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Where to go for yoga in India; a look at four entirely different places to practise, from north to south

As the birthplace of yoga, it makes sense to head to India if you’re looking to take your practise further. Whether you’re a complete beginner, or wanting to put in the hours for your teacher training there’s an abundance of places to head to. I’ve dabbled with yoga on and off since I was a kid, (my aunt is a qualified yoga instructor), and really got into hot yoga in my 20’s before turning to running and becoming totally inflexible. But that’s the beauty of yoga, you can revisit it whenever you like, so each time I’ve gone back to India I’ve made an effort to get back into yoga and the meditation that comes with it.

With thousands of places to practise throughout the country, I've only scratched the surface so far and visited four, but each one was radically different so I thought I'd document what I found... 

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India offers some of the best yoga retreats in the world

One-on-one classes in Rishikesh, Uttarakhand

Rishikesh is world renowned for its teacher yoga training programmes with hundreds of ashrams spread throughout the city and along the banks of the holy River Ganges. For most, a minimum stay is required, so if you don’t want to dedicate so much time to yoga I’d recommend staying in a guesthouse and taking yoga classes as and when you want them. Ashrams in Rishikesh are pretty strict and simple, with very early starts and dorm style rooms with shared bathrooms, so if you’re after western home comforts this probably isn’t the place for you. I stayed at Bhandari Swiss Cottage, perched up on the hill overlooking the city, this guesthouse is very simple which is reflected in the price of £11 a night, but it’s quiet and has a pretty garden area where you can eat breakfast. I had daily one-on-one Ashtanga yoga classes in the grounds of the guesthouse with Arvind, a serene teacher who was really passionate and knowledgeable. We’d start and end each session with traditional chanting and meditation, I’d do one or two 90-minute classes a day with Arvind and these cost just £1.50 each.

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The view along the Ganges in Rishikesh

Western classes in Varkala, Kerala

Southern India is way more chilled than the north of the country and its here, perched high on a cliff-top in coastal Kerala that you’ll find Soul & Surf, a Western run hotel that offers yoga and surfing classes. As an overview Soul & Surf is more of a holiday destination rather than a full on yoga destination, but that’s the beauty of it. You can practise as much or as little as you like by buying either a drop in class pass or a week pass for just under £30. Here you’ll be practising in groups but the rooftop location is truly beautiful. For my time at Soul & Surf I did a mixture of 75 minute Vinyasa, Yin and Pranayama (breathing exercises), the teacher at the time I stayed was really great, using small extras like scented oils and pressure points to relax you further at the end of each session. This place is great if you want to truly relax and have a pretty room and good food, alongside your yoga practise and good for first timers to India too. 

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Soul & Surf's rooftop yoga terrace

Yoga & detox in Dudhsagar, Goa

Away from the party beaches of Goa, nestled deep in the jungle you’ll find Dudhsagar Spa Resort, offering a detox programme with a strict twice-daily yoga classes taught in an open air studio. As part of the programme you’re weighed, measured and analysed, put on a meat, dairy and alcohol free diet, given daily Ayurvedic massages and should you chose to, self-administered enemas. The yoga here is good, and was taught by an Indian teacher, Vinay, for the duration of my stay. Because you practise two 90-minute Hatha classes a day, one at 8am and one at 4pm, you can really see your progress and changes to your body. I was reviewing the detox programme at Dudhsagar, (detoxing is usually not really my thing), but if you’re looking to improve your yoga practise alongside getting into healthier diet habits and need a strict helping hand this could be a good option. Retreats start from £200 for three nights and include accommodation, food, yoga classes, massages, meditation sessions and medical assessment.

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The setting at Dudhsagar is pretty serene

Free yoga classes in Mamallapuram, Tamil Nadu

If you want to combine your yoga practise with some of the most beautiful temples in India, carvings and culture, Mamallapurum on India’s east coast is the place to go. This cool temple town is home to a UNESCO World Heritage site of 7th and 8th century Hindu monuments that are mind blowing and better still, if you stay at Hotel Mamallaa Heritage you get a free yoga class every day. Classes are at 6am each morning and for my time at the hotel were one-on-one and taught by an Indian male teacher. As they’re early and take place just once a day, you can spend the rest of your time here exploring the monuments and walking along the beach. This is a more relaxed way to do some yoga and would suit people who’ve never practised before. The hotel also has a pool, restaurant and free breakfast with rooms starting at £27 a night. 

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