[Kerala floods: If you’re interested in practising yoga in Kerala, be aware that the state experienced severe floods in August 2018. However, the flood waters are now receding and the Kerala Minister for Tourism recently announced that the state is ready to welcome tourists. Unaffected areas include Trivandrum and Kovalam and the majority of resorts have reopened.]
Yoga in Kerala
In Kerala, misty tea plantations tumble down hills, palm-fringed beaches soften the coast, and houseboats glide along serene backwaters. But natural beauty isn’t the only thing that makes Kerala special. The southwestern state is also one of India’s best destinations for wellness treatments.
Maybe this has something to do with the refreshing mountain air, endless coconut trees, and an abundance of herbs and spices. Or maybe it’s a result of the proudly preserved traditions and culture of the state. Whatever the reason, Kerala is one of India’s most impressive regions for authentic Ayurveda treatments and holistic healing centres.
Combine this with a strong yoga tradition – Kerala is home to some of the most famous ashrams in India – and you have an incredible destination for a wellness holiday. Yoga in Kerala can be as full-on or relaxed as you like. For anyone planning to become a yoga teacher, spending a month at an ashram is a popular way to gain a qualification. Or for those who only have a week or two, a yoga vacation might be ideal.
There are also various privately run retreats, offering a more relaxed approach to yoga. And many luxury resorts in Kerala offer regular classes. Try combining your practice with holistic treatments and Ayurvedic food and yoga in Kerala might end up being a life-changing experience.
Yoga Holidays in Kerala
Yoga holidays, or yoga vacations as they’re called as in ashrams, are for people who want to take their personal practice to the next level. Generally, yoga vacations are run by ashrams or well-known yoga schools. These vacations follow a relatively strict schedule, often with early morning chanting or meditation sessions. If you choose to do a yoga vacation in an ashram, expect simple accommodation options and basic facilities. But the best ashrams also tend to attract deeply knowledgeable teachers and dedicated students.
One of the most popular yoga vacations in Kerala is run by Dhanwantari Ashram. Dhanwantari is part of the International Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centres, a non-profit organisation with centres all over the world. Snuggled among 12 tropical acres in the foothills of the Western Ghats, Dhanwantari Ashram is a tranquil place. The ashram overlooks the shimmering Neyyar Dam Lake. But staff members mentioned that crocodiles lurk under the surface, so post-yoga swims definitely aren’t part of the vacation.
When I visited Dhanwantari, I immediately understood how people could potentially change their lives there. A sense of total peace blankets the ashram and the surrounding forest. Which makes sense, because the Yoga Vacation aims to bring inner peace to participants. And don’t worry if you’re a beginner. The focus at Dhanwantari is on classical, traditional yoga and all levels are welcome. Each course involves daily yoga classes, vegetarian meals, silent meditation, and lectures.
Yoga Retreats in Kerala
Yoga in Kerala isn’t all 5.30am starts and intense learning. If you’re looking for something a little more relaxed, you’ll find privately run yoga retreats dotted around the state. I use Book Yoga Retreats to find yoga courses around the world. The reviews are an excellent way to judge the quality of each retreat, and so far, I haven’t been disappointed. For an authentic Kerala experience, look for a retreat that offers traditional meals, a homely setting, and a mix of meditation and yoga.
Yoga Teacher Training in Kerala
Unsurprisingly, India is one of the most popular countries in the world for yoga teacher training. Whether you’re interested in a 200, 300, or 500-hour course, you’ll find a huge number of ashrams and schools offering yoga certification. In Kerala, some courses are based on the traditional form of Sivananda. Other schools focus on the more vigorous styles of Ashtanga and Vinyasa.
Whatever yoga course you choose, make sure the school is Yoga Alliance registered. Padmakarma Yogashala in Kovalam offers a 200-hour Hatha Teacher Training Course (TTC) over 27 days. The Yoga Alliance registered Padmakarma is just a two-minute walk from the nearest beach. Meanwhile, Rama School of Yoga runs a 200-hour Hatha and Ashtanga-Vinyasa TTC in the popular beach town of Varkala.
Ayurvedic Centres in Kerala
Ayurveda is part of life in Kerala and there’s no better place to experience it. This ancient form of Indian medicine views health as a perfect balance between mind, body, spirit, and social wellbeing. Ayurvedic treatments involve the use of natural oils and herbs to promote physical and mental health. And for a complete wellness experience, it’s definitely possible to find a Kerala retreat with Ayurveda and yoga.
Most luxury hotels in Kerala offer both traditional holistic therapies and modern spa sessions. At the Uday Samudra Leisure Beach Hotel & Spa, guests can choose between treatments at the Ayurashram Ayurvedic Centre or the Ocean Spa. Meanwhile, the eco-friendly Coconut Lagoon has a beautiful Ayurveda centre. Coconut Lagoon also has a resident yoga teacher and classes take place in a shala overlooking the water.
Or if you’re looking for a complete holistic experience, try Mekosha Ayurveda Spasuites Retreat. Mekosha, a luxury retreat with a strong sustainable focus, serves the most delicious traditional food I ate while in Kerala. They grow their organic ingredients in the gardens and buy the rest from local producers. Every guest can meet with Mekosha’s Ayurvedic doctor before starting a personalised programme of treatments.
Of course, you don’t have to spend all your time at a retreat. Taking some classes while you travel around might be enough. Fort Kochi, the pretty old town of Cochin, has a couple of yoga schools to choose from. Airy cafes and small shops line Fort Kochi’s narrow streets, so there’s plenty of wandering to do in between classes.
Varkala, a beach town near Trivandrum, is another popular yoga spot. But beach towns tend to shut down during monsoon season, so it’s worth planning your route in advance. And if there are no yoga schools around, your hotel might be able to arrange a private class with a local teacher. Some of the bigger hotels in Kerala offer weekly classes. So it’s always worth asking during check-in.
Kerala has a reputation for being one of the best places in India for solo travellers. The lush landscape, friendliness of the people, and the slower pace of the cities are all part of what makes it special. So it’s not surprising that it’s also a wonderful place to practice yoga. From group classes in luxury hotels to month-long courses in ashrams, yoga in Kerala can be as intense or relaxed as you want it to be.
Planning to take a Yoga Holiday in Kerala?
- Kerala’s major airports are Trivandrum, Kochi, and Kozhikode.
- December to February is the most popular time of year to visit Kerala. The weather tends to be cool and dry.
- Monsoon season (May – November) is traditionally the most beneficial time to have Ayurvedic treatments.
- Book Yoga Retreats is a great site to use for booking retreats and teacher training in India.
- You might also like: Victory Chimes Wellness Sail
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Some of my travels in Kerala were part of the Yoga Ambassador Tour 2018. Many thanks to ATTOI for organising the trip and for hosting me.