On June 21, Mysuru’s yoga practitioners made headlines after 54,101 of them performed asanas on the turf of the expansive Mysuru Race Course on the foothills of Chamundi to commemorate the third International Day of Yoga. It missed making it to the Guinness Book of World Records but the event highlighted the fact that Mysuru is becoming a yoga hub.

Why is it a tourist spot?

Mysuru attracts a lot of tourists. Once the capital of the kingdom of Mysore, at its heart lies the Mysore Palace, seat of the erstwhile rulers, the Wadiyars. Mysuru is also the gateway to several national parks. Other than tourism, another reason for foreigners to visit Mysuru is yoga. Like Rishikesh in Uttarakhand and Pune in Maharashtra, which are important yoga destinations, Mysuru attracts many foreign nationals who want to learn the ancient art. Not just international visitors, enthusiasts from metros and IT sectors from key Indian cities also visit Mysuru to learn the ancient practice from yoga gurus.

Some yoga studios like Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute, Nirvana Yoga Shala (Mystic Yoga) and Vedavyasa Yoga Foundation are well-known internationally. The yoga education centres draw practitioners from the U.S., Europe, South America and other nations between October and March, considered the peak season for yoga.

Legendary gurus the late K. Pattabhi Jois and the late B.K.S. Iyengar popularised yoga globally. While Jois founded the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute in Mysuru and popularised Ashtanga Yoga, Iyengar, who learnt yoga in Mysuru, practised and taught in Pune. These stalwarts motivated a large number of students from the United States and Europe to learn yoga. Pop star Madonna, rock icon Sting and Hollywood actor Gwyneth Paltrow were among the disciples of Jois. Importantly, the reason why yoga got a firm grip on Mysuru is the fact that the Wadiyars patronised it.

Is the infrastructure in place?

The upmarket Gokulam and Lakshmipuram are the city’s leading yoga education destinations. On an average, about 2,000 foreigners visit the city every month in peak season to learn yoga. There are 150-plus yoga schools in the city, including 20 reputed studios.

Foreigners clutching yoga mats are a common sight in these localities. They take up short-term and long-term courses such as Hatha Yoga, Ashtanga Yoga and Pranayama, based on the duration of their stay.

How has yoga helped tourism?

Many practitioners claim that yoga has played a role in bringing more tourists to Mysuru, a most-sought after destination in the southern circuit, and benefited the local economy, especially the hospitality industry. Many PG accommodations have come up to house these visitors, giving employment to the locals.

Stakeholders in the tourism sector say that foreigners coming to learn yoga often write about the magnificent palaces, heritage buildings, the temples around it and so on, in their respective countries, helping to increase the tourist arrivals, especially during the world-famous Dasara festivities. Yoga guru Shashi Kumar of the Nirvana Yoga Shala says e-visa has helped to promote yoga with many foreigners applying for visa naming it as the reason for their trip to India. The perception of yoga has changed and people have started making it a part of their life. Mr. Kumar says the change can be attributed to the international status yoga got three years ago.

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