Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram

»Walking the bridge from ancient teachings to new beginnings «


An unpretentious building on a quiet back road in south Chennai houses a great Indian Yoga tradition. Between the warm and welcoming feeling one gets at the doorstep, the realistic pricing, and remarkable social engagement there’s little doubt that this center will stay firmly in our top picks.

  • What we love
  • Individually tailored programs
  • Moderate pricing
  • It’s the birthplace of modern yoga
  • Weekend courses available
  • What to know
  • No accommodation on-site
  • Different fee structure for foreigners & locals
  • Staff recommend two-week stays
  • Why go
  • Yoga history
  • Yoga as therapy
  • Short courses and Intensives

The philosophy of the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram centre (KYM) is deceptively simple: yoga for the individual. Called Viniyoga, this approach uses yoga to create a tailored program for each student. Programs are designed to access the core of a problem, uproot it, and treat it in an intimate journey for one.

Yoga at KYM is a dedicated course of therapy, not a generalized fitness regime. Intake at the center is done in a combination of interview and physical assessment. A problem is presented by the would-be student, ranging from depression to arthritis, and a course of asanas and other exercises are prescribed. These are done alone, interspersed with regular meetings with a teacher who will reassess and instruct as necessary.

So effective is this practical application of yoga that local doctors now routinely refer their patients to KYM for a course of treatment that complements mainstream medicine and treatment.

The center itself is welcoming, but functional. Therapy rooms are small, with little more than a mat for seated conversations and a comfortable bed. The bed is where the practitioner can be examined by their consultant and guided through the steps of meditation and movements they need to achieve the desired result. Airy, polish-floored practice areas are deliberately minimalist, creating a peaceful atmosphere of devotion to study.

KYM’s philosophy is based on the teachings of the great guru Krishnamacharya, the founding-father of modern yoga. Krishnamacharya’s basic motivation was to bring yoga out of the ivory towers and put it back into the hands of ordinary people (including women and Untouchables, which was unheard of at the time). His passion for yoga - and belief that everyone could benefit from the correct application of it - brought the dying art back into mainstream awareness. Without Krishnamacharya, you would probably not be reading this page.

Each KYM consultant is under the direct guidance of TKV Desikachar. Desikachar is the son of Krishnamacharya himself, and it is his deep devotion to his father's teachings that has nurtured and nourished KYM into one of the most highly respected centers of the methodology in the world.

There are different course structures and streams depending on the student's country of origin. Essentially separated into Indian and non-Indian, there is a two-year long Teacher Training Course that is only open to locals and one that is only open to foreigners.

As well as the courses, the fee structure is also different for locals and foreigners. This is a direct reflection of the difference in average wages between Indians and Westerners, not an arbitrary 'tourist tax.' Yes, you will pay more if you come from outside India. No, you are not being cheated. The prices are moderate across the board and in the true spirit of yoga, scholarships are available for foreigners and locals, to ensure no-one is denied yogic learning.

Foreigners are well-catered for with the program offerings. The most popular course is the Heart of Yoga, an intensive month-long grounding in the Krishnamacharya style. Beginning in February and September each year, the six daily sessions (Monday to Friday) immerse students in the spiritual as well as physical underpinnings of the ancient art of yoga. There is also a two-week residential retreat for more advanced students, and ad-hoc tutorials for private groups and individuals that need to be arranged before arrival.

There are no catering facilities or on-site accommodation at KYM. The most commonly booked hotel in the area is the long-established Woodlands, whose reputation is one of affinity with KYM and relatively good facilities. Longer-term students often opt to rent an apartment in the area, either alone or in a sharing situation with other KYM attendees.

KYM is a center with a strong focus on healing yoga. This is a place that is best suited to those with a deep interest in yoga-as-therapy, in yoga as an integral part of everyday living, rather than as a discrete and isolated week in the sun.

This center is not only an amazing place to be healed through yoga, but also an outstanding home-base for exploring the region. A day of yoga therapy can be rounded out with a swim at the beach that stretches as far as the eye can see. People-watching as the bright young things strut their stuff along the shore, an hour of horse-back riding, and a tour around this former stronghold of the British Empire. Possibly the perfect day on your next yoga holiday.

About the area: Chennai

In a country as heavily populated as India, to claim status among the top 5 largest cities is something of an achievement. Chennai ranks fourth, and the heaving tides of humanity can be exciting and overwhelming in equal measure for a newcomer. The lingering remnants of the British empire can be glimpsed in some of the architecture and culture of Chennai, making a pleasant contrast to the easy-going atmosphere on the beach nearby. One of the longest beaches on the Asian continent, there’s plenty of room for the local population and for the tourists who descend in the thousands each summer to escape the intense heat. Beach activities are plentiful, from horse-back riding to dawn Tai Chi sessions.

Image credit: Coni Hörler Photography

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