Over 5,000 years old, the practice of yoga, renowned all over the world, has been benefitting mankind for generations and also finds mention in the Indian epic Rig Veda. A synchronised art of movement, breathing and meditation, yoga helps expand awareness, improve balance, increase intellect, lowers anxiety and helps manage weight and overall good mental, physical and emotional health. The word ‘yoga’ means to unite and symbolises the union of body and consciousness. India, the home of this practice, hosts a variety of wellness resorts, ashram retreats and yoga meditation centres that provide a peaceful and tranquil environment to indulge in yoga meditation and also offer classes to those who wish to learn it.
There are a variety of yoga styles taught and practiced in India. The most popular is the Vinyasa yoga, which is a series of fluid motions, almost like a dance, done in accord with breathing techniques. It is generally done in a dark room or with eyes closed. The Ashtanga yoga or the traditional yoga synchronises movement and breathing and is usually performed without oral instruction and music. To get a feel of more challenging postures, the Iyengar yoga is your best bet. Taught at a slower pace, this style of yoga involves the use of props like straps, blankets and blocks. For beginners, Hatha yoga is preferred as it is an umbrella term for all physical yoga practices. Kripalu yoga is a technique to explore spirituality, with a focus on meditation, self-realisation, relaxation and pranayama.
Best places to learn Yoga
Set against the backdrop of stunning mountains in the holy town of Rishikesh, in Uttarakhand, Parmarth Niketan is an ideal spot for a wellness vacation. From offering accommodation to visitors and yoga classes to beginners to boasting a rich Vedic heritage and teacher training courses, the ashram provides a sublime spiritual experience. It also plays host to the famous International Yoga Festival, a week-long event held annually in March. The Ganga aarti performed every evening is a unique experience that should not be missed. Tourists can also visit the award-winning spa resort Ananda that integrates Ayurveda, yoga and Vedanta to create unique wellness experiences.
International Centre of Yoga Education and Research
For yoga courses tailored to specific needs in terms of time available and focus, one can pay a visit to the International Centre of Yoga Education and Research in Puducherry, well appreciated for uniquely amalgamating French and Indian culture. This is especially suitable for tourists who have limited time on hand but would like to soak in the beautiful benefits of India’s intangible wellness heritage. For inner peace as well as knowledge about yoga, the Aurobindo Ashram in the city is the best place to visit.
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The oldest centre for yoga in the world, the Yoga Institute at Mumbai, in Maharashtra, is a therapeutic delight. Offering a host of stellar courses, camps and workshops, it aims at curing ailments like heart diseases, hypertension, diabetes, respiratory issues and stress.
Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute
The Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute, in Pune, Maharashtra, is another serene stopover that delves into an in-depth study of the science. Regular classes are conducted and usually, there’s a two-year wait to get here.
Sadhguru’s Isha Foundation is headquartered in Coimbatore (known for its intricate temples and natural charm) and aims at all-encompassing healing via Yoga and a sattvic diet. The 122-ft-tall bust of the Adiyogi – the source of Yoga – finds mention in the Guinness Book of World Records for being the largest face in the world and is located in the premises.
Head to the Ashtanga Institute in Mysore, Tamil Nadu, for an immersive and intense yoga experience. From regular classes to comprehensive studies of yogic postures in ancient Sanskrit texts, there’s much on offer at the institute, which sees a two-month advance booking generally.
Swami Ramdev Maharaj and Acharya Balkrishna Maharaj together established the Patanjali Yogapeeth in 2005 in one of the most spiritual destinations of India – Haridwar. This Yoga institute is one of the largest in the country. Apart from a range of activities and courses on yoga, it focusses on Ayurveda as well.
Read: The Yoga Institute in Mumbai has been teaching yoga to the world, one foreign student at a time
Morarji Desai Institute
Delhi is home to the famous Morarji Desai Institute of Yoga, which undertakes a range of initiatives to ensure the dissemination and promotion of yoga amongst the maximum possible people.
Bihar School of Yoga
Sprawling amidst serene beauty, the Bihar School of Yoga, in Munger, Bihar, is more focussed on karma yoga, which involves doing seva or services like gardening and kitchen work, than asanas and postures. You can learn many styles of yoga here, including yoga nidra yoga, which is a meditative technique that puts the mind in a state that is neither asleep nor awake.