If you decided to go to India to study yoga on your own, it is easy to get lost in the ocean of information about all the schools, institutes and retreats offered throughout the country. Besides a few organizations with big names and commercialized schools with flashy websites there are also plenty of great teachers which are not easy to come across without a recommendation.
There are a few “meccas” for yoga students in India, and your choice of a place, a school and a teacher would be based on numerous factors. Experienced and serious students will most likely opt for one of the Yoga Institutes, depending on the method they practice. These institutions however require at least 1 to 4 months of commitment and have tough entry requirements: thus, to study at the famous Iyengar Yoga Institute in Pune you should be practicing Iyengar Yoga for at least 8 years and be ready to wait for a couple of years for your program to start. Those students who are more after spiritual development and meditation rather than intense physical practice should consider staying in one of the ashrams. For beginners or those who want to combine their yoga studies with a beach holiday, one of the yoga holidays or retreats offered in picturesque and tourist-friendly parts of India like Kerala, Goa or Rishikesh might be the answer.
For me the decision about the location was fairly easy – Mysore is the place number one to think of for any ashtanga yoga practitioner and is a birth place of the practice, a home to the Shri K Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute.
A dedication to ashtanga is not the only reason why you should consider Mysore for your yoga studies. The city became a birthplace to modern yoga as we know it under the patronage of the Maharaja of Mysore, who brought Krishnamacharya, “the father of modern yoga” to Mysore and whose support contributed immensely to the popularisation of yoga worldwide. It was Krishnamacharya and his famous students B.K.S. Iyengar and Patthabi Jois who introduced yoga to the West, focused on therapeutical aspects of the practice and broke traditional taboos (like starting teaching yoga to women).
Most of the students heading to Mysore practice in KPJAI, but it was not the place where I settled for my practice. A unique quality of Mysore is that it probably has the highest concentration of some of the best Indian yoga teachers, as well as brilliant teachers for subjects like yoga philosophy, sanskrit, science of ayurveda, yoga anatomy etc.
Mysore beyond KPJAI
When I was planning my trip to Mysore the search for information wasn’t easy: if you are going for the first time and are not joining a designed teacher training program (you’ll come across plenty of them) a choice of a yoga teacher might not be very straightforward. The main reason why I was looking for alternatives for KPJAI was that I personally felt a need for a smaller shala, with the possibly more time with the Teacher. The most exhaustive and up-to-date list of yoga teachers in Mysore which I found was on Marco Pino’s blog Path to Yoga, which is a unique and fantastic resource for any yoga student interested in studies in India.
As for asana practice – initially I planned to study with as many teachers as possible, but after starting my practice with Vinay Kumar in his famous backbending class I soon realized that there was no need to search for a teacher no more and I joined his regular class as soon as I could. The way he understands the connection between your body, breath and mind, how he manages to create individual practice for every student in a group, his ability to see his student’s weaknesses and injuries by just observing them and move them deep into the postures without even a tiny bit of pushing, his unique humble nature are unbelievable. Vinay teaches a less known method of (dynamic) yoga developed by him, Prana Vashya. To understand what kind of Teacher and person Vinay Kumar is take a look at his interview. I’m boundlessly grateful for the time I could practice in his shala – it changed entirely my view of the practice and my own body.
Daily Classes Besides Asana Practice
As I decided against any structured programs I designed my own “curriculum”. During the weeks with less classes I used the time(4-5 hours/a day) mostly for self-study and reading yoga-related books which I always wanted to read, but never had time to. For those interested in classes besides asana practice I would like to share my schedule in Mysore – I believe it can be useful for yoga students to-be or even current students!
My weekly schedule:
Classes in Mysore (besides asana practice)
Here is a list of a few classes I came across during my research (or attended myself) – almost all of them are located in Gokulam:
Yoga Philosophy/Patanjali Sutras/Mantras/Bhagavad Gita (and much more!):
– BNS Iyengar – a direct disciple of Krishnamacharya (he also teaches mudras)
– Arvind Pare, Swadhyaya (I attended a few Arvind’s and can only highly recommend, Arvind is brilliant! He also offers weekly talks, for free)
– Akash (APT Clinic) ( Akash ia also the person to whom many yoga students turn to with their injuries)
There are also brilliant yoga anatomy classes available online, I put together a list of them here.
Ayurvedic Nutrition & Cooking:
– Mallesha, Dhatu (most reasonable prices)
– In my online nutrition school an Ayurvedic Doctor from Dharamshala in India teaches a brilliant course on Ayurvedic Nutrition, which I can recommend wholeheartedly
Kirtan & Chanting:
Traditional Indian Painting:
YOGA CLASSES IN MYSORE (BESIDES KPJAYI and ashtanga)
To conclude here is a short list of schools and teachers who were recommended and praised by their students (check this list of yoga teachers in Mysore for some detailed descriptions). Finding your teacher is a very personal thing and sometimes I heard contradictory things about the same teacher from different students. Try to talk to other students and read testimonials/reviews carefully, it will help you to understand if it is a style of teaching you are looking for. Meeting a teacher in person is the best, not everyone offers drop-in classes though, so you will have to follow your own feelings and intuition :
– Vinay Kumar (Prana Vashya, Panayama, backbending)
– Vijay Kumar (Ashtanga)
– Ajay Kumar (Ashtanga, vinyasa classes, meditation, backbending)
– M.V. Chidananda (Ashtanga, Pranayama)
– Masterji (Ashtanga, Hatha, Vishwanatha Paddhathi)
– Badri Yoga School (Ashtanga, Pranayama)
– Suresh Bhat (Ashtanga)
– Bharath Shetty (Hatha)
– Atmavikasa Centre of Yogic Sciences (Hatha)
– Yogadarshanam (Hatha)
– Mandira Yoga Shala (Hatha, Ashtanga)
– AyurYoga Eco-Ashram (Retreats and Teacher Training, nearby Mysore)
– Ashtanga Yogatantra Research School (Ashtanga, Vedic Astrology)
The last but not the least: the most helpful resource for finding all the information about on-going courses is an ever-growing Facebook group for Mysore yoga students. Besides help with practicalities like accommodation, you can also find there all the information about one-time events and courses.
And here is a map for your orientation, where you can look for hotels right in the centre of the “yoga district”, Gokulam (this one is powered by booking):
If you have any experience with other teachers/classes which you would like to share with others, please let me know in the comments and I will gladly add it to this article. Enjoy your practice!