Every yoga-interested girl in this world probably has a dream about going to India to do yoga – if she hasn’t been already. The genuine mystique and spirituality that yoga seems to have in India is far beyond what you’ll find in a gym in Europe. 

Coming to India

When planning my trip to India, a must was to do at least one yoga & meditation course. I’ve been practising yoga for five years now, but in a real western exercise way; to exercise, stretch and relax, and that’s about it. I’ve been aware that it from the beginning was used as a preparation for meditation, but I’d never thought about the spirituality around yoga more than that. Excited about what this experience would give me, I started to look for yoga retreats that would suit me.

Since I wanted to be flexible on my trip I didn’t wanted to book anything in advance – and I found out that that was a good choice. I found a place with top reviews in the middle of the Goan jungle that was famous for giving a deeper explanation of what yoga is. It was 50 euros per night including amazing vegetarian food and a minimum of one meditation class and two asanas per day, whilst a similar package booked from Sweden through a yoga center would be 110 euros.

The best yoga for me

Many yoga retreats that were right by the sea, but mine was in the jungle; for me it was more important to get a proper Indian experience of yoga than a beach vacation. I wanted a tight schedule, experienced and well-educated Indian teachers and that the retreat would give me a better understanding of what yoga really is and the history around it.

The retreat was built up like a little village in between the trees. We stayed in small bungalows and there were many different temples and yoga/meditation halls in the “village”. When arriving, a staff member responsible for care of the new students asked me to tell him about my yoga history. I told him about what different types of yoga I’d tried, and that I’m not that good even though I have been practising yoga for a while. And he said “Not good? Yoga is like food. You don’t compare how much food you can eat – or how quick you can do it. Food as yoga is just a part of life.” My yoga experience in India had begun.

My daily routine

The days started with meditation at 6am in the morning(!). For me the meditation was more physically challenging than the asanas (what we in the western world call yoga and do at the gym). To sit still in one position without moving made my back burn with pain. Of course the concentration of the meditation was also really challenging, but that I was expecting – not that it would hurt so much to sit cross-legged for one hour.

After morning meditation, we had a fruit and herbal tea break before the first asana of the day. I didn’t know what to expect from the asanas since I’ve done so many different yoga types in Sweden and there are big differences between, for instance, a slow Yin yoga and a physically strenuous Vinyasa. But the asana was a really challenging mix of flow and more static yoga. I really enjoyed it. We always started the asana with two pranayamas (breathing exercises) where we controlled our breathing.

After the asana, it was brunch time. Since you shouldn’t eat too close to an asana class we only had proper meals twice a day –  brunch and dinner – which was really hard for me, someone has a regular eating schedule of every third hour. But OMG, the food was amazing. It was a buffet of healthy, vegetarian food with fresh vegetables prepared Indian style. With only two hot meals a day, everyone made sure to get really full when eating, since it would be at least another eight hours to the next meal.

And so the days continued, with more different meditation classes and asana classes. We had yoga philosophy classes where we thought more about mantras, about yogic history and how to practice yoga within your everyday lifestyle. There was a library where we could borrow books about yoga and meditation to get even more focused during our stay.

The schedule also included an introduction to religious ceremonies such as Havan (fire ceremony) and Tulasi Puja (holy basil offering) which made the whole experience more spiritual and authentic. These are rituals with thousands of years of history in Asia. One day we also got to try yogic kriyas – a way to cleanse the body in a yogic way by drinking salt water.

So is yoga in India for everyone? There are so many different types of yoga retreats in India. You can stay with Gurus for months in an Ashram (a monastery or spiritual hermitage), or you can stay on the beach and do vinyasa yoga twice a day in your mother language. Whether you just want to add a bit of exercise to your holiday or read all the old books about the yoga tradition, in India every option is available.

Practising yoga in India is really special, whether you decide to the whole spiritual part or not; meditating at sunrise on the beach, for example, or in a jungle with the birds singing is a world away from doing it in some basement in the city, or a gym where you can’t even tell if it’s summer or winter outside. A yoga trip to India will make your personal yoga experience more beautiful and interesting  – no matter how far you decide to go.

Have you experienced an Indian yoga retreat? Tell us in the comments!