Skip to content
Subscriber Only

Pilgrimage To the Heart Of Yoga

Devotees from around the world head for Mysore, India, home of the vigorous form called Ashtanga

At 5 p.m. on a breezy Saturday, the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute in the southern Indian city of Mysore is buzzing. Students from around the globe are thronging the steps of the three-story, light-gray concrete building. Clad in light-colored cotton pants and T-shirts, their backs ramrod straight, their eyes and skin aglow, they are queuing up to greet Sharath Ranga-swamy, 35, a master of Ashtanga yoga, and his grandfather, Guruji K. Pattabhi Jois, the institute's founder. Some are there to inquire about their classes, which start at 5 a.m. the next day, and some are still hoping to enroll.

While there are numerous yoga centers in Mysore, a two-hour trip by car or train from Bangalore, Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute is the most well-known and the one that attracts the greatest number of visitors from overseas. Ashtanga, which means "eight limbs" in Sanskrit, is an extremely active form of yoga. It combines "vinyasa," or flowing breath, with "asanas," or poses. The rigorous mix heats the body in an intense workout that some say is equal to a grueling session at the gym.