If you're trying to choose where to study yoga or deepen your practice, I recommend Mysore, India. It's the home of Ashtanga Yoga, and rich with history and culture. Ashtanga is the style that influenced Sharon Gannon, David Life, Maty Ezraty, Seane Corn, Sadie Nardini, Kino Macgregor and many others. Ashtanga is centered around a memorized sequence of poses. It's very simple but it's not necessarily easy! By studying it in Mysore, where it's been taught for decades, you can jump into the Indian tradition and give it a try.
Here are 10 reasons to make a move to Mysore if you're passionate about yoga:
1. You'll benefit from the traditional teachings.
The practice, which is thought to take a lifetime to master, immerses you in the lineage of yoga that comes from Trumali Krisnamacharaya, who was the yoga teacher to the Maharaja in the Mysore Palace. He had four very famous students who have been highly influential in how yoga is practiced in the west: K. Pattabhi Jois, BKS. Iyengar, TKV Desikachar and Indra Devi. This year, I'm in Mysore practicing with Saraswathi at K. Patabhi Jois Yoga Institute.
2. You're ready! The city welcomes practitioners of all levels.
I never feel like I'm "good enough" at yoga, despite the fact that I've practiced since 1988 and have been studying in Mysore since 2003. This year when I arrived in India, I thought, maybe I'll just watch.
Nonsense! Despite a plethora of injuries, I've been treated warmly and received loads of help! Some of my friends have arrived in Mysore having taken only a handful of yoga classes and reported that they felt comfortable. By going to the Jois family directly, you will learn from the source and they'll help you build a practice from the ground up. If you don't know the poses, the teacher will guide you, tell you when to stop, and remind you to come back the next day.
3. It's a melting pot of students from all over the world.
Within just one week of arriving, I met students from all over the world and learned about the different trends in the yoga world. Although Mysore is a hub for students of all nationalities, it's a place where everyone shares a cultural connection — yoga!
4. You'll make friendships that last a lifetime.
When I arrived this year, I ran into a friend I met on my first trip in 2003. It was as if we'd never been apart. I understand that it can be difficult to leave one's family and job to take an extended yoga holiday, but if you can get away, the friendships on makes in Mysore are forever.
5. It's cheaper than many yoga retreats.
Most yoga retreats run about $1,000 per week. In Mysore, that money will last a month if you're frugal. The yoga costs about $600, which includes daily practice, regular Sanskrit chanting and a weekly conference. I found an apartment for $200 and most meals cost about $5 or less. (Up your budget a little bit and you can have housecleaning, laundry, and a weekly Ayurvedic massage.)
6. Your practice (and your posture) will improve.
Patanjali, who wrote The Yoga Sutras (the foundational text of Ashtanga yoga), tells us that yoga occurs when we practice in an uninterrupted manner over a long period of time. When I come to Mysore, I am not distracted by anything and it's lights out by 9:30pm. Since I'm practicing almost every day, my postures improve. My muscles stretch, my strength builds, and my balance gets better.
7. You'll see temples, monkeys, dosas and drink delicious chai.
Cows wander the streets, temples are bustling and the call to prayer echoes through the houses every morning. Here I'm always on the lookout for friendly monkeys and wandering holy men. I eat Indian food three times a day. The tea man is friendly and the dosas are always fresh. It's easy to be a tourist here because there is always a student nearby to help and direct me along the well-beaten path.
8. But if you want ice cream or pizza, you can get it in Mysore.
If Indian food three times a day doesn't sound like your cup of chai, many shops in town cater to yoga students. My roommate took me for pizza and ice cream, and both were very good. Also available: crepes, pancakes, granola, pasta, and lots of different kinds of chocolate cake.
9. The weather is outstanding.
High season here is winter, so if you experience frigid East Coast cold between December and March, India provides a fabulous alternative. It's hot during the day and cool at night, with blue skies and white puffy clouds. Palm trees and papaya trees provide the tropical edge, which is perfect for a good, sweaty practice. (Plus I frequent one of the many pools around town if I need to cool off.)
10. The locals are very welcoming.
Mysorians offer all kinds of services, including scooters, souvenirs, apartments, phones, traditional cooking, chanting, and painting classes. I've talked to locals who say that they are building businesses and sending their children to college because of the industry created around yoga. My experience is that we add a welcome splash of color to an already vibrant place.
Come to Mysore! You'll be loved and you'll love it.