India Travel Guide: What You Need to Know to Plan a Yoga Trip to Mysore
Mysore is located in southern India and is one of the main epicentres of Yoga in the world. It is one of the top Yoga destinations and draws thousands of Yoga lovers to practice, breathe and live Yoga for weeks (even months) at a time. Not only can you get your fill of Yoga, you can also eat delicious and nutritious food, take in the sounds and smells of the local Devaraja market, explore Mysore Palace, chase waterfalls, spot wild Asian tigers in a national park and so on. I had the opportunity to practice Ashtanga Yoga earlier this year with Saraswathi Jois, the daughter of K. Pattabhi Jois, and found Mysore to be one of the most unique and immersive cities I’ve ever visited. If you are a Yoga practitioner (or someone who wants to kickstart their Yoga journey), add Mysore to your list of places to travel to, ASAP!
Convinced? Good! Here’s what you need to know to help plan your Yoga trip to Mysore in India!
How to apply for an Indian visa
India now offers an easy e-visa portal for passport holders from many countries around the world. The official e-visa website is located here and the country-specific visa fees can be checked here. The e-visas are valid for 60 days from the date of arrival in India. It is not recommended to overstay your visa in India, as there are reports of people being blacklisted or heavily fined for staying past their visa validity.
If you hold a passport of a country not on the pre-approved e-visa list, you will need to visit your local consulate and go through the traditional offline visa application process.
How to get to Mysore
The closest airport is Bangalore’s Kempegowda International Airport. From there, it is a 3-4 hour drive to Mysore. There are a number of ways to get to/from the airport:
Bus: There are several efficient bus services that serve the Bangalore – Mysore route and the most popular one is the FlyBus. It is super convenient because it departs from the airport itself and runs frequently throughout the day (12 times). You can essentially just show up at the bus stand, purchase a ticket and ride (or you could also book ahead from their website). A 1 way ticket costs approximately 800 INR (approx. US$12).
Car: A private car will cost anywhere from US$30 to $50 and this is the best option if you are arriving late in the evening. A reliable car service to go with is Ganesh Travels, who organized my airport pick up and drop off. You can reach him at +91 9845279513 or by email: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. As there are so many people travelling to Mysore each day it’s possible to try to share a ride from the airport. The Ashtanga Community in Mysore Facebook group is a good place to ask around to see if anyone wants to share a ride to or from the airport.
Train: If you’re not in a rush and want to experience train travel in India, then there are plenty of daily departures from Bangalore. Once you arrive in Mysore, hop in a tuk tuk to get to your hotel. You can check the train schedule here – the station code for Bangalore is “SBC” and the station code for Mysore is “MYS”.
How to get around Mysore
The easiest way to get around for short journeys around Mysore is by tuk tuk, or three wheeler. There are a number of drivers around town but it’s important to negotiate the price ahead of your trip. Alternatively, download the Jugnoo app ahead of your trip. It is similar to Uber, but for tuk tuks. Alternatively, Uber works well and prices are extremely reasonable. There are plenty of Uber drivers around town and I never experienced a wait time over 4 to 5 minutes.
If you have experience riding scooters, it is possible to rent one once you have arrived in Mysore. If you are staying in Gokulam, which is where most of the Yoga schools are located, you can easily get around from A to B on foot.
Currency and cards
The local currency is the Indian Rupee. Most people will recommend that you exchange money at Chakra House Cafe which offers competitive exchange rates (approximately 60 INR to 1 USD). Alternatively you can bring your international credit or debit card to withdraw cash – make sure your bank is notified of your travel plans in advance so they don’t freeze your card for suspicious activity. There are several ATMs around town but some will only dispense 10,000 or 20,000 Rupees a day, some run out of cash and some are notorious for eating cards.
The cost of meals, groceries and transport are extremely budget friendly in Mysore – expect to pay 30-40 INR for a short Uber ride, 25-40 INR for a piece of fresh fruit, 200-400 INR for a hearty lunch.
Certain vaccinations are generally recommended for travel to India. In particular, Hepatitis A/B and typhoid are the common ones that many people get ahead of their trip if they aren’t already vaccinated against those diseases. Personally, I was already up-to-date on my Hep A/B shots and did not need to go out of my way to get them for my trip to Mysore.
Malaria is not an issue in Mysore, and while there have been a few cases of dengue fever as long as you use mosquito repellent and cover up your legs and arms (especially at dusk) then you shouldn’t have an issue. However, I’m not a doctor so if you have any concerns then the best thing to do is to visit your GP ahead of the trip for their medical expertise.
What to pack for Mysore
Mysore is typically hot and humid throughout the year, with monsoon season hitting from May to October. The dry season from December to March can get extremely warm, so make sure you bring loose fitting clothes. In addition to bringing yoga apparel and your own Yoga mat (+ cotton mat if you have one), bring light weight t-shirts, loose pants, a thin scarf, kaftans, long skirts, a swimsuit, mosquito repellent and probiotics if you have a sensitive stomach. If you have a reusable water bottle pack that in your suitcase as well.
If you are a female traveler, leave your shorts, tube tops and anything exposing your arms and legs at home.
If you have an international roaming pocket wifi device, bring it along as most places do not offer wifi. In order to get a local SIM card, you will need to provide a copy of your passport and passport photo. You can apply for one once you have arrived in Mysore – Airtel coverage tends to be reliable and it takes a few days to activate the SIM card.
Where to practice Yoga in Mysore
There are a number of Yoga schools around Mysore. The majority of them require enrollment of some sort, so you should plan ahead and register to practice at a school that speaks to you and teaches the style of Yoga you want to practice. Some schools also have special requisites for students and may not accept complete beginners, so it’s best to check the entry requirements carefully.
Occasionally there are drop-in classes that you can attend, but these tend to only be held in the peak season from December to March (with some exceptions). If you are travelling to Mysore with the express intention of practicing Yoga, it’s best to contact the school directly ahead of your trip to enquire regarding their class schedule and prices for the dates that you are in town.
KPJAYI (Shri K Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute): I practiced at Saraswathi Jois’s shala which is separate from Sharath’s classes. To register for Sharath Jois’s classes you should visit this website instead. To apply to study at KPJAYI you will need to apply online and register 3 months ahead of your intended start date. Sharath and Saraswathi do not teach year-round in Mysore so you will need to check their websites for their teaching schedule, which change from year to year. The registration process is intense and it’s not uncommon for the website to crash from hundreds of people trying to register at the same time. Make sure you follow the instructions for submitting your application, and note that your registration is not a confirmation of your place to study at the school – you’ll have to wait a few weeks for the final acceptance letter!
If you are planning on studying with Saraswathi, you should join this Facebook group for information about her schedule and other happenings.
I have not practiced at these studios so cannot vouch for them personally, but have heard positive feedback. However, the learning experience is unique to each student, so you should do your due diligence and ask around before you commit to studying with one particular school and teacher.
Prana Vashya Yoga: Prana Vashya is a lineage of Yoga developed by Vinay Kumar. His Yoga school teaches his specific 60+ Asana series and offers intensive courses and teacher trainings. You will need to apply in advance to study with Vinay.
Mysore Three Sisters: The three sisters have studied with the Jois family and in turn are spreading the practice of Ashtanga Yoga. Check directly with them for class schedules.
Linga Ashtanga: Another Ashtanga Yoga school run by Jai Prakash. In addition to Asana classes the school also teaches Pranayama (breathing).
Indea Yoga: Indea Yoga teaches both Hatha and Ashtanga-style courses. The courses tend to have a minimum duration so check the exact curriculum and schedule on their website.
Ashtanga Saadhana: Vijay Kumar hosts Ashtanga-style classes in Gokulam. The shala offers drop-in style classes throughout the week, except for on Saturdays.
In addition to these schools, many Yoga teachers and practitioners host courses and workshops throughout Mysore. If you want to participate in an anatomy, breathing, philosophy or chanting workshop then your best bet is to check the Ashtanga Community in Mysore Facebook group for upcoming events.
Where to stay in Mysore
Most Yoga schools in Mysore do not offer accommodation and you will need to sort that out yourself. The bigger hotels and chains in Mysore tend to be further away from the Yoga schools, which means that you will have to travel a fair distance each day for class. If you are travelling to Mysore to practice Yoga, you will want to find accommodation in the Gokulam district.
For my first trip to Mysore (and India, more generally), I wanted to find a safe and comfortable place to stay. That’s why I chose to stay at the Green Lotus, a small B&B right in the heart of Gokulam and just a few streets away from both Sharath and Saraswathi’s shalas. The hosts were extremely helpful and the rooms were spacious – Ananya and her husband made me feel safe and welcomed as a solo female traveler who was visiting Mysore for the first time ever. They kindly accommodated a 4 am check-in and offered clean rooms which were cleaned often, hot showers and relatively stable wifi. Most importantly, the house has a shared kitchen and a washing machine – believe me, if you are practicing Yoga this comes in handy as you will be doing laundry on an almost daily basis.
One thing to note is that the room rates are higher than what you might find elsewhere in Mysore, but you are paying for comfort and cleanliness – if it’s your first trip and you are slightly nervous about your trip, this is a great option. Click here for current rates for Green Lotus.
There are also lots of housing options on the Ashtanga Community on Facebook. Room rates tend to vary from about 10,000-15,000 Rupees (approx. US$150-220) per month and I would recommend booking a few weeks in advance, although there tends to be a number of last-minute options as a result of cancellations.
Where to eat in Mysore
There are plenty of cafes and restaurants in Mysore. Here are some that I enjoyed!
Chakra House: A small cafe offering lots of vegetarian and vegan options. Their daily soup specials are especially tasty.
SPR: A newer Indian restaurant that has a wide variety of traditional Indian dishes on offer. Try their vegetable curry!
Trattorias: Quite possibly my favorite place – this rooftop restaurant was where I spent most of my afternoons. The momo dumplings are heavenly and so is the mint smoothie.
Dibas: Dibas is a small cafe located in a residential house near Saraswathi’s shala. They have lots of homemade pastries and cakes as well as delicious drinks.
Anu’s Cafe: Anu’s is an institution in Mysore and consistently serves up delicious home made food. The chef also regularly hosts cooking classes if you want to learn how to cook some mean Indian food!
The Old House: If you’re craving some Western-style food then head to The Old House. They have pasta, sandwiches, and pretty decent pizza as well.
Where to grocery shop in Mysore
If you have access to a kitchen then you can buy plenty of fresh produce to prepare your own meals at home.
Big Bazaar in Easy Day Mall: This supermarket is one of the most well-stocked places to get your greens, yoghurt, laundry detergent, toilet paper, mosquito repellent and much much more.
Nature’s Nectar: This food store has a good selection of organic produce and hard-to-find food items like almond butter and coconut milk.
Hasiru Organics: Similar to Nature’s Nectar, Hasiru Organics is well stocked with organic food items and products.
There are also many small mom and pop shops throughout Gokulam where you can pick up daily essentials. You can also order large 3-5 gallon water cooler bottles that will last you a few days – you can fill up a smaller bottle to take to class with you (avoid drinking from the tap).
Safety and security in Mysore
There have been various reports of verbal and physical harassment over the years, and oftentimes the culprits will ride past on a bicycle or motorcycle and corner or grope women. If you are a solo female traveler, it’s usually advisable to try to walk around with someone from class or your accommodation. If you are walking on your own, you should try to be mindful of your surroundings and try to avoid staying out late in the evenings.
If you are practicing Yoga early in the morning, try to make arrangements for a reliable tuk tuk driver to pick you up at the same time each day to take you to class so that you don’t have to walk in the dark. If you experience any harassment, the police can be reached at 100 and are generally known to be responsive to these types of reports.
Rabies has not been eradicated in India, and bites from stray dogs are not unheard of. If you are scratched or bitten by a stray dog (even if it is just a puppy), get yourself to the hospital for the rabies vaccination, stat. 2 reputable hospitals in the area are Apollo Hospital and Columbia Asia Hospital.
I hope this overview of Mysore was helpful! I can’t wait for my next visit and truly recommend Mysore as a destination for anyone who loves Yoga or wants to learn. Have you visited Mysore? Do you have any tips to add to this guide? Comment below and tell me all about it.
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