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Where to Practice Yoga in India

Updated: Jun 9

This is a travel guide on where to practice yoga in India, from someone who has spent over 18 months travelling in India, practicing yoga the whole way!



CONTENTS




A group of yoga students doing camel pose on a rooftop in Rishikesh
Practicing Yoga by the Ganges

 

A Short History of Yoga


You may know already that India is the birthplace of Yoga, but did you know that the word Yoga was first referenced in ancient Sanskrit literature dating back 5000 years!?


It was a mere 2500 years later the Bhagavad Gita was written. The Gita is known as the Hindu version of the Bible, and it is basically a symbolic textbook on Yoga.


If you skip forward to 200 CE, that was when Patanjali summarised centuries of scattered knowledge of Yoga in his famous Sutras.


That was still 300 years before the Buddha made an appearance, and it's very obvious he was greatly inspired by Yoga philosophy, he was Indian after all, and there are many similarities between Yoga and the teachings of Buddhism.


The image of Yoga has evolved, but the message is always the same: 'Let go of the ego, know the Self, and achieve liberation from suffering.' The pathway to this is often thought of as the alignment of the mind, body, and spirit.


It's in the last 80 years or so that Yoga Asana (the physical postures, and only one small part of Yoga practice) has gained enormous recognition worldwide, to the point where today on earth, more than 300 million people are practicing Yoga Asana in some form or another.



 

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Types of Yoga


In order for you to know where to practice Yoga in India, it's important to know which aspect of Yoga you are drawn to more. This could be any of the following:


Jnana Yoga: Wisdom + Philosophy

Bhakti Yoga: Devotion to God + Love

Karma Yoga: Selfless Service

Hatha Yoga: The physical aspect we are most familiar with in the West. This can include Asana (posture practice), Pranayama (breath control), and Meditation.



A meditation master beginning a Tibetan singing bowl session in Mysore
A Tibetan Singing Bowls Class in Mysuru


If like most people, it's Hatha Yoga that you're most interested in, this can then be broken down into different styles.


Some of the most common are...


  • Hatha - (Within the umbrella term Hatha) - Physical postures and breathing techniques, practised more slowly and with more static holds than other styles. E.g. Sivananda style.


  • Vinyasa - Faster-paced than Hatha, where movement forms a flowing sequence in coordination with the breath. Classes often include music. Subcategories include Power Yoga and Jivamukti.


  • Mysore Style (Ashtanga) - Ashtanga is the mother of Vinyasa, which means a faster-paced class with lots of repetitions and calisthenic style transitions which build strength quickly. This was developed by Pattabhi Jois of Mysore in South India.


  • Iyengar - Developed by B. K. S. Iyengar; a form of Hatha yoga as an exercise that has an emphasis on detail, precision and alignment. Iyengar Yoga creatively uses many props to make the postures more accessible to every body type.


  • Hot - A method made famous by Bikram Choudhury (who, FYI, has been accused of being a sexual predator by many of his former students, I don't know why people still go to his classes).



 


Where to Practice Yoga in India


Now that we have the different styles laid out (very, very simply); we can look at the best places in India where you can practice Yoga:



MYSORE


Getting there: Fly to Bangalore International Airport, and take a 4-hour bus directly to Mysore.


Serious Ashtangis flock to Mysore year after year for several months at a time to practice with the great Ashtanga teachers. This method of Yoga was coined here, by Sri Patthabi Jois in the early 1960s.


Nowadays you can practice with his grandson, Sharath Jois, at SYC if you apply with plenty of notice. This is the only Yoga school worldwide where if you do a YTTC, you will be officially "Authorised" to teach Ashtanga Yoga. If you decide to go down this serious path bear in mind that you'll be sharing the Shala with about 500 other students.


If you're not too worried about having your name on this list, there are many other amazing teachers in Mysore. Someone worth mentioning is Vijay Kumar of Ashtanga Sadhana. He is observant, encouraging, and dedicated and he's a nice guy too. Vijay, like most other renowned yoga teachers, will only accept students for a minimum of one-month commitment.


If you're after something more casual there are lots of options for drop-in classes and shorter courses. Yoga is everywhere in Mysore! I went to a few very nice back-bending classes at Nirvana Yoga Shala.


Most of the schools are located in the neighbourhood of Gokulam, an up-market area with leafy streets, cute cafes, organic juice stands, a microbrewery, and lots and lots of fellow yoga students. Book yourself a room in this area and you can't go wrong.


If you would like to practice yoga in Mysore, check out my full guide: A Yoga Student's Guide to Mysuru.



I Dream of Mangoes backbends with her yoga teacher
A Back Bending Class at NYS

 

GOA


Getting there: There are direct flights from the UK and the Middle East, or you can take a bus or train overnight from Mumbai or Bangalore.

(For a step-by-step guide on taking the train in India, check out my guide: Train Travel in India for Tourists & Train Classes).


Goa is a great place for those who don't want to spend their off-time in between yoga classes in a city. It may be a tiny state but there are many beaches to choose from, and which one you choose counts!


Arambol (North) for the hippies, Patnem or Agonda (South) for the chilled-out sunbathers, and Anjuna (Central) for the people who like to party! There are 32 other beaches in Goa to choose from to spend your time.


For serious Ashtangis you have Purple Valley Yoga, who host famous Ashtanga teachers for 1-2 week workshops during India's high season (Nov-April).


It's worth noting that Goa is a bit of a ghost town between May and October because of the monsoon. Most schools and cafes shut up shop and move to their second location, normally up in the mountains of Himachal Pradesh.


Ashtanga Yoga Morjim is another school for serious students of Ashtanga, with certified teacher Sharmila Desai. A one-month commitment is required as well as arranging your place at least 6 months in advance.


There are a lot of other schools for other styles, shorter courses and drop-in classes. I would research them online with their reviews before heading over. Remember that ANYONE can teach yoga, you don't technically need any qualifications or experience, and considering it's such a booming industry (Yoga teacher training courses even had their own visa category at one point) it bodes well to do your research.


Goa is a beautiful place, even with the extreme commercialisation of the last few decades, as most tourists tend to flock to the same handful of beaches. Avoid these busy locations, and you'll meet warm people, soft sand, and the balmy Arabian Sea.



Three yoga students in cobra pose on a beach in Goa
A Hatha class by the beach in Goa


 

Not sure what to pack for your trip to India? Check out the I Dream of Mangoes article:



 


KERALA


Getting There: A score of international flights go to either Kochi (Centre-North Kerala) or Trivandrum (South Kerala).


I love love love Kerala. Nestled on the South-West coastline of India, prepare yourself for a place where you can Just Be. No hassles, no worries.


Okay so when people are looking for where to practice Yiga in India, Kerala may not be an obvious go-to. Even though it's not typically a place for Yoga, there are a couple of great schools, and an enormous expanse of natural beauty to explore when you're not in class.


Kerala is famous for Ayurveda - and people often like to combine a Yoga holiday with Ayurvedic treatments. My friend Shibu regularly hosts retreats like these at the gorgeous Cherai Beach near Fort Kochi, you can check out the details here.


This Sivananda Ashram in Neyarr Dam (far South Kerala) is ideal for a taste of Ashram life, without being too heavy-handed on mysticism for those non-religious folks. They have separate classes for beginners and those further along, and it's a really wholesome way of experiencing all of the different aspects of Yoga.


Sivananda provides classes on Philosophy, Pranayama, Asana, and Meditation, as well as Karma Yoga for one hour per day (this means selfless service, for example, my job was to clean the showers). If you sign up, you are required to attend the whole timetable, not just the physical classes. It's 600rs a night, which is an absolute steal! This includes food, classes, and dorm-style accommodation, with a minimum stay of three nights.


The ashram is situated deep in nature, close to the border with Tamil Nadu. There isn't much around, aside from a small village, where I witnessed a very peculiar festival. The men of the village impaled themselves as a form of sacrifice (through the cheeks or tongue with a spear, or by putting huge hooks in their backs, the skin and flesh, and hanging themselves from cranes.. Yep, I told you it was weird.)


To get to Sivananda Ashram I rented a scooter from Varkala, a place also worth mentioning for Yoga classes and surfing. I have heard of a reputable Vinyasa school called Pranam Yoga that could be worth checking out for drop-in classes.



Students gathered round for a yoga philosophy class in Sivananda Ashram in Kerala
Philosophy Class at Sivananda Ashram


 

PUNE


Getting There: A short 3-hour hop from Mumbai by bus, train, or taxi.


Pune is the only place on this list I have not actually been to, but I thought I would mention it anyway as it is well-known as a yoga hub.


Pune is a city a few hours east of Mumbai in Maharashtra. Not only is it home of Iyengar Yoga, but also the famous Osho Meditation Centre (Anyone seen Wild Wild Country?)


There are plenty of Yoga institutes including the RIMYI which is a school that conducts classes in the name of the late B.K.S Iyengar. This is a guy who started practising Yoga in later life, in effect curing himself of chronic illness and establishing a style that uses blocks, straps, chairs, and cushions to make every posture accessible to every body type, without compromising on alignment.


Having never been to Pune I can't account for the vibe, but I have heard that it's a neat, modern place with plenty of foreign and Indian Yoga students to spend your time with.


 


RISHIKESH


Getting There: The closest airport is Dehradun, easily reached by a domestic flight from New Delhi for 3000rs + a taxi. Otherwise, you can take a night bus directly from New Delhi to Rishikesh for 600rs.


This spiritual city is synonymous with Yoga, the River Ganges, holy men meditating in caves, and the four magnificent human footbridges. Rishikesh was made famous to non-Indians by The Beatles visit in the late 1960s, who found a lot of inspiration here. (You can still visit The Beatles Ashram today.)


It's a Yoga hub, and you can find most styles of Yoga in abundance (almost too many). The climate can be much more bearable than the south, and there is lots of nearby hiking and heaps of cute hippy cafes, but be aware there is no meat or alcohol available here.


If I am being honest, it's almost a little too much, and if I was looking for where to practice Yoga in India, Rishikesh would not be my first choice. Every other building is a Yoga teacher training centre, so again choose where you practice carefully. I narrowed my chosen course down by going on the Yoga Alliance website and spending quite a few (5+) hours rifling through reviews to find a course.


I Dream of Mangoes King Pigeon in Rishikesh
King Pigeon at my home studio in Bristol

 


Doing a YTTC in India

Yoga Teacher Training Courses are hugely popular in India, and a lot of Yoga schools have worked out they can earn a lot more money churning out batches of new Yoga teachers than they do teaching hour-long classes. It's more common to find a YTTC than it is a drop-in class these days.


I have done two courses; a 200-hour YTTC in Rishikesh in 2016 and a 300-hour YTTC in Mysore in 2019. I spent a long time researching schools on the Yoga Alliance website, and in the end, I really enjoyed both of them. Even though I learned a huge amount during the 1-month intensives, the courses rarely have much actual teaching practice, and I'm not sure anyone is ready to become a Yoga teacher after just doing a YTTC.



I Dream of Mangoes tired after mountains of studying during a YTTC
Studying for my YTTC exam in Rishikesh

I Dream of Mangoes practicing with Tibetan singing bowls
Learning to use Tibetan Singing Bowls at my Advanced YTTC in Mysore

 

I hope this post has been helpful to you when choosing where to practice yoga in India! Please leave questions, corrections, or any type of contribution in the comments section.


I always travel with my Jade Yoga Travel Mat as it has amazing grip, and when rolled up it just about fits into the maximum dimensions for hand luggage.


Thank you for reading: Where to practice Yoga in India. If you enjoyed the read, please consider subscribing to my blog where I post articles once every 1-2 weeks about my current travels.


If you're thinking of planning a trip to India, check out my post on everything you need to know before you go.


Happy Travels

xxx



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I Dream of Mangoes is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, which means that if you purchase anything from Amazon.com through this site, I earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. This is the only way I make any money through my travel blog, so I appreciate all of your support! That being said, I only link to products I use and love.


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