Header image courtesy of Manoj Kumar Kasirajan (via Unsplash)
Mysore in southern India has been attracting spiritual seekers wishing to find their inner peace. The small, laid-back city in Karnataka state is famous for Ashtanga, a rigorous style of yoga that follows a specific sequence and series of poses in a precise order. Every year, dedicated yogis make a pilgrimage to practice under the guidance of Indian teachers, including R. Sharath Jois, lineage holder of Ashtanga yoga and grandson of late K. Pattabhi Jois, who started Mysore’s Ashtanga Institute in 1948. The city is also known for its majestic palaces, holistic Ayurvedic treatments, and tasty vegetarian meals. It’s recommended to visit Mysore for at least a month; otherwise, a week is fine depending on your itinerary. To visit, below are some tips and recommendations.
Ashrams and yoga schools dot across Mysore, offering courses and training. When you sign up, accommodation is usually included in the enrollment fees. Make sure to research which school meets your needs; otherwise, you’ll end up wasting time and money. To study with Sharath Jois, you would need to practice with an authorised or certified student of Sharath for three months before you can register at his two-month training program. The online registration process is a little tricky—only a limited time frame is given and since it comes on a first-come-first-serve basis, securing a spot can be difficult. But fret not, the centre also offers two-week classes taught by other qualified teachers.
Sthalam 8 Ashtanga Yoga Vedanta Centre is another school to look out for. It offers six-week immersion in asana practice, Vedanta philosophy, and meditation taught by Ajay Kumar, who has been a yoga teacher for 17 years. Drop-ins are not accepted—students must confirm their spot ahead of time and attend all classes. If you cannot commit for six weeks, you can sign up for a week’s training at Sachidananda Ashtanga Yoga Shala.
Similarly, highly-rated Samyak Yoga is a hotspot for yogis both experienced and beginners wanting to get certified in Hatha, Vinyasa, or Ashtanga. Their month-long teacher training programs, taught and supervised by Rakesh and Arvind, dives into postures, human anatomy, yoga philosophy, breathing, meditation, and chanting. The school is a 25-minute ride from the city—tucked away in the lap of nature, the location of Samyak Yoga is an excellent place to reconnect with yourself.
Reiki is a form of alternative therapy commonly referred to as energy healing. In Mysore, Reiki healers are everywhere, but it’s best to find one that connects with you as it is often a personal choice as to whom you want to draw the energy from. As a recipient, you’d be asked to lay down and the healer lays his or her hands on you to replenish your energy supply while removing blockages to the energy flow. The therapy also balances your energy absorption in every cell of the body. Check out highly-rated doctors at Isiri Ayurdhama or Aikya Energy Healing.
Ayurveda, a form of medical care, is known as one of the world’s oldest holistic healing systems. Originating in India 5,000 years ago, Ayurveda places great emphasis on prevention and encourages the maintenance of health through achieving balance, proper diet, healthy lifestyle, and use of herbs.
Detoxify your body and unclutter your mind at Indus Valley Ayurvedic Centre. The centre, located at the foot of the scenic Chamundi Hills, offers full-body detoxification treatments and anti-ageing programs. Set in a peaceful environment, you’ll leave this place feeling blissful and fully rejuvenated.
Ayurveda’s popularity has skyrocketed over the past years and to learn more about it, Mysore Ayurveda Academy & Wellness Center offers certificate courses in Ayurvedic nutrition and cooking, beauty care, herbology, massages and more. The centre also provides wellness counselling and traditional Ayurveda treatments to heal the body, mind, and spirit.
A typical south Indian breakfast is masala dosa (मसाला डोसा), a crispy rice pancake made from fermented batter and filled with potatoes, onions, and spices. It’s best to have them at Hotel Sri Durga Bhavan, where dosas come in plain, onion, or rava (रवा), a durum wheat product. The eatery is small and though the ambience is not as modern as Dhatu Organics & Naturals, you’ll surely enjoy the friendly service and tasty food.
Dhatu Organics & Naturals, meanwhile, is a spot for those who’re fussy with their food or have dietary restrictions. The menu has vegan and gluten-free options, and a mix of international and Indian cuisine prepared with organic ingredients.
Depth N Green is another favourite. The small and cosy café, catering mostly to tourists, offers salads, sandwiches, pasta, pizzas, all-day breakfast, as well as vegetarian thalis (थाली) or round platter, served with yoghurt and chutney. With outdoor seating, you can sip a calming latte or indulge in a refreshing smoothie and watch the world go by.
Just across Depth N Green is Chakra House Café, where the chef makes delicious omelettes, crunchy toasts, fresh salads, sandwiches, and ragi (रागी) wraps in a laid-back atmosphere. Instead of chairs, cushions are used for guests to lounge on. The space is nicely decorated with murals on the wall and prayer flags, which serve as a great backdrop for picture-taking.
For an unpretentious south Indian vegetarian meal, head to Anima Madhva Bhavan. Whether seated on carpeted floors with your legs crossed or on a chair at an open-space setting, you’ll find dining here quite an experience. A variety of south Indian dishes are served on plantain leaf and the food is meant to be eaten with your hands.
Shopping in Mysore is a whole lot of fun. The goods are crazily affordable and they are uniquely creative. You can shop at malls, markets, factories, or even small boutique shops. You’ll be surprised at what you can find there. Take a stroll around the Gokulam area and you’ll find small shops like Hasiru Organics. There, you’ll find spiritual books, yoga products, healthy snacks, essential oils, incense sticks, and “Made In India” personal care brands like Biotique and Himalaya Herbals.
Just a two-minute walk away, you’ll find Silver Nest, a jewellery shop situated inside a house. Owner Meena Gupta sells pure silver jewellery from earrings, pendants, necklaces to anklets, as well as gemstones, mala beads, and Tibetan singing bowls. Pop by Cocoa Vault nearby and snag some homemade cakes and heavenly chocolate bars—they are to-die-for.
Experience the hustle and bustle of India’s outdoor markets. A photographer’s paradise, the Devaraja Market showcases brightly coloured powders used in making rangoli (रंगोली) patterns, perfumes, silk sarees (साड़ी), Indian bangles, sandalwood pieces, and vegetables like betel leaves. Wander through this market and soak in the atmosphere—your senses will be overwhelmed with the colours, smells, sights, and tastes.
Mysore is home to magnificent palaces, Dravidian-style temples, and historic monuments. No trip to this cultural capital is complete without visiting Mysore Palace and Chamundi Hills, where the Chamundeshwari Temple is located on top. In visiting these attractions, be prepared to elbow your way in as it can get crowded with local and international tourists.
The easiest and fastest way to get to Mysore is to fly to Bangalore’s Kempegowda International Airport. From there, board a Majestic bus to KSRTC Mysore Road Bus Station. The bus ride takes about four hours, depending on traffic. Alternatively, hop on the Mysore Express (16231) train from KSR Bengaluru (SBC) Railway Station, which is approximately a 40-minute ride from the airport. The train ride takes about two hours and 50 minutes.
There’s no need to bring heaps of cash if you’re travelling to Mysore for educational purposes. Most schools require students to pay online before arriving. Just bring enough cash for dining, shopping, or riding a tuk-tuk. Some local businesses charge an overseas transaction fee when you use a credit card.