Finally meeting the “prop master,” then “teaching” in his class

As far as Iyengar workshops in Hawai’i there are seasons of feast of famine. Let’s just say this past month has  been like “Thanksgiving” as two senior teacher workshops overlapped each other: last week Laurie Blakeney, and this week H.S. Arun. I have been fortunate enough to be able to attend a little bit of both. I finally met H.S. Arun at his book signing at Val Hobensack’s backyard studio in Kailua over the weekend. Arun remembered my blog post I wrote two years ago.

I attended his class yesterday. My blogging friend Luci Yamamoto (Yogaspy) gave me a primer on his classes and said it is okay to take pictures, so I kept my phone handy and snapped away at some of his beautiful demos using various props the way props aren’t supposed to be propped. It was nice to see how he actually taught the poses, as until now I have only relied on his photos. He made a nice adjustment in chair trikonasana by bending the elbow and holding the side rail of the chair back. Whenever I try to teach this, I get fouled up by varying arm lengths and chair sizes. Bending the elbow is an elegant solution.

IMG_1763He also taught Virabhadrasana II with the strap on the outside of his foot. This added a strong sense of the “earth element” on the back side of the pose and gave a sense of how to lift the torso from the armpit chest from the strap side.IMG_1770

As fate would have it, he asked if there were any teachers in the class after doing Virabhadrasana I with a strap. A few of us raised our hand, and he pointed at me and said “go in front of the class and teach Virabhadrasana I.” I took a deep breath and taught the complete classic pose with demo. I think that is the first time I was asked to spot teach in front of a room full of students. It brought back memories of my apprenticeship when I would be summoned by my mentoring teachers to teach a pose in class. Arun gave me a few nice corrections on my teaching the pose as I said “bend the knee.” He suggested to instruct lowering the buttock and let the knee follow with the buttock moving faster. Inside my head I felt my teaching was very dry and basic after a week and a half of hearing brilliant instruction from senior teachers. Despite that, most of the students did the pose well based on my instructions.

Arun finished class in a sophisticated setu bandha setup. He pointed to a plate of Iyengar in Sarvangasana and made note of the hand placement. He said that eventually, the sequence is to drop back into setu bandha in the sarvangasana hand position as seen below.

setu bandha iyengar

The way setu bandha is normally taught to is with a single block under the sacrum. He used two blocks to mimic the placement of the hands in classical setu bandha. He gave options to move the blocks to the kidneys, sacrum or lower buttocks for different effects. I found the kidney placement quite soothing.

IMG_1805

 

On a side note, it was very nice to connect with Val Hobensack again. She was my original Iyengar teacher from many years ago. She spent many patient years hammering my poses even before I was capable of listening to her detailed instructions. Before moving to Kailua, she would teach out of her living room in her Diamond Head home. And thank you Robin Mishell for being instrumental in organizing this wonderful workshop!

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6 thoughts on “Finally meeting the “prop master,” then “teaching” in his class

  1. k8macdo

    Love your posts! I used the groin releaser (with belt) yesterday in my (drum roll please!) ashtanga class! (I’m not a very traditional ashtangi!) It had the desired effect and seemed to be universally appreciated after our navasana variations.

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    1. k8macdo

      PS Must find another “name” for this. My son tells me that “groin releaser” or “groin anything” is to be avoided. “Hip flexor release”?
      heh heh…

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  2. YogaSpy

    Thanks for the shout-out! Wow, Hawaii is on the map and not ignored by senior Iyengar yoga teachers (Oahu, anyway). Your photos refreshed my memory of HS Arun’s prop creativity, which emphasizes how props are eminently adaptable to the practitioner and purpose. In other words, they can ease a pose or ramp it up.

    You were asked to teach Vir I on the spot by Arun? That was as big a test as IJ1, I’d say!

    I must try the supported Setu Bandha with two blocks “higher” (kidney area) up the back. I’ve used two blocks before but only under the sacrum. Higher up, two blocks indeed can mimic hands and would increase upper torso opening (without pressing on the spine).

    Yoga Spy has been hibernating due to other priorities, but I’m preparing a spring and summer return. Thanks for the inspiration!

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    1. yogibattle Post author

      Always honored when you stop by Luci and glad to rouse you from your hibernation. Sounds like you are doing important work for the IYAC/ACYI. The nice thing about Hawaii is that it is a nice stop over en route to Pune, so we often get some great senior teachers who pop in. Your hometown of Hilo is also attracting more Iyengar students, as my mentoring teacher Ray Madigan is doing a TT there once a month. It is nice to see the seeds of Iyengar yoga sprouting everywhere. As always, many blessings to you!

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