Yoga in Kerala

Yoga is taught all over Kerala, but particularly in the resorts of Kovalam and Varkala, and there are several internationally known centres where you can train to become a teacher.

Kerala also has hosts innumerable ashrams-communities where people work, live and study together, drawn by a common (usually spiritual) goal-the famous and visited of them at Amritapuri in the backwaters, home of the "hugging Guru", Amma.

Details of teacher's courses and ashrams are provided throughout this website. Most places can enroll you at short notice, but some of the more popular ones listed in this page need to be booked well in advance.

Yoga and Meditation

The word "yoga" literally means "union" the aim of the discipline being to help the practitioner unite his or her individual consciousness with the divine. This is achieved by raising awareness of the true nature of self through spiritual, mental and physical discipline.

Many texts and manuscripts have been written describing the practice and philosophy of yoga, but probably the best known are the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, written by the sage Maharshi Patanjali in either the second century BC or the second or third century AD.

He believed the path to realization of the self consisted of eight spiritual practices which he called the "eight limbs" these were yama (moral codes); niyama (self-purification through study); asana (posture); pranayama (breath control); pratyahara (sense control); dharana (concentration); dhyana (contemplation); and samadhi (meditative absorption). Of these eight limbs the first four are "external" in nature while the last four are "internal".

Today it is asanas or the physical postures, that are most commonly identified as yoga, but these are just one element of what to many practitioners is a complete transcendental philosophy.

Types of Yoga

A multitude of paths and practices exist to help the individual attain the ultimate goal of union with the divine. Hatha Yoga is the term most commonly used for the physical and spiritual practices described above, and there are innumerable approaches to teaching it.

Broadly speaking, they all focus on a series of asanas, which stretch, relax and tone the muscular system of the body and also massage the internal organs. Each asana has a beneficial effect on a particular muscle group or organ, and although they vary widely in difficulty, consistent practice will lead to improved suppleness and health benefits.

Iyengar Yoga

Iyengar yoga is one of the most famous approaches studied today, named after its founder, B.K.S Iyengar, a student of the great yoga teacher Sri Tirumalai Krishnamacharaya.

His style is based upon precise physical alignment during each posture. With much practice, and the aid of props such as blocks, straps and chairs, the student can attain perfect physical balance and, the theory goes, perfect balance of mind will follow.

Iyengar yoga has a strong therapeutic element and has been used successfully for treating a wide variety of structural and internal problems.

Ashtanga Yoga

Ashtanga Yoga is an approach developed by Pattabhi Jois, who also studied under Krishnamacharaya. Unlike Iyengar yoga, which centres on a collection of separate asanas, Ashtanga links various postures into a series of flowing moves called vinyasa, with the aim of developing strength and agility.

The perfect synchronization of movement with breath is a key objective through these sequences. Although a powerful form, it can be frustrating for beginners as each move has to be perfect before moving on to the next one.


The son of Krishnamacharaya, T.K.V Desikachar, established a third branch in the modern yoga tree, emphasizing a more versatile and adaptive approach to teaching, focused on the situation of the individual practitioner. This style became known as Viniyoga, although Desikachar has long tried to distance himself from the term.

Sivananda Yoga

The other most influential India yoga teacher of the modern era has been Swami Vishnu Devananda, an acolyte of the famous sage Swami Sivananda, who established the International Sivananda Yoga Centre, with more than twenty branches in India and abroad.

Sivananda-style yoga tends to introduce elements in a different order from its counterparts-teaching practices regarded by others as advanced to relative beginners.

This fast-forward approach has proved particularly popular with westerners, who flock in their thousands to intensive introductory courses staged at centres all over India the most renowned of them at Neyyar Dam, in the hills east of Trivandrum.

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