Yog-Ganga Center for Yoga Studies

»Studying the tradition of yoga «

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In the tranquil foothills of the Himalayan mountains is one of the best Iyengar yoga centers on the planet. The couple who run Yog Ganga are true yogis – they shun the spotlight and keep their students totally focused on the poses and props that make for perfection in this unique style. The stunning natural setting of the ashram rounds out a deeply fulfilling visit, with many students returning year after year.

  • What we love
  • Pure Iyengar yoga
  • Beautiful Himalayan setting
  • General classes and three-week intensives
  • What to know
  • Serious yoga, not for the weekender
  • Many repeat students
  • No accommodation on-site
  • Why go
  • Authentic yogic experience
  • Tranquil natural setting
  • Staying with locals

Yog Ganga is a yoga center with the feel of a cabin hideaway in the mountains. The center was relocated from Mussoorie in 2002 to its current forested home, and the center's purpose-built nature is apparent. All equipment is modern and well-designed. The practice spaces are elegantly functional, incorporating the necessary props like chairs and ropes while taking full advantage of the light and warmth of this beautiful area.

Researching Yog Ganga was not easy. Swati and Rajiv Chanchani avoid the spotlight, almost to the point of seeming secretive or discourteous. However, this first impression belies their warm nature and vast skill set. The purpose of avoiding self-promotion is not borne out of malice – it is an increasingly rare adherence to one of the fundamental tenets of yogic spirituality: always focus on the yoga, never on the guru. In modern-day yoga where the 'celebrity guru' is a common sight, this self-effacement is a refreshing change of pace.

There is no accommodation on-site. Instead, a billeting system is used to place students in approved homes nearby. All hosts are well-versed in Iyengar yoga and most have had long ties with Yog Ganga. This accommodation system provides students with the bonus opportunity of forging ties with locals, as well as being immersed in Iyengar yoga for the duration of their stay.

Physical poses are, in the Iyengar tradition, of prime importance. Breathing exercises, or pranayama, are a complement to these and so are also taught at the center. Classes are held in a general open style (where anyone who has met the center's criteria for admission may simply drop in for a session) or in three-week intensives that are booked well in advance. There is a lecture hall for yoga philosophy classes and seminars, which go hand-in-glove with the courses.

Yog Ganga is a true yogic experience, meaning that abstinence from all physical vices is mandatory, the dress code is modest and that they are heavily involved in good works within the local community. Yoga outreach programs have been established by Yog Ganga, bringing yoga into local schools, even managing to have yoga included in the school curriculum, a major breakthrough in the advancement of the Iyengar style.

Fees are moderate, and as with many yoga centers in India will vary depending on whether a student is local or from abroad. These must be paid upon arrival at the pre-course orientation day, in Indian rupee, unless otherwise arranged.

Applications are able to be made via the website, with only those who have previously studied Iyengar being approved. Part of the application process is offering a reference from a qualified Iyengar teacher or member of the Yog Ganga center, so this is not a place for a beginner or anyone looking for a yoga-lite type of cushy retreat. Iyengar yoga overlaps the Ashtanga family, which means it's hard work! Anyone fascinated with the Iyengar style is strongly encouraged to get in touch – and stay in touch – with the staff here. Like so many things in India, it is the slow development of a personal connection that opens doors here, rather than a strict protocol.

When a typical day is finished and the night air settles on the peaceful silence of a forest evening, it becomes easy to let of the spiritual clutter of the modern world. Here in the presence of the ancient Himalayas, warm from the deep stretching of Iyengar yoga, Yog Ganga offers its students a chance to glimpse the pindanda within – the small universe of the human being. Not a bad way to spend time at all.

About the area: Dehradun

Dehradun is one of the oldest cities in India and the capital of the Uttarakhand province. The city is a hill station, meaning moderate climates and cool green expanses of forest. Well-frequented by nature-lovers, the city provides the perfect base for hiking in the foothills of the nearby Himalayas which rise steeply to the north. Bounded to the south by the Rajaji National park, to the east and west by the sacred rivers Ganga and Yamuna, the Doon valley is where outdoor enthusiasts are most likely to be found. The cold-water sulphur spring of Sahastradhara and the favored picnic spot Robber’s Cave are drawcards with holidaymakers escaping the stifling Indian summer heat.

Image credit: Coni Hörler Photography

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