Mysore Mandala

»Slices of India served up in the yoga house «

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In a quiet Mysore suburb, within a house that has stood for a hundred years, there is some serious Ashtanga going on. While the yoga is serious the atmosphere is very relaxed. In between classes students can be found lounging in the garden, sipping coffee, or chatting easily with the octogenarian teacher, who arrives smartly every day on his motor-scooter.

  • What we love
  • The warm atmosphere
  • The chance to mingle with locals
  • BNS Iyengar, the cheerful head teacher
  • What to know
  • No accommodation on-site
  • Open year-round
  • Ashtanga and Hatha yoga available plus several cultural classes
  • Practice is in the Mysore style, meaning many classes are self-led
  • Why go
  • Ashtanga and Hatha in one place
  • Inexpensive, high-quality Teacher Training

Touted as the warmer and less expensive alternative to Sharath Jois' Ashtanga Institute, Mysore Mandala is a laid-back, reasonably-priced center whose classes are led by the cheery BNS Iyengar. No relation to the famous BKS Iyengar of Pune, BNS Iyengar's yoga house offers not only pure Vinyasa Ashtanga yoga, but an assortment of classes in yoga philosophy, local culture, Kundalini and even interesting tidbits like henna painting or Bharath Natyam dance.

Mysore Mandala is open all year, with the high season running from November to March and the mid-season running through July and August. There are morning and evening classes given in Ashtanga and the more gentle Hatha styles. These run six days a week – Sunday is always a day of rest – and are drop-in style, meaning that there is no need to book a set number of classes. All skill levels are catered for and private classes can be arranged directly with the center. The Teacher Training programs, which run over six weeks from 6am to 4.30pm every day except Sunday, are offered in both styles at well. These are given in the gurukulam way, which usually means that the student lives with the teacher, but in this case means that the students spends their days with the teacher in the teacher's own practice space.

Fees for the drop-in classes are moderate, although not astoundingly inexpensive like the Teacher Training monthly fees. The Teacher Training generally works out to be the same daily cost as three or four iTunes tracks. Pocket-change, in other words.

The center itself is a century-old house in the tranquil suburb of Lakshmipuram, reminiscent of a backpacker's hostel if a backpacker's hostel was full of locals and came complete with cozy yoga spaces. The adjoining cafe serves up tasty vegetarian dishes, many made with produce from the center's organic farm located outside of Mysore.

The head teacher BNS Iyengar is a smiling man in his eighties, a testament to the health-giving power of Ashtanga yoga. These days, he does not handle any of the yoga classes himself. Instead, he gives all of the philosophy classes. Iyengar studied under the great Sri T. Krishnamacharya, and later achieved a post-graduate diploma in Sangayoga, a style focused on yoga as a tool for social harmony. He is fluent in English and although the center is mostly frequented by Hindi-speaking locals, there is always a warm welcome for any foreigner studying here. This is extremely helpful for those wanting to rent a nearby apartment, as there is no accommodation on-site and having the inside scoop on possible rental options from those who live in the neighborhood is a huge help.

For anyone looking for intensive Ashtanga yoga without the austerity and severity of the foreigner-filled Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Institute, Mysore Mandala is the relaxed and chatty place to be. There is not only great yoga to be found here. There are new friends both local and foreign, cultural education, and even coffee, a distinctly un-yogic substance but possibly a welcome sight for any traveler who is ready for a little impurity on the Indian adventure!

About the area: Mysore

Mysore was once the hub of India's economic existence. While that title has been taken over by Bangalore, Mysore is still a relaxed and very pretty place to visit. There is an old-world feel here, a gentility that seems to be a holdover from 19th century India. Considered to be the incense capital of the country, Mysore's open-air markets are a sweet-smelling and completely unique experience. The ten-day Dhussera festival, held in October each year, is a city-wide celebration of a mythical triumph of good over evil. The city comes alive, and the main parade is a great chance to make the acquaintance of some of the city's holy elephants. Apart from monsoon season (June – August) Mysore is climatically pleasant year-round. Although summer temperatures can reach 39 degrees C, the humidity is low enough to make the heat bearable.

Image credit: Coni Hörler Photography

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