On June 21, Indian yogis made international headlines when 54,101 of them practiced together on Mysuru’s Race Course to celebrate International Yoga Day for the third time. Whilst it didn’t quite make a world record, it has put Mysuru on the yoga map for more yogis than ever before.
Where is Mysuru?
Mysuru, otherwise known as Mysore until 2005, sits to the south of Karnataka, one of India’s southern states, and is the region’s third largest city. Gateway to several national parks, Mysuru is a tourist destination in its own right, but for many yogis all over the globe, it now represents a must-see on the world yoga map.
It’s not just foreigners who are flocking to Mysuru to practice and learn the art of yoga, but many Indians also visit. Studios like the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute, founded by the late K. Pattabhi Jois, Nirvana Yoga Shala and Vedavyasa Yoga Foundation have gained huge followings. Yoga’s history in Mysuru is long, with the practice having been patronised by the Wadiyar dynasty who ruled over the kingdom of Mysore, of which Mysuru was capital for nearly six centuries, from 1399 until 1956. Patrons of art and culture, the Wadiyars contributed considerably to the cultural growth of the city, whose rich heritage earned it the sobriquet ‘Culture Capital of Karnataka’.
On average, 2,000 foreigners per month visit Mysuru in peak season to study yoga, with over 150 yoga schools across the city, and 20 renowned studios. Most undertake trainings in Hatha or Ashtanga yoga, accompanied by Pranayama, though the duration of the courses available varies hugely, from short term intensives and retreats to long, residential trainings potentially lasting years. The city has never been so well set up to accommodate international yogis, with awareness of yoga’s economic potential highlighted by Narendra Modi’s recent establishment of International Yoga Day, of which Mysuru has beyond doubt become the poster-city.
How has yoga helped tourism?
Yoga is bringing more visitors to Mysuru than ever before, and though their main focus may be yoga, many also enjoy the city’s rich cultural offering, enjoying its palaces, heritage buildings, and temples, especially during its world-famous Dasara festivities. Dasara is Karnataka’s Nadhabba (state festival) falling within the peak window of yoga tourism, September-October, and enjoyed its 400th anniversary in 2010. Visitors and locals alike are invited to revel in the festival’s vibrant pageantry, pomp and grandeur, which for many yogis offers a great way to let off steam after hours of hard study!
Read more at The Hindu.