I mentioned this website, Vedanta and Yoga podcast on a previous post but it was a little hidden away. I've been listening to it all week and am quite taken with it. The podcast below are based on Vivekananda's book Raja Yoga. Vivekananda was highly influential in the popular revival of yoga in India at the end of the 19th century. Although he wasn't so much interested in Hatha yoga ( see Mark Singleton's book for a discussion of why) Ashtangai's tend to have strong leanings towards Raja yoga, Patanjali's Yoga Sutra's for example, can be said to be a Raja yoga text.
So I practice Pranayama, everyday, ten to twenty minutes, before and after my asana practice. I practice it as an aid to meditation and as an exercise in concentration. However, I'm aware, and have been for awhile, that prana doesn't stand for breath so much as a kind of energy.Pranayama is supposed to be about controlling this energy, controlling the breath is just one aspect of this larger scheme. In fact as I found out from the lectures, it's not even about controlling the breath so much as the motion of the lungs, well there you go.
The whole Prana/Apana Kundalini model is a bit of a turn off for me I have to admit. I tend to glaze over and switch off. On a good day I accept that there is no doubt a useful and interesting model there but that it's been appropriated by the New Age 'industry' that probably doesn't do it justice. Not dismissing the New Age movement out of hand but just the industry that's built up around it and smothered it such that I wouldn't know where to start to find something genuine.
I'm not that interested in finding bliss, self realization or stepping outside the cycle of rebirth. All I want from all this is clarity of mind, focus and concentration and most of all a way of experiencing Heidegger's deconstruction of the Subject and Object experiential rather than merely intellectually, some regular glimpses behind the veil perhaps. If self realization comes as a by product of that then fine but I'm not aiming so high or holding my breath and not even convinced there's a self to be realized. But hey, things change, never thought I'd be chanting.
So lectures/podcasts on Prana, Apana and Kundalini that grab and hold MY attention must be worth listening too. I like them because they're based, as I said on Vivekananda's hundred year old text. I feel I have a bit of a grasp now of the Prana model and how Pranayama relates to it. Not sure how much of it I'll be taking on board but I just ordered the book and want to know more.
You can go to itunes, search for Vedanta and yoga and find the whole Raja yoga series or you can just go for the Prana sections below.
I have a feeling that Krishnamacharya taught at the Vivekananda institute after leaving Mysore but am not sure for how long, want to check that out.