The Yoga Institute

»The oldest organised yoga school on earth «

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The oldest yoga school on the planet is run by a former TV yoga celebrity. Hansaji is now the head of the simply named The Yoga Institute, and rightly proud of the institute's achievements. Well, proud in the yogic way, which is really the opposite of pride; more like a gentle happiness that they have been able to help in any way possible. The Yoga Institute is all about yoga-for-the-people and that is exactly what they achieve.

  • What we love
  • Upbeat & passionate teachers
  • Huge range of course options
  • Low fees
  • Very affordable Teacher Training Course
  • Mumbai on the doorstep
  • Oldest yoga school on Earth
  • What to know
  • Accommodation in single-sex rooms
  • Just 24 beds in total (most students stay off-site)
  • Food & tuition included in the hostel fee
  • Prior knowledge required for longer courses
  • Few foreigners
  • Why go
  • Lively atmosphere
  • Meet locals
  • Pragmatic yoga

The sign at the gate reads “Welcome to the Heart of the Modern Yoga Renaissance.” When Shri Yogendra opened its doors in 1918, his goal was to take yoga out of the hands of the elite and academia, to put it firmly back in the reach of the masses. For the first time, yoga was offered to women, a radical move at the time. Yoga was used not as a way to keep others out through ignorance, when yoga knowledge was jealously guarded, but to bring people in. Public classes were held for the first time, and yoga as therapy was introduced, used to cure everyday ills like back pain, respiratory ailments or simple stress.

And it's still the same today.

While Hatha yoga is the predominant style, dogmatically following asanas is not really that important. Nor are long hours spent in meditation of contemplation of a vague inner self. Yoga at the Institute is seen to be only as good as its effect – so if a particular pose isn't working to help control migraine for example, it is modified to best effect. This pragmatic approach to yoga may run counter to foreign expectations. It even runs counter to the traditional way of teaching yoga anywhere in the world - possibly explaining the high 2010 drop-out rate among foreigners enrolled in the Teacher Training Course - but it helps people and that’s what counts here.

It's been jokingly said that The Yoga Institute offer yoga from the womb to the tomb. From pre-natal to post-natal yoga classes right through childrens, teens, specialty classes for different ailments, open mixed classes, into seniors classes, there is something here for everyone. Week-long yoga camps are run for general yoga instruction (great for a beginner) or specific health issues like diabetes. More experienced, long-term students can opt for a one-month, three-month, seven-month or one-year Teacher Training Course. For the longer courses, the one-month course is a prerequisite, and the year-long course is only conducted in Hindi.

As this is a training institute rather than an ashram, fees are charged, as opposed to donations being accepted, which is the only way non-profit ashrams are allowed to be paid. Fees for the Teacher Training Course are about the same as a takeaway meal each day, and the fee also covers the cost of books and other materials. There are hostel facilities on-site, in the form of 12 twin-share rooms for women and 4 triple-share rooms for men. Food and tuition are included in the lodging price that is definitely on the inexpensive side at less than US$100 for an entire week. It's a long day though, with classes starting at 6.30am and the day not ending until 8pm.

More than a thousand people pass through the gates of the Yoga Institute each day. Most of these are urban Indians who use the lively, practical approach to yoga to de-stress. This is one of the great things about studying here: the chance to make local friends, rather than simply spend time with other travelers who may originate from somewhere close to your own back yard. With plenty of chances to explore Mumbai, make new friends and take a little taste of the magic of India, The Yoga Institute is a colorful, lively starting point from which to explore this chaotically beautiful country.

About the area: Mumbai

The birthplace of Bollywood is one of the biggest cities in the world, and growing every minute. Given the number of people who have immigrated here from other parts of India, it is also one of the most culturally tolerant cities in the country. Although India is a country in which the gap between rich and poor is clearly pronounced, Mumbai takes this contrast to new heights. In a city that ‘boasts’ the biggest slums in Asia stands a two billion dollar, 27-storey private residence. The richest in the world live side-by-side the poorest, and rarely do the two cross paths.

There are really only three seasons in Mumbai: Summer, mild summer (also called winter) and monsoon. At any time of year, daily temperatures hand around 30 degrees, but from November to March is the best time to be here, avoiding the humidity of summer and the torrential downpours of monsoon.

Image credit: Coni Hörler Photography

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