Yoga, as an integral part of Hinduism, has been practiced in India for centuries as a way of freeing the mind, body, and 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 a traditional setting. There are many yoga centers in India, providing everything from in-depth courses to flexible drop-in classes. 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.
This list of traditional yoga schools in India will give you an idea of what's on offer.
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. Inexpensive accommodations are provided.
Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram was founded by the son of the "grandfather" of modern yoga -- T. Krishnamacharya. Krishnamacharya taught yoga to both BKS Iyengar and Sri K. Pattabhi Jois. He developed an individualized style of yoga known as viniyoga, based on Hatha Yoga adapted to suit different needs. The Heart of Yoga is one of the institute's most popular programs. It's a 120 hour, four-week non-residential intensive covering key aspects of asana, pranayama, philosophy, meditation, and chanting. Vedic chanting and pranayama (breathing) courses are also offered, along with a special 500 hour+ International Teacher Training Program.
- Address: New No.31 (Old #13) Fourth Cross Street, R K Nagar, Chennai. Ph: (91 44) 2493-7998.
- Course Duration: Two to four weeks.
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. Accommodation is not provided.
Located in Mysore and run by descendants of the revered guru Sri Krishna Pattabhi Jois, who taught yoga there from the 1930s up until 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.
The Bihar School of Yoga ashram was founded in 1964 by Swami Satyananda Saraswati, a student of Swami Sivananda Saraswati (one of the greatest yoga masters of the 20th century, who founded the Divine Life Society in Rishikesh). 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, 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.
Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centers and Ashrams were founded in 1959 by Swami Vishnudevananda, another disciple of Swami Sivananda Saraswati. Teachings are based on the five points of yoga—postures, breathing, relaxation, meditation, and diet. The ashrams offer 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 ashrams, are also offered.
- Address: Neyyar Dam, Trivandrum district, Kerala. The Sivananda ashram in Madurai, Tamil Nadu, is smaller and more intimate. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Course Duration: Ranges from two to four weeks.
The Yoga Institute is the oldest organized center of yoga in the world. It was founded in 1918 by Shri Yogendraji, a disciple of Shri Paramhamsa Madhavadasji (a renowned yoga master from Bengal). 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.