Taking a yoga trip to India may invoke dreams of solitude under palm trees and days of sun salutations.
The reality of India can be far from peaceful, but these tips aim to make the transition more like a lengthy downward dog and less like a 90-minute hot yoga challenge.
1). Spend the first night in a nice hotel wherever you land.
Jetlagged and tired you’ll be miserable sleeping on a wafer-thin mattress with bells waking you up before 6 a.m.
2). Research what you can.
This is easier for Europeans than Americans because so many Europeans know someone who has been to India. Not so for Americans, but Yoga Journal has written extensively on the topic. British newspapers such as The Guardian’s travel section and European travel publications are also great spots to find information on traveling in India.
The power goes out all the time and they’re not easy to find in India. Depending on your length of stay you might even want to bring extra batteries.
4). Don’t over do it.
Western bodies aren’t used to sitting cross-legged for hours or contorting ourselves the same way. Don’t let the teacher push you into some pose you know will only mess up your back in a mean, mean way.
5). Do some yoga before you go.
No, it’s not likely you’ll be able to fit 4 hours of yoga into your day before you head out on an Indian yoga vacation. But you won’t want to start off cold. It’ll just hurt that much more.
6). Take a big bottle of Advil.
See No. 5.
7). Learn the names for a few basic poses in Sanskrit.
8). Plan a few trips out of the ashram.
Either before or after your yoga time, take the chance to see a bit outside those walls. Ashram life does teach a lot about India, but seeing it in person gives you more perspective on what you’re learning and challenges that yogic calm and focus on not judging.
9). Keep tabs a little on the outside world.
Security alerts from your home embassy and reading Indian news websites can let you know if you need to reroute your trip because of weather problems like I did or violence such as a recent bombing at an Aarti on the Ganges River.
10). Pack an open mind.
India is far from the Western world and that much farther from American life. But it’s still incredible to witness.
For more than 10 years, Sonja Bjelland covered life’s underbelly for daily newspapers. She originally sought out yoga to change up her workout routine, but discovered that yoga helped her deal with the daily tasks of listening to tearful courtroom testimony or interviewing a mother who had lost a child. As the newspaper industry crumbled, she decided to give back to the yoga community for what it gave her. Blisspassport.com is dedicated to providing a forum for discussions about all types of yoga-related travel and strives to provide more information about yoga retreats, yoga spas and yoga resorts so readers can make educated decisions.