Sri Chinmoy: Some people take these exercises to keep the body fit, free from physical ailments and so forth; while others take them in order to get realisation. But realisation can never be had by merely doing Hatha Yoga exercises. What these exercises actually do is to help the seeker enter into the true spiritual life.
In the beginning a child, when he reads, he reads aloud in order to convince his parents that he is reading. But a grown-up person does not do that. He reads silently. Now in the physical world, there is a similarity. Right now most of us are physically very restless, no better than monkeys. We cannot stay more than a second without getting restless. But there are aspirants who can just sit down and make their minds calm and quiet and then they enter into the deeper regions of the being. It is these physical exercises and postures, when we do them, which relax our body and give us peace of mind for a short period of time.
But these exercises will never give us realisation ... never! These are the preliminary stages. We say in our true spiritual system that the beginners in Hatha Yoga are like kindergarten students. And one can easily skip kindergarten. But we have to go from kindergarten to elementary school, high school, college and then to university. Concentration, meditation and contemplation are taught in the higher courses. Otherwise just by taking physical exercises and making the body strong, the athletes, the boxers, the wrestlers would all have realised God by this time. All the sportsmen would be God-realised souls!
I must emphasise the fact that Hatha Yoga exercises are far superior to the Western system of exercises which are often done abruptly, vigorously and, to some extent, violently. The Hatha Yoga exercises are done calmly, quietly, in a meditative mood. They strengthen the nerves and calm the mind, unlike most of the Western exercises.
The body is necessary. We must have a sound and solid body so that the soul can act in and through the body in the field of manifestation. But if we expect something more from the body, then we are being foolish.