At a time when yoga is being used for propaganda, politics and profit-driven initiatives, H.S. Arun, one of the foremost disciples of B.K.S. Iyengar, corrects myths surrounding this ancient system of Indian philosophy. When I meet him at his home for an interview, I am struck by his vitality. Dressed in simple attire, a kurta with pants, Arun is warm and friendly.
For thirty years, he has been successfully running his institute, Prashant Yogashraya, which is located in a quiet locality of Jayanagar. People from all walks of life, including well-known personalities, have been his students. He has won several titles, including Yoga Sri, Yoga Bhaskara, Yoga Praveena, Adarsha Yogacharya and was awarded the Rajyostva Award by the Government of Karnataka. Throughout the interview, though, Arun doesn’t make a single mention of his achievements. Instead, he speaks about yoga and of his dedication to B.K.S. Iyengar.
Critical of the misuse of yoga, Arun says: “Yoga doesn’t need hype. It is not propaganda. Yoga is a subject to study, then practice, and then teach.”
“Now the reverse is happening. People teach, practice and then study. Study is different and practice is different,” Arun says, displaying his lively sense of humour. “Without an experience of practice, it is unethical to teach,” says Arun, adding, “Yoga is not a physical workout. And it is not religion. It is beyond religion. It is non-separation of the body, mind and soul. It comes from the heart. Yoga transforms the person. But for that you need patience. Asana and pranayama will help you achieve peace of mind and that will lead to dhyana.”
Arun, who was born in Sringeri in 1954, started his career at a chartered accountant company. In 1974, he suffered from asthma and wheezing and on a recommendation of a colleague, decided to try yoga as a remedy. He was initiated to yoga in 1974, by late Janakiraman, and within two years of his practice, he was cured of asthma. In 1976, he started teaching yoga at the Rashtrothana Shareerika Siksha Kendra in Bengaluru. A couple of years later, he gave a session in front of B.K.S. Iyengar, which changed his life. “When he saw me conducting a class, he told me, ‘you are not teaching. You have to come down to the students’ level.”
Arun was only 19 then, but that guidance stayed with Arun, and he spent years imbibing it. “Teaching often becomes poetic or mythological, and students don’t understand. More than being a teacher, I like to share with my students. When I give a class, I let them see what I am doing.” He believes in giving personal attention to every student. “I want to connect with them through friendliness and compassion, so that everyone can benefit from what I have practiced and what I am sharing.” He clearly states that his Institute is not a business centre. “I want students, not customers. We don’t treat our students as clients.”
Arun has also written and published more than 15 books in Kannada. His most popular book, one that is close to his heart, is Experiment and Experience on the Chair: The Yoga Way , which has a foreword written by B.K.S. Iyengar. “The second edition has a personal letter to me by Guruji. In this book, you can see my art. You can see my meditation.” The book sold nearly 2000 copies within six months of its release, and has even been sold in Switzerland, China, Greece, USA, the Philippines, Indonesia, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Spain, among other countries. “There are other books about yoga on the chair. But in my book, it is not just about ‘using’ the chair, it depicts meditation and reflection.”
Experiment and Experience on the Chair: The Yoga Way is available on Flipkart, Amazon.in, Yogamatters in the UK and Iynaus in the US.