If you would like to visit a nice scenic locale and immerse yourself in Yoga and Meditation in India, this article is for you. India being the land from where Yoga originated; it attracts aspiring yogis from around the world seeking out a spiritual getaway from the travails of everyday life. While the length and breadth of India houses yoga centers and retreats; we look a 5 of the most revered places to go to.
1) RISHIKESH is called the ‘world capital of yoga’. And rightly so; because it houses Ashrams and Centers, both ancient and relatively newer too. Rishikesh, situated alongside the banks of the Ganges is a holy city and it is believed that Meditating here brings one closer to Moksha (Enlightenment). It’s also one of the rare places on the planet that you can actually see a Yogi and not the track pant-clad, yoga mat-laden modern variety! So that’s further motivation to visit here.
Places of Interest: The world-famous Sivananda ashram offers Teacher Training courses that are highly sought after. Also, the wonderful Parmarth Niketan Ashram and Swarg Ashrams on the banks of the Ganga are must-visits. Ram Jhula and Laxman Jhula, suspension bridges the let you cross the Ganges are landmarks here. Then of course, the highlight of the city is the evening Aarti (Prayer) at the banks of the Triveni Ghat. All in all, Rishikesh is a must-visit for any serious Yoga aspirant – and it’s soon becoming a Mecca for a worldwide audience waking up to the deeper aspects of Yoga!
2) GOA! So, if you want to have a holiday with a yoga practice in the morning and evening; and beach time the rest of the day – then Goa is definitely the place to be! That Yoga would come to Goa is actually a no-brainer – people have been going to Goa for an alternative experience since many decades; and now it’s only natural that Goa attracts thousands of students to this idyllic beach-state. The North of Goa with places like Arambol are huge on Yoga; while the South (beyond Pallolem) also have a fair share of retreats, teacher training and more. Of, course in Goa the season is only from Oct – Mar; so plan a holiday accordingly.
Places of Interest: The whole of Goa is hugely interesting – from pristine beaches, shack-living and dolphin cruises, to hillside treks and the Party scene! You won’t be bored and you have all the time to contemplate life as you take in picture-perfect Sunrises and Sunsets!
3) MYSORE is in many ways the birthplace of Modern 20th century Yoga. Although it has been practiced in India since time immemorial; the role of Sri Krishanmacharya and his students Pattabhi Jois and BKS Iyengar in spreading the light of
yoga globally cannot be over-emphasized! And Mysore is where it all started – thanks to the patronage of the Mysore Maharaja’s Palace. Although Krishnamacharya decided to move to Chennai later in life; his student Pattabhi Jois’ tireless work has ensured that his Ashtanga Yoga center attracts thousands of yoga students every year.
Places on Interest: For a Indian, ‘Gokulam’ is a strange sort of district – it’s where the Ashtanga Shala is located. Suddenly it’s a Global Village with people of all nationalities adjusting into the Indian way of life, so to speak. Chamundi Hill offers breathtaking views of the city; and is also a fine place to contemplate. After all, on your yoga getaway; you want to do much more than just sweat bucket-loads, right? And the Mysore Palace is worth visiting especially during the festival of Dussehra (Oct-Nov)
4) PUNE is unique because it houses 2 centers of Self development – both seemingly at opposite ends of the spectrum! Pune is
the headquarters of Iyengar Yoga – BKS Iyengar’s Center is a pilgrimage for Iyengar Yogis the world over. Pune also houses the Osho Meditation Center – one of the giants of the modern Spiritual movement. So, while in Pune you have more to do than just asana!
Places of Interest: The Iyengar Yoga center is a massive construction with a hall that is perfectly aligned to fit about a 100 yogis! And it has a wonderful library as well. Pune s also great for trekkers – especially during and immediately after the monsoons. Sinhagad Fort, Lohagad Fort and other treks will keep you in the midst of nature!
5) DHARAMSHALA: Yoga evolved in the Himalayas and practicing Meditation in these revered mountains is always a dream come true for
yogis from around the world! Dharamshala and Mcleodganj are unique because apart from being in the mountains and boasting crisp air, majestic views and everything else that the mountains offer – it is also the home of the Dalai Lama. As more people become interested in Buddhist philosophy – it brings people to visit from across the world. Yoga retreats and treks are stunning in the mountains surrounding Mcleodganj.
Places of Interest: Mcleodganj is a mini-Tibet with Buddhist temples, monasteries, stores and cafes serving delicious thukpas and more. Triund Hill trek is fantastic as there is snow here through the year!
Other YOGA destinations:
AUROVILLE in Puducherry in South India attracts spiritual seekers from around the world and Yoga in Auroville is a big draw for visitors. There are 2 Yoga retreats that are a class above the rest; these are ANANDA-In the Himalayas and SHREYAS in Bangalore. Ananda is situated in a heritage palace in the hills above Rishikesh and benefits from being in the most beautiful location. And of course, it’s got the Yogi Mountains – the Himalayas around it. Shreyas offers a tranquil getaway from City living and is truly a soul-soothing experience. And amongst cities, Bangalore is arguably one of the most yoga-friendly cities in India!
– MANISH POLE (Yogi, Gypsy, Story-teller and Founder-Director of TOTAL YOGA)