As a British expatriate yoga teacher who has lived in Mumbai for the past two years, one of the most common requests that I get from friends overseas is, “Please can you recommend a yoga studio that I can visit while I am in town.”
Everyone wants a taste of yoga in the motherland. I get it. So do I! However, there really aren’t that many studios here and nobody ever believes me when I tell them that.
“Are you sure? There must be…but it’s Indiaaah! The birthplace of yoga!”
Seriously. There aren’t. Contrary to popular belief, the majority of Indians do not practice yoga every day and you will not find a plethora of yoga studios here. The first thing you need to do when you come to India is adopt a totally different mindset to your practice. Yoga over here is a spiritual journey, not a physical one. I am writing a whole book about my yoga experiences in India so more on this later!
For now, here is my guide to yoga in Mumbai:
Light on Yoga Research Trust
This is where I practice. They don’t do ‘drop-in’ sessions for visitors and you have to agree to a lengthy study period so this is recommended for expatriates and long-term visitors. They have a waiting list and you will need to complete an application form in advance and enclose a passport photo so I suggest you contact them before you arrive in Mumbai.
This place has the heritage and lineage factor because all of the teachers here have been trained by the legendary B.K.S. Iyengar. If you are a serious yoga enthusiast then I would recommend this place to you but be prepared to join the beginners’ batch if you have no experience in Iyengar yoga.
The Kaivalyadhama Institute
Sri O.P. Tiwari is the Secretary of the Kaivalyadhama Institute and probably the most recognised international teacher from this school. The Mumbai branch of the Institute is on Marine Drive. My husband loved this place and I know many male yoga teachers who connect well with this yoga school so this is a great one for the guys! We attended their annual pranayama course and learnt a lot.
They don’t speak very good English and you need to be patient when listening to their ‘Hinglish’ (English and Hindi combined) but there were plenty of teaching assistants that helped us out, as well as some eager and friendly classmates!
They also have an ayurvedic centre and a small selection of books for sale.
The Yoga Institute
They claim to be the oldest yoga centre in the world. Located in Santa Cruz, they are well-known for their teacher training programme and I know a number of expatriate spouses who have taken their one-month teacher training here because they wanted to get a yoga teaching certificate from India. I hear that their programme is excellent at teaching you about yoga philosophy and I understand that the course is predominantly theory based.
The Yoga House
This has been open for less than a year and I will be interested to see how it gets on. It is owned by a failed Bollywood actor and his French wife. It has become very popular with the expatriate crowd and they are just about to open a second studio in Bangalore. They have definitely cornered the expatriate and returning NRI (Non-Resident Indian) market.
Located in Bandra, The Yoga House is beautiful but very small. They have one studio that can only accommodate six to eight people so I have heard that it is difficult to book a mat. They also have a café that serves healthy food and chai.
When they first opened, they said that they would only be offering traditional yoga but they are now offering contemporary styles of ‘fusion’ yoga as well. This could be a sign of the times perhaps? This is probably the most fashionable yoga studio in Mumbai and they have certainly cornered a niche here. I think we will definitely be hearing a lot more from these guys!
They don’t have a website yet but you can find them on Facebook.
As you can see, there is an interesting mix of the old and the new here in Mumbai. It’s exciting to consider how yoga will evolve in the land of creation over the coming years.
A word of warning: If you decide to take a yoga class whilst in India, please don’t turn up in a tight lycra outfit as you will most likely be turned away! Most people wear baggy t-shirts and jogging bottoms or shorts. Oh and don’t forget to tuck your t-shirt in before you do inversions!
Finally, keep an open mind and enjoy your yoga practice whilst in Mumbai! I can guarantee that it will stay with you forever!