At my Iyengar yoga assessment last September, one of the candidates told me about a teacher from Bangalore who would give yearly workshops in Santa Fe. “This guy is a prop master,” she said, then showed me one of his teachings: a simple version of Pavana Muktasana (see below) with a white strap in a three foot loop with one end behind the knees, the other end around the neck. Five minutes in this pose turned my tight back to butter. The constant tension of the thighs pushing against the strap in the pose makes the muscle fibers in the back unwind one-by-one until the back is completely softened. This was revolutionary. “He does this every night after he teaches coupled with Supta Padangusthasana to relieve the stress from teaching,” she said.
The man is H.S. Arun. He has been teaching yoga since 1976 under the tutelage of BKS Iyengar who awarded him with a Advanced Junior certification. Full disclosure, I have never met Arun or attended one of his classes. That is what makes his practice more intriguing to me.
I sought him out on YouTube. If you saw this man walking down the street, you wouldn’t even think of him as a yoga practitioner. This man is an accountant by profession and looks very much the part. All you would see is just see a 60ish year old man in workout gear, like they kind you would see your gramps wearing to the gym. Ha ha Lululemon! Watching him do yoga, that illusion transforms. In all of his poses, he demonstrates beautifully. In the final pose, he closes his eyes and looks peaceful and content. Not just easy poses. Poses like Yogadandasana (as seen below) where you have to rotate your hip so much that your foot is placed in the armpit. Poses like Krounchasana, where one leg is fully flexed in Virasana, and the other leg is extended up.
His Facebook page which is rife with pictures of him a various workshops, as he is just finishing a US tour. The photos inspire. He doing Virabhardrasana I with a long strap looped around his back foot and hold the other end above his head. I tried this today, and have never felt such a stable and even backbend in this pose…ever!
Iyengar yoga gets its undo share of ribbing for its use of props. But this man takes it the other way. He shows what is possible with the use of props like no other teacher I have seen. And at 60 years old, he looks like he is still in his 30s when doing asana…and far better than any 30 year old I’ve seen!
So far I have had much success in reverse engineering the poses just based on his photographs and videos. I even had my uncle who has severe back problems do the Pavana Muktasana as mentioned above. My uncle felt immediate relief. Arun highlights the innovativeness of the Iyengar method and inspires me to want to experiment more with props to see what is possible. Perhaps one day I will be fortunate enough to attend one his workshops.