapradīpikā, which became hathayoga’s locus classicus. In so doing I shall show how the name hathayoga originated as a Vajrayāna (Buddhist tantric) term for the restraint of orgasm by the male practitioner in sexual ritual, and then trace its subsequent use to denote an increasing range of physical methods until its apotheosis in the Śaiva Hathapradīpikā, the first text to use it to denote complex physical postures and methods of breath control…”