Famed for being the birthplace of ashtanga, the historic city of Mysore is the perfect location to learn and practise this fairly dynamic form of yoga.
Officially called Mysuru since 2014, the city may sometimes be overlooked by tourists in favour of the neighbouring Kochi and Pondicherry. However, the hub is an architectural marvel especially renowned for the stunning Mysore Palace, while its cuisine is a treat for any food lover – the famous Mysore masala dosa is a fine example of this. But most importantly, it is a hotspot for ashtanga yoga and recognised world over by yogis looking to learn and practise it.
This gruelling practice, developed from ancient texts by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, involves repeating the same series of demanding poses six days a week, once with a teacher and the rest of the time through ‘self-practise’. It is an extremely strict yoga practice and instructors need to be on an authorised list to teach it. The only way to progress is to perfect each pose before moving onto the next. Spending months, even years, feeling ‘stuck’ on a pose can be highly frustrating. But Prasad Bhatdundi, an ashtanga teacher at The Arts Village in Bangalore, explains that this form of yoga is great for teaching patience: “It’s not about putting one hand further forward or wanting to move onto the next pose quickly”, he says. “It’s about being able to concentrate.”
While it may seem intimidating, ashtanga helps to rapidly build strength and flexibility and teachers are keen to stress its mental benefits like improved concentration. Prasad, for instance, refers to ashtanga as a “moving meditation”.
For those interested in experiencing the practice, Mysore has several retreats and workshops to offer, including the ones below.
Shri K. Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute (KPJAYI)
For the most authentic ashtanga experience, visit KPJAYI, the institute set up by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois himself. Many yogis consider a visit here to be a rite of passage as its teachers are some of the best in the world. Application forms need to be filled out a few months in advance as slots get filled up fast. However, it’s worth noting the institute accepts only those who have been taught by an Institute-certified teacher. Food and accommodation are not provided but there are a few good options within walking distance. Long-stay rooms are available at Anokhi Garden House and Cafe and serviced apartments at Trinity House.
Ashtanga Yoga Mysore is another popular choice for potential students. Unlike KPJAYI, here, you can find accommodation and meals included in the cost of your stay. There are one to three-week courses offered to those who are short on time while the establishment also provides teacher training in ashtanga vinyasa yoga.
This yoga shala, located in a quiet suburb of Mysore, is known as a warmer, more relaxed alternative to KPJAYI. The yoga space is located in a charming old building, surrounded by tranquil gardens and a relaxed cafe serving healthy food. Limited accommodation is available on-site. Mysore Mandala teaches ashtanga in the traditional style, alongside extra classes in anatomy, meditation and back-bending, among others. Teacher training in hatha yoga is also available.
This intimate yoga space is run by three sisters who have spent years studying with the Pattabhi Jois family. They offer morning and evening classes in ashtanga yoga, with healthy lunches and massages as optional extras. Accommodation isn’t provided on-site, but there are plenty of hotels and homestays nearby.
This yoga space is owned and run by Sri BNS Iyengar, the oldest living teacher of ashtanga yoga. He’s been practising the form for over 70 years and has a wealth of experience to impart. As well as teaching the poses, students can also learn yogic philosophy and pranayama (breathing) to help improve their practice. The space caters to beginners as well as advanced practitioners. Simple apartment accommodation can be provided nearby.