So you’ve been thinking about taking the leap and traveling, but not just anywhere, you want to go to India. And you want to go to Mysore, to study and practice Yoga.
I wanted this same thing for the past couple of years, especially since I fell in love with Ashtanga Yoga. In December 2015, I embarked on my first trip to India – to Mysore, the home of Ashtanga Yoga. My hope was to study at the K Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute (KPJAYI) with Sharath Jois grandson of the late K. Pattabhi Jois and Guru of many ashtangis.
This article is going to give you a few ideas, pointers, tips and tricks that could be useful to you when planning your trip to India. While most of this information will be specific to traveling to Mysore to study Ashtanga from the United States, some things will be relevant to any travel in India.
Application – In order to study at KPJAYI you have to be accepted through their application process. To apply you must complete their online form no more than 3 months before the month you wish to start practice at the Institute. Now initially this doesn’t sound so bad, but you have to realize that there are thousands of yogis who want these few spots and in order to get in you have to be one of the first hundreds of people to submit your application. This means when you get ready to apply you have to get your application in as close to Midnight on the 1st of the month as possible. For me this meant I needed to apply a 1:30pm CST on August, 31st. So at 1:30pm I logged on to submit my application, only to click submit and find out that so many other people were applying that we had crashed the website. Finally after hours of refreshing (Wade even took over for a couple hours so I could go to yoga) I got my application through. Then you wait. I was surprised how early my acceptance email came, just 4 days later, I was ECSTATIC!
So the reality is that you apply and you don’t know if you will get in, especially if registering to study with Sharath. Now if you don’t get in to study with Sharath you can always register to study with Saraswathi who is the mother of Sharath, daughter of K. Pattabhi Jois. Saraswathi welcomes all yoga students at her shala which is a couple blocks from the main shala. So if you are new to the practice, didn’t get in to Sharath, or just want to go experience her amazing instruction you might consider registering with her. I hope to return and study with her soon. The fee to study with Sharath for the first month is Rs35,500 which is approximately $525.00 US. The fee to study with Saraswathi is about Rs30,000, around $445.00 US.
Visa – You need a Visa to travel anywhere in India. The company used by the Indian Embassy here in the United States to process Visa requests is Cox & Kings Global Services, to start the application process click here. I applied for my Visa about 6 weeks prior to my departure date so I would be confident I would get it before I left. It took about 3 weeks for my Passport to be returned to me with my shiny new Indian Visa. I applied for a 10-year tourist Visa. The Visa itself cost approximately $120 and the overnight shipping $30.
Flight – Unless you have your own personal form of transportation to India you are going to need to book a flight. I went searching for my flight the night I found out I got accepted. After looking at dozens of sites, I finally purchased a ticket from CheaopOair.com now I am not the person to give flight ticket advice, but I did try to research my options as thoroughly as possible and ended up paying a little more so that I could fly out of Moline, IL where I live and not have to ask Wade to drive me to Chicago and so that I would get home at a decent hour instead of midnight.
Paperwork – You will have to bring paperwork with you to register at KPJAYI this includes a copy of your acceptance email, a copy of you visa, copy of your passport ID page, and a passport size photograph. Additionally all fees are due upon registration so be sure to have Rupees when you go to register. Exact change is appreciated. When I registered the fee ended up being about Rs 500 more than what was advertised online, so take extra. You will most likely need a copy of your Visa and passport ID page for your landlord too so bring additional copies!
Rupees – I ordered money from my bank before I left. While customs will ask you if you have any with you when you land, no one checked and it was fine, in fact super easy then for me as I didn’t have to exchange any US for Rupees until my last week.
Also be sure your credit card company knows you are traveling! I was told by other yogis to try to use the State Bank of India ATMs when taking money out, so passing that on to you. They tend to have more security around them too.
Passport – You need that to travel. Be sure it is good for a few months after your return date too for your Visa and just in case.
In this second half I’m going to go over a few ideas for packing, things I brought I really needed and things I didn’t and wish I had.
What you Should Bring:
- Yoga Clothing – bring yoga clothes you will be comfortable practicing in because it’s hot and humid and you won’t find any moisture-wicking yoga clothing in India. My 2 favorite brands to practice in are Werkshop & Yoga Democracy.
- Mat – you should bring a mat that you can practice on. I ended up bringing my old Jade Yoga Mat & left it in India to be donated to a local school when I finished. My old mat had some sun damage but worked fine for practice.
- Hand Sanitizer – you’re going to want this and Wet Wipes. Everything is dusty all the time!
- Purse/Bag/Daypack – You’ll want to bring some sort of bag to carry items in. You will always need to bring your Shala ID card with you to practice, conference, Sanskrit class. Once Prakash (gatekeeper) knows who you are you won’t need it to get in everyday, but you should still always carry it with you when going to the Shala. You will also probably want something to carry water in as it gets hot. I stowed sunscreen, my Gerber tool, wallet, sunscreen chapstick, a shawl (when not wearing), cell phone, camera, camera tripod, hand sanitizer, TP/kleenex, Odomos bug cream (a must), and usually a granola bar at all times in my Keen cross-body satchel. It’s really not too big, but allows me to travel with the necessities. I also took along my Cotopaxi Cusco 26L Backpack for the airplane and weekend adventures, it was perfect for such expeditions! (More about the weekend trips in a later blog)
- Granola Bars or Snacks – I get hangry when I am in need of food so knowing that I brought alone a box of Pure Bar Organic Wild Blueberry, Fruit & Nut Bar & KIND Fruit & Nut, Almond & Coconut bars. I brought enough that I would have plenty for my month-long stay. You can get granola and some bars in India, but it was nice to have some food from home with me for when my stomach needed a break from the delicious Indian food.
- Clothing – Women will need to bring shirts/dresses with sleeves and that cover their legs below their knees. Walking around in leggings with nothing to cover your butt is not a good idea. What I know now is I didn’t need to bring as many clothes with me as I did. It’s easy to find pieces in Mysore, there are plenty of shops around the Gokulum area of Mysore. Gokulum is the neighborhood the main Shala is located in. There are also a plethora of shopping centers in the nearby neighborhoods and easy to access by rickshaw. If you want you can take a rickshaw for about Rs 100 down near the Mysore Palace there is a great shop lots of yogis frequent to get clothing made. Rashinkar Emporium lets you pick your fabric and their tailors create beautiful pieces made just for you! I had a tunic top made for me while I was there, next time I won’t pack as many clothes and have a couple pieces made for me instead.
- Gerber tool/knife – I’m married to an Eagle Scout and one of the first gifts he gave me was a gerber tool. I carry it with me all the time just in case I need it and I was glad to have it in India. It acts as protection and is very useful in all kinds of situations. I checked in just to be safe, but the blade is less than 2 inches. This one is similar to mine, although it has more pieces.
- Tampons – They don’t have tampons in India, bring your own!
- Probiotics/Vitamins – I brought Probiotics, a multivitamin, and magnesium pills with me. Since it’s not really safe to eat raw fruits and vegetables that aren’t able to be peeled or are cooked it’s good to bring supplements with to make up for that. And since you may accidentally eat or drink something made with unfiltered water it’s good to bring probiotics with to keep your digestive system healthy. In addition to this you might consider asking your primary care doctor to prescribe you some broad-range antibiotics in case you get a bacterial infection from water or food.
- Good walking shoes – I brought my Teva Northwater sandals with me because the strap can be worn either over the top of your foot or attached around the back. You’ll have to take your shoes off every time you turn around so having something that slips on and off easily is a must. I also wanted a shoe with closed toes to keep my feet from getting too scuffed up and comfortable for walking around in for most of the day. So pick your favorite walking sandal!
So this is by no means an exhaustive list but it’s a start and hopefully helps you start your own packing list. I included the specific items I took with and the links to them in case you want to check out the gear that worked for me. Mostly be sure you address the needs you know you have normally when traveling and pack for that. This is just Part 1 of a multi-part series of blogs I’ll write on navigating your first trip to Mysore, India. Stay tuned for the next installment! And if there is anything you want to know about please leave a comment below!