Instead of typical tourist haunts, do you long for a place where you’d finally become one with nature and parts of yourself that you lost touch with? You’re in for a treat! Celebrities, sport stars, businessmen, and housewives – everyone has tried yoga and swear by it. But instead of sticking with the popular and commercialized schools, we’re going to take you the real yoga schools with well preserved yoga techniques, not convoluted by media coverage and poorly trained instructors.
Traditionally associated with Hinduism, Yoga has emerged more as a meditation technique that brings harmony between the mind, body and soul. While some practice the more rigorous and traditional route to yoga and take it very seriously, others combine it with activities like dancing to create a hybrid that allows them to practice this ancient meditative art in a fun form.
Self Healing with Yoga
Yoga, as opposed to Western health practices, has a holistic approach focusing inwardly on the soul. Through breathing exercises and asanas or postures it concentrates on detoxifying the body and mind.
Modern-day life is full of stresses. My latest is my 8 year old asking for a Playstation 3 because, well, everyone else in his class has it. Do you have a boss who gives you impossible deadlines? Your partner wants to know why you can’t cook like his mother. Stress! Yoga is known to release stress and heal depression.
The various postures add flexibility to the body, improving balance and increasing strength. Blood pressure and heart rate can be controlled with regular yoga practice. Not only that, yoga is also known to help with chronic conditions such as cancer, pain and insomnia. It is great in menopausal women as the forward-bending positions act on the organs responsible for the haywire hormones leading to sleepless nights and horrible mood swings.
And of course, yoga is great for weight loss!
Going gaga over Yoga
“… yoga has completely changed me. I try to do it every day, and the effect is amazing. It’s not just during the hours that I’m practicing. It’s about how it filters through into the rest of my life. It makes all the other bullsh*t dissipate. Who I am has emerged, and everything else has gone by the wayside.” – Gwyneth Paltrow
I find the above quote so accurate especially the bit about the bullsh*t dissipating. A lot of celebrities endorse yoga openly for its health benefits. Being a celebrity isn’t all about glitz and glamour. A life in the limelight can be really tough on some. We lost Amy Winehouse, Brittany Murphy and recently Whitney Houston to depression. Jim Carey, Halle Berry, Billy Joel, Ashley Judd, besides many other, have suffered from clinical depression at some point.
Therefore, it’s no surprise to see celebrities taking up yoga. Celebrities have flocked to India since as early as 1968 when the Beatles and Mia Farrow visited the country to learn yoga from Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Lady Gaga has visited India several times to practice yoga in its birthing place. Bikram Yoga is one of the most popular forms practiced religiously by George Clooney, Jessica Simpson and Madonna. Madonna named her 1998 album Ray of Light, which is a translation of the Sanskrit work Sutra, to her fascination with yoga. During her trip to India in 2008, she allegedly asked the front desk clerk at her hotel in Rajasthan to not only clear out the hotel of all guests but the entire village so she could practice yoga!
Besides dealing with stress and anxiety and keeping depression at bay, yoga is also a wonderful way to stay in shape. Jennifer Aniston attributes her stunning figure to regular yoga practice. Keisha, Alessandra Ambrosio and Adam Levine are some other hot celebrities who swear by this ancient Hindu exercise and meditation form.
Some of the Best Yoga Schools in India
Ramamani Iyengar Yoga School, Pune:
One of the best Yoga schools in India, the Ramamani Iyengar is run by the 90 year old B.K.S. Iyengar. The fact that at 90 he still has the strength to run a yoga school should be testimony to the yoga practices taught by him. Ramamani Lyengar School focuses on deep study of correct postures, meditating and breathing routines. Beware – if you are a yoga newbie, this isn’t the place for you! It would be better to learn the basics of Iyengar yoga from someone else before you head out. The school is open throughout the year but make sure to do your booking in advance as it can sometimes take up to eighteen months to get admission. A one month Yoga course costs round $450 and does not include lodging. However, you shouldn’t have a problem finding a good place to stay in Pune as the city has a number of decent accommodations available for people with different budgets.
1107 B/1, Hare Krishna Mandir Road,
Model Colony, Shivaji Nagar,
Ph: (+91 20) 2565 6134.
Parmarth Niketan, Rishikesh:
Snugly located in the majestic Himalayas along the Ganges, this yoga school provides the ideal setting for learning and practicing yoga. Due to the large influx of foreigners traveling to the holy city of Rishikesh, the president of the school Swami Chidanand Saraswadi decided to offer courses in English. They have different course designs for beginners, heritage Yoga, spiritual Yoga and other teacher training courses. The course duration varies from two weeks to one month. Students can attend courses in beginner yoga, spirituality, Vedic yoga, and also teacher training programs. With a thousand rooms over a sprawling eight acres the ashram offers rooms ranging from $7.5 a day to $20 a day depending on number of occupants and the view. Strictly vegan food is offered on campus. The International yoga Festival that takes place every year in March draws a large number of participants from over 30 countries with the purpose of connecting diverse streams of healing arts and yoga.
P.O. Swargashram, Rishikesh (Himalayas),
Ph: (+91 135) 244 0088.
Krishnamacharya Yoga School, Chennai:
Situated in South India, this Yoga school teaches breathing, meditation, exercise and therapy programs. A four-week program is held in February and September and is priced at $1200. Fee does not include boarding or lodging.
New No.31 (Old #13) Fourth Cross Street,
R K Nagar, Chennai, India.
Ph: (+91 44) 2493 7998.
Yoga School, Mumbai:
Founded in 1918, the Yoga School in Mumbai is the oldest school for yoga in the world. The most fascinating aspect of the school is without a doubt the therapeutic health camps that teach exercises to cure different diseases including diabetes, hypertension, stress and other heart problems. Course duration varies from two to four weeks and cost from $20 to $60.
Shri Yogendra Marg,
Ph: (+ 91 22) 2611 0506.
Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute, Mysore:
Founded by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, disciple of the famous T. Krishnamacharya who was also the guru of B.K.S. Iyengar, the Ashtanga yoga Research Institute propagates the ashtanga vinyasa. Ashtanga vinyasa is a yoga-brand that involves a fast harmonization of breath and movement. One month to six months long courses are available. The first month is charged at $675 with additional months costing $400 each.
#235 8th Cross, 3rd Stage,
Gokulam, Mysore 570002,
Ph: (+91-98) 8018 5500.
Namaste – the divine in me bows to the divine in you!