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.
Reblogged this on IYENGAR YOGA BLOG.
I’ll have to check out some videos of him! Looks and sounds inspiring!
This is why I love Iyengar yoga! It really is for everybody!!
wow….now i’m so curious to try this guy! where does it teach regularly? and do you have any idea about his wokshop tours or any website with latest news?
my back need him!
Last summer I took a weekend workshop with HS Arun at the Iyengar Yoga Institute of San Francisco. He indeed did do the gamut of propped poses (revealing a new side to props). All of the basic standing poses were propped with a chair, which forced lower, deeper, very intense, more challenging poses. Whoever considers the chair a prop for beginners would see things differently (and feel it) after a class with this teacher.
Backbends were also propped with ropes, a chair, or a combination. Again, they were strong poses and required a different kind of coordination than unpropped backbends. The Sarvangasana family of poses were also done on the chair, not only the standard way (lying over the seat backward), but also the opposite way (pelvis at the front of the seat) to allow various leg positions.
Since he didn’t mind students taking pictures, everyone (at least half the group) whipped out their cameras or cell phones to document the set-ups. It was like paparazzi shooting a movie star. In a way, that atmosphere (all the picture taking, click click click) made the workshop a bit chaotic and out of body/mind, if you know what I mean. (Note: I typically dislike/disallow photo taking in class (depending on whether I’m a student or a teacher). It’s distracting. But that weekend I did take a bunch of pics myself.)
The photo of him in Virabhadrasana I really captures the openness in his shoulders. Watching him do a “simple” Urdhva Hastasana or Parvatasana made me realize how restricted most people are (with arms struggling to align with the ears, much less way behind the head).
I hope to meet you in Honolulu someday!
Thanks Luci! Your blog is what inspired me to start writing my blog. Thank you for filling in some of the blanks about Arunji’s classes, he has quite a practice. I like a teacher who make you think twice about simple things. Come by the studio if you are on O’ahu, we’re in Manoa.
I am back to yoga after 30 years and at 71 have found the props the reason I can do yoga again.
So glad you are practicing at 71! I appreciate you stopping by my blog and sharing.
I organize Arun’s US Tours. My picture is the older white guy in Pavana Muktasana above. My name is Jim. I’ll be in Bangalore in two weeks for Arunji’s 60th birthday and the release of his new book about yoga on the chair. You can contact me if you have questions about when ARun will be back in the US
BTW – Arun received an Advanced Jr. certificate from Guruji quite a few years ago. His studio in Bangalore which just celebrated it’s 30 year anniversary is named after Guruji’s son – Prashant Yogashraya
Thanks Jim! It would be nice to take Arunji’s workshop if he is on the West Coast next year. I am in Hawai’i, but would travel to see him. Thank you for your response.
I have been the U.S. host for H.S. Arun since his first trip in 2005. Recently, I read your article: H.S. Arun, Prop Master! It was brilliant, and I’d like to post it and share it.
Looking forward to hearing frOM you, and hoping you’ll be able to take a class with Arun ji soon.
Love the renderings of Narasimha!
peace IN PEACE out,
Please contact me directly. Thanks.
Btw, this is my second attempt at contacting you as the first one failed.
Thanks for your kind words Gopali!
You have my full permission to share this article.
If any questions, contact me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you again,
I am a humble beginner in yoga and I had been practising under Shri Arun ji (i prefer calling him guru g / sir) since dec 2014 in Bangalore. Nice to hear all these pleasing comments about him.
Thanks for reading! You are blessed with a wonderful teacher.
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Dear Michael, long time no talk ! i am Fanny from the former blog “iyengaryoganotes” … i have my own studio now in Nice France and i am really pleased to host Arunji for a week-end of practice in my studio. On that occasion i read again your lovely posts about him, and this one made me very enthusiastic about his coming in Nice ! I would like to ask you permission to translate it in french and use it in my blog in order to communicate my enthusiasm to thos who don’t know him yet. Of course i will mention and link to your blog. are you OK with this? hugs from Nice ! Fanny
Of course you have my permission 🙂 Please say “hello” to him for me. I’m sure you will have a wonderful workshop. Aloha from Hawaii.
fantastic ! thank you very much, i will sure say hello… and salut from Nice 😉