India, the cradle of yoga, is considered one of the most spiritual places on earth. Combined with its cultural and geographical diversity, this makes India the ideal country for a holiday for the body and soul. Make sure you are well prepared, so you can start the journey relaxed.
India: the birthplace of yoga
The history of yoga is shrouded in mystery. In its earliest forms, it was passed on orally from master to disciple without a written record, making its origins difficult to date. The word yoga is Sanskrit for “yoke” or “binding” - after all, it's about the union of breath, mind and body - and is first mentioned in India's oldest collection of Vedic verses, the Rig-Veda. Today, yoga is regarded as India's greatest cultural export.
India is also home to some of the world's most famous holy sites, such as the Taj Mahal, Varanasi, Rishikesh or the Ellora and Ajanta caves, and is the birthplace of Jainism, Buddhism, Hinduism and Sikhism. The Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, has even established a ministry of traditional and alternative medicine, the “Ministry of AYUSH” (Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy). Among other things, this ministry aims to make pilgrimage sites and yoga destinations more accessible, restore the surrounding nature and improve health care, hygiene and safety in order to encourage more tourists to take a yoga trip to India.
India has something to offer for every yoga lover
Yoga retreats can be found all over India; from Goa to Chennai, and from Delhi to Kerala. India has a huge diversity in yoga and so many traditions that even the experienced yogi will be surprised when he expects the typical Western yoga culture. In India, the focus is less on the physical and more on the spiritual aspect, as yoga was originally a religious lifestyle in this country. Yoga lovers can spend as much or as little time as they like in yoga retreats during a yoga holiday in India, as long as they don't stay in India longer than the validity period of the visa allows (i.e. no longer than 90 days).
To get acquainted with yoga, there are a large number of short introductory classes for beginners (of, say, an hour) in almost every city. Travellers who want to deepen their knowledge of yoga can attend an intensive programme in a yoga ashram, or even train to become a yoga teacher. There is a suitable yoga ashram for everyone. The electronic Indian tourist visa is valid for a whole year and can be used for an unlimited number of trips to India, so fanatics can even go on yoga holidays to India several times a year.
Do not expect luxurious facilities. Although most accommodations have all the basic necessities, they are just that: basic. Every city in India has something different to offer. We highlight two here. Rishikesh is a holy place where many yoga practitioners travel to deepen their knowledge or to train as a yoga teacher. Goa, on the other hand, is more laid-back and might be a better place for a relaxing yoga weekend. Which region of India is most suitable for your yoga holiday depends on the type of yoga you want to practise. In any case, take into account the best time to travel to India and the different climate zones of the country. If you are going for more active and physically demanding yoga, then it is best not to go to the hottest part of India where it can easily reach 41 degrees in spring.
Rishikesh, also known as the “yoga capital of the world”, is of course not to be missed during a yoga holiday in India. Ever since the 1960s, when the Beatles came here to immerse themselves in meditation, Rishikesh has been a magnet for yogis and enlightenment seekers. The International Yoga Festival is held here annually for seven days in March. This city in the state of Uttarakhand is nestled between the impressive mountain ranges of the Himalayas and the sacred river Ganges. It is the dream of every serious yogi to visit Rishikesh and learn from the expert gurus, masters, saints and sages that the city harbours.
Located in the Konkan region on the west coast of India, this Indian state is an attractive destination for travellers seeking spirituality and yoga classes, as well as enjoying the paradisical white sandy beaches and unspoilt nature. Goa, with its fantastic resorts and ideal climate, offers endless options for both wellness and yoga. It is a great place to get acquainted with yoga, and you will automatically relax here. Those interested can also learn about the traditional medicine of South India in Goa, known as Ayurveda. When the monsoon season is over, teachers and practitioners from all over the world open their institutes and schools to those seeking health and spiritual enlightenment. The best time to visit Goa is between October and May, when the cool mountain air sweeps down from the north.
For a yoga holiday in India you need a visa
Applying for a visa is necessary for all British and Irish nationals travelling to India. The tourist e-visa is suitable for holidays, but also for visiting friends or family and for taking part in a yoga programme in India. In the online application form for the Indian visa, you are asked for the purpose of your trip. If you are travelling to India for a yoga holiday, select “short yoga programme”.
Take note: this news article about the visa for India is more than one year old. It might contain outdated information and advice, and no rights can therefore be derived from this article. Are you going on a trip soon and do you wish to do know what rules currently apply? Read all about the up-to-date information about the visa for India.