Yoga, as an integral part of Hinduism, has been a part of India’s ethos and daily practice for over 5,000 years as a way of freeing the mind, body & spirit.
In recent years, yoga has also become popular in the west, inspiring increasing numbers of people to come and study yoga in India in traditional setting. There are many yoga centers in India, providing everything from in depth courses to flexible drop-in classes. They range from top-end luxury spas to small hotels in religious centers such as Uttarkashi in the north and Thiruvananthapuram in the south. As the style of yoga and approach to teaching varies at each center, it’s important to give proper thought to your needs before applying.
Yoga tourists in India can also choose to study with neighborhood housewives who teach yoga in their living rooms or at trendy studios begun by socialites. Fortunately for the purists, there are several yoga schools run by grand masters who still teach the practice in the time-tested way, steeped in ancient traditions and philosophy. For them, yoga isn’t instant nirvana; indeed, it is mastered only after years of rigorous practice.
This list of traditional yoga schools in India will give you an idea of what’s on offer.
Yoga Institute, Mumbai
The Yoga Institute is the oldest organized center of yoga in the world. It was founded in 1918 by Shri Yogendraji. The Institute, while not being as well known as some of India’s other yoga centers, offers a range of excellent courses, workshops, and camps. The therapeutic health camps are of particular interest. These aim to overcome specific ailments including heart and respiratory problems, hypertension, diabetes, orthopedic conditions, and stress related issues. There are also special programs for children and pregnant women.
- Address: Shri Yogendra Marg, Prabhat Colony, Santacruz East, Mumbai. Ph: (91 22) 2611-0506.
- Course Duration: From two to 21 days. Regular yoga classes are also held.
- Cost: 800 rupees ($20) to 2,500 rupees ($60).
This renowned Institute attracts serious students of yoga from all over the world. It conducts regular classes in Iyengar Yoga (a form of Hatha Yoga which focuses on postures) for all levels. Special classes are also held for women, children, and those with medical problems. Unfortunately there can be a two year wait to get a place at the Institute. As the Institute emphasizes the in-depth study of yoga, students are also required to have substantial prior experience in practicing Iyengar Yoga.
- Address: 1107 B/1, Hare Krishna Mandir Road, Model Colony, Shivaji Nagar, Pune. Ph: (91 20) 2565-6134.
- Course Duration: One month. A maximum of six classes can be attended per week.
- Cost: $450. Accommodation is not provided.
Sivananda Vedanta Centre, Trivandrum
Located in the state of Kerala, in the tropical south, teachings at the Sivananda Ashram are based around the five points of yoga — postures, breathing, relaxation, meditation, and diet. The ashram offers drop-in classes, as well as courses in yoga and meditation. The beginner’s yoga and meditation courses are very popular. Yoga Vacations and Teacher Training, staying at the ashram, are also offered. This ashram is also based in Rishikesh.
- Address: House 18, Subash Nagar, Vallakkadavu PO, Airport Road, Perunthanni, Trivandrum. Ph: (91 471)245-1398.
- Course Duration: Ranges from two to three weeks, or more.
- Cost: 100 rupees ($2.50) for a drop-in class. 1,500 rupees ($35) for the beginner’s yoga course and 1,300 rupees for meditation. Yoga vacations from 350 rupees ($8) per night.
Ashtanga Institute, Mysore
Located in Mysore and run by descendents of the revered guru Sri Krishna Pattabhi Jois, who’d been teaching yoga there since the 1930’s before his death in 2009, the Ashtanga Institute offers ongoing intensive ashtanga yoga classes throughout the year. The classes are for serious students only, and places are much sought after. It’s necessary to apply at least two months in advance. Accommodation isn’t provided but there’s plenty to be found close by.
- Address: #235 8th Cross, 3rd Stage, Gokulam, Mysore Ph: (91 821) 2516-756.
- Course Duration: Minimum of one month, no more than six months.
- Cost: $650 for the first month, then $415 for each additional month.
Bihar School of Yoga, Munger
The Bihar School of Yoga ashram was founded in 1964 by Swami Satyananda Saraswati. It’s a very old-school place that teaches a full yogic lifestyle. Satyananda Yoga incorporates traditional postures, breathing, and meditation. However, if you attend the school, you’ll find that postures are rarely practiced there. Instead, the emphasis is on work (service) and meditation. Those more interested in attending a yoga course would be better off enrolling at the offshoot Bihar Yoga Bharati institute, which is more open to foreigners.
- Address: Bihar Yoga Bharati, Ganga Darshan, Fort, Munger, Bihar. Ph: (91 6344)222430.
- Course Duration: Four month residential course in Yogic Studies, from October to January each year.
- Cost: $1,500 fully inclusive.
Parmarth Niketan, Rishikesh
Parmarth Niketan, with its stunning mountain setting in the holy town of Rishikesh, is a wonderfully spiritual place to study yoga. The ashram is equipped with 1,000 rooms on its eight acre campus. It runs an extensive program of beginner yoga, Vedic heritage and spirituality, and teacher training courses. Daily classes are also open to visitors. A popular attraction is the week long international Yoga Festival that’s held at the ashram every March. The ashram also performs sacred Indian wedding ceremonies, and a Ganga aarti every evening.
- Address: P.O. Swargashram, Rishikesh (Himalayas), Uttarakhand. Ph: (91 135) 2440088.
- Course Duration: From two weeks to one month.
- Cost: Rooms from $10 to $20 per night, depending on the view and standard of accommodation.
Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram, Chennai
The Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram is run by the son of the “grandfather” of modern yoga — T. Krishnamacharya. Krishnamacharya taught yoga to both BKS Iyengar and Sri K. Pattabhi Jois. The style of yoga practiced at the ashram is viniyoga, which involves utilizing the tools of yoga, such as postures and breath, to suit different needs. Non-residential Pilgrimage of Sound Vedic Chanting, Heart of Yoga, and Pranayama (breathing) courses are offered for international students twice a year. Teacher training is only open to Indian students.
- Address: New No.31 (Old #13) Fourth Cross Street, R K Nagar, Chennai. Ph: (91 44) 2493-7998.
- Course Duration: Two to four weeks.
- Cost: $1,200 for Heart of Yoga. $900 for Pranayama. $500 for Vedic Chanting.