Isha Yoga Center

»The building blocks of inner harmony «

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Intense yoga, delicious food and therapeutic massage. Just another day at the Isha Yoga Center near the foothills of the stunning Velliangiri mountains. Led by a smiling guru who will throw a frisbee around just as easily as he will stroke his white beard and speak profound truths, Isha is part retreat, part resort, and completely rejuvenating.

  • What we love
  • Sadhguru, the center's charismatic leader
  • The wide variety of programs & courses
  • Pragmatic approach to yoga
  • Massage at the rejuvenation center
  • Many social and environmental programs
  • What to know
  • The Inner Engineering course is required for all other courses
  • Accommodation can be booked without taking any courses
  • Only some of the cottages have air-conditioning
  • Book accommodation two weeks in advance, six weeks in high season
  • Check Sadhguru’s schedule as he is often abroad
  • Why go
  • Wonderful architecture
  • Beautiful natural setting
  • Philosophical approach to yoga
  • Lots of contact with locals
  • Resort-style services

Along a winding road, through a shady forest is the Isha Yoga Center. In the middle of a wildlife preserve, Isha's harmonious connection with the natural world is palpable.

Home to the Isha Foundation, a non-profit spiritual organization, the Isha Yoga Center offers a brilliant entry-level short-course called Inner Engineering. Using practical methods that incorporate physical poses, meditation, breathing techniques and purification through healthy eating, the Inner Engineering course is a powerful tune-up for the body, mind and spirit. In an interesting departure from tradition, the Inner Engineering course (which runs from 3 – 7 days) is even available online.

This course is a mandatory precursor for further yoga studies at the center. There are several more programs available, including Teacher Training which can be taken as an intensive course while staying at the center, or in a more part-time way while living off-campus. This can take several months and any potential students should contact Isha directly for commencement dates. As well as yoga lessons, the Isha Yoga Center offers programs with a cultural focus like the unique Vaibhav Shiva, an intricate display involving performance and guided meditation. Using the legends of Shiva, storytelling, dance and music as the backdrop, each part of the meditative process illustrates a different lesson or truth about living. Running over the course of a single evening, these are conducted by the leader of the Isha Foundation, Sadhguru.

Sadhguru is a man who appears to have stepped out of the pages of the history books. From the full white beard to the sparkling eyes that dance merrily above a broad, white-toothed smile, Sadhguru's image would sit easily on the cover of National Geographic, or a travel brochure for India. This image belies the reality. The Isha Foundation's website describes him as being “at home in loincloth as much as he is in blue jeans” and indeed this seems to be true. His ease and charisma makes him popular not only in the yoga world, but on the world stage in general. He has spoken at several high-profile international summits on yoga, and also on spirituality and interfaith.

Despite his high profile, Sadhguru is self-effacing and very practical about his approach to yoga. He believes yoga and meditation are ways to produce certain chemical reactions in the body to achieve a desired effect. Nothing too mystical here, and as he says with a shrug of the shoulders, people should simply try it for a few months. “If it's not working, stop.” Having the chance to study with Sadhguru is one that should not be dismissed lightly, even when he is holding one of his seminars that attract upwards of a thousand participants. He has a powerful personal presence, and it’s easy to see why many people come for the yoga but stay for the guru.

The Isha Yoga Center is an exceptional one. It is essentially a small modern city housed in a forested area. There are locals living in this city who simply do not leave, and there are those who pass through for a weekend, sometimes only using the conference facilities without taking any yoga classes at all. If nothing else, this is an interesting place to spend a few days. The area is certainly stunning, the mini-city nature of the estate is unique, and if the urge to partake of a few classes should come upon you, you’re certainly in the right place.

Accommodation at the center is extremely comfortable. Housekeeping services, private bathrooms, access to phone and a busy Internet terminal, and even the occasional air-conditioner can be found in the cottages that accommodate 1 – 3 people each. There is an executive, hotel-style building that can be booked as part of the Inner Engineering course or simply as a stand-alone accommodation point, usually in groups and often for corporate meetings. As demand for accommodation on-site tends to be high, it is best to book at least two weeks in advance, with six weeks being a recommended minimum in the high season of January and February.

Fees are moderate for accommodation and courses. The Isha Foundation makes much of its money through generous donations by loyal students and as a non-profit organization is able to stay afloat while still keeping fees low. They spearhead several community and environmental outreach programs, including the admirable goal of planting 114 million trees across the Tamil Nadu region in their Green Hands project.

The Isha Yoga Center is an appealing blend of retreat and resort. The on-site rejuvenation center is the place to soothe away a not-so-hard day's yoga with its variety of massages, body-wraps, and additional therapies. The delicious vegetarian menu keeps the body healthy and satisfied. In the green and well-planned grounds, the occasional guest can be found sitting tranquilly in the Dhyanalinga Yogic Temple. Here, where time feels like a distant notion, inner peace seems to be only a breath away.

About the area: Coimbatore

This is an area known for its good manners. In fact, it is more likely the distinctly relaxed manner of the locals than any pretense of politeness that gives Coimbatore it's folksy reputation. There aren't too many designer labels and expensive cars here – unlike other metropolitan centers Coimbatore residents seem comfortable to live modestly. There are several temples in and around the city that make for good sightseeing, and a century-old mosque. The local Siruvani water is said to be among the tastiest in the world, which explains the scarcity of bottled water on sale. Except for early summer (March through April) when the temperatures soar, Coimbatore’s climate is very pleasant, making it a popular destination with visitors.

Image credit: Coni Hörler Photography

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