Modern fast paced lifestyle has started showing its negative impacts in the life of individual, family and society. Yoga, thousands of years old and deeply entrenched in Hindu culture, has been recognized by the agonized mankind as the most effective means to stay fit, fine and positively energized. The rapidly expanding acceptance of Yoga as a holistic approach and practice of wellbeing has given birth to concept of Yoga tourism, a part of wellness tourism.
In India, Yoga is a way of life that takes the soul towards freedom from the cycle of death and rebirth, balancing the individual's 'karma'. But it derives its popularity in the West for its capacity to heal fast and preserve physical and mental well-being.
Apart from proposing a spiritual outlook and detachment from excess, the sage Patanjali, writing his 'Yoga Sutra' over 2000 years ago, advocated the adoption of a series of physical postures or 'asanas'. These were to be supplemented on the one hand by regard for hygiene and personal grooming, and on the other by meditation and 'pranayama (controlled breathing). Together, he postulates an 'ashtanga' (eight-fold) system of self -control and enlightenment. Essentially, Yoga calms and focuses the mind, improves circulation and respiration, relaxes both the nerves and muscles and stimulates glandular functions. Its modern revival owes much to the likes of Sri Ramakrishna Paramhans and his disciple Swami Vivekananda, Sri Aurobindo and Sri Ramana Maharishi.
Rishikesh, in the foothills of the Himalayas, remains a popular yoga destination and an International Yoga Week is held here every February. Yoga 'ashramas' abound in this town. A high-end option in Rishikesh is Ananda in the Himalayas. A full-fledged spa with a range of wellness programmes, it offers stress management and 'sanjeevini' (rejuvenation) packages. For a more down-to-earth experience, there is the Yoga Study Centre, Sivananda Ashram, Yoga Niketan Ashram and Sri Ved Niketan Ashram.
Other options for a yoga holiday in India include the Kalmatia Sangam Himalayan Resort in Almora, Himalayan Iyengar Yoga Centres in Dharamshala and Arambol in Goa; Patanjali Yoga (of Baba Ramdev fame) in Haridwar Pitha Sri aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry; Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Dhanwantari Ashram in Kerala; Vivekananda Centre, Bangalore; Ashtanga Yoga Nilayam, Mysore; Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram, Chennai and Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute in Pune.
Always consult a doctor before embarking on a Yoga regimen. Never attempt an 'asana' yourself, always engage an instructor.