Nine must-visit wellness centres in India

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Looking for a place to relax and connect with your soul? Check out these interesting wellness retreats that offer short and long term yoga courses, ayurvedic treatments and much more. What else? When not taking the classes, nearby places can also make for good sightseeing trips!

1- Himalayan Iyengar Yoga Centre

Based in the Himalayan foothill village of Dharamkot, near Dharamsala, the highly regarded HIYC (established in 1985) follows the teachings of immensely influential 20thcentury yoga guru BKS Iyengar. Between November and March, it relocates to Arambol (Harmal) on northern Goa’s shores. After sun-saluting through the signature Five-Day Introductory Course (three hours daily), you’ll be thoroughly equipped for independent practice, though many yogis can’t resist staying on. Rigorous six-week teacher-training courses are led by HIYC founder Sharat Arora, a long-time student of Iyengar himself.

On Your Doorstep: Beautifully scenic hikes from Dharamkot include a three-hour climb to the panoramic 9514ft high mountain meadow Triund.

2- IndeaYoga

As the birthplace of asthanga yoga, the last decade has seen Mysuru experience a boom that’s transformed it into one of India’s most thriving yoga hubs. Indea teaches the more traditional form of yoga, hatha, using a ‘Mysore-style’ practice in an atmospheric space enlivened by its bright Om symbol backdrop. Whether you’re seeking a casual drop-in class or back-bending intensive month-long yoga retreats, IndeaYoga makes a great choice for study in Mysuru.

On Your Doorstep: In between classes, take the time to explore Mysuru itself, a town famous for its regal history. Mysore Palace is undoubtedly its crowning jewel, but there’s a whole string of other palaces to visit, along with galleries and tasty South Indian restaurants.

3- Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram

Join a carefully selected group of dedicated yoga lovers at the rigorous, serious-study Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram (KYM) in Chennai. Founded in 1976 by TKV Desikachar, son of the great Tirumalai Krishnamacharya (‘the father of modern yoga’), KYM is highly respected for its demanding, in-depth yoga courses. Practice here is rooted in Desikachar’s idea of vinihatha yoga tailored to individual needs and as part of everyday life. Chanting and the study of yoga philosophy and Indian culture are essential course elements, as is yoga therapy, an integral part of the KYM ethos.

On your doorstep: Chennai’s Mylapore neighbourhood entices with its street-food delights, rainbow-painted Kapaleeshwarar Temple and flower-fringed Sri Ramakrishna Math.

4- Marari Beach Resort

True to CGH Earth’s eco-cultural values, the expansive resort at Marari Beach is a serene sanctuary for body and mind, designed in harmony with the local environment and community. Rise with the sun and enjoy birdsong from the outdoor shower of your thatched-roof, fisherfolkinspired cottage. Centre yourself with an early-morning yoga and meditation session or stimulate your senses with a dip in the sea before dining on locally sourced seafood and organic eats, produced at the on-site farm. Whether you spend your time strolling through the butterfly garden, lounging in a hammock hung in the coconut grove, taking in your surroundings on a guided nature walk, cooking with a local chef, or indulging in an ayurvedic treatment, you’ll find your mind and body aligning effortlessly with the slow pace of this seaside village.

On Your Doorstep: With the sea in front and the backwaters behind, visitors to Marari Beach have an opportunity to experience coastal culture and cruise the backwaters by houseboat. This South India escape is also a quick flight to Sri Lanka or the Maldives from Cochin Airport.

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5- Parmarth Niketan Ashram

Of the dozens of yoga retreats in Rishikesh, Parmarth Niketan Ashram is the biggest: a 1000- room, Ganges-fronting colossus set amidst beautiful gardens that will almost surely meet all of your yoga and meditation needs. As you’d expect, a huge variety of courses is on offer, from beginners to intensive yoga-instructor programs, and even a series of environmentally focused ‘Clean, Green & Serene’ programs. The yoga practised is holistic and faithful to the ancient yoga as practised by the rishis – sages whose meditation is thought to have granted them access to supreme truth. Prince Charles and his wife Camilla had participated in a havan ritual here for world peace in 2013.

On Your Doorstep: Rishikesh is also known as the gateway to the Garhwal Himalayas, a sublime tract of the mountain range including verdant hill stations such as Mussoorie, and the wildlife-rich Valley of Flowers National Park.

6- Raas Devigarh

Set in the ancient Aravalli Hills close to the wedding-cake Jain temples in the village of Delwara, the Ila Only Spa at Raas Devigarh is rooted deep in the heritage of this landscape. Days start with a pot of masala chai and a sticky energy ball before a session of soft, stretching dawn yoga where you watch the sun rise over a surreal and beautiful scene of plodding cows and soaring birds. Then, if you’ve signed up for one of the three-, five- or nine-night Devi Blessing Journeys, you’ll embark on an extraordinary journey through the chakras, combining ancient ayurvedic techniques with treatments incorporating wild-harvested ingredients aimed to relax the average urbanite’s hyperactive central nervous system.

On Your Doorstep: Borrow one of the hotel’s bikes and explore the Jain temples of nearby Delwara. Excursions to the Kumbhalgarh and Chittorgarh Forts or the temples at Nathdwara and Eklingji can also be arranged. Udaipur is a 40-minute drive south.

7- Sattva Retreat Resort

The yoga offered at Sattva is aimed at giving visitors an authentic insight into the heart of the practice. Located on the outskirts of Rishikesh, a city revered as the ‘capital of yoga’, there’s no place to delve more deeply into its traditions than at the foot of the Himalayas, alongside the holy river Ganges. Retreats range from three days to 21, and whichever one they opt for, guests can expect a schedule of authentic yoga teachings, cleansing rituals and magical meditations. There are six special healing packages to choose from, each one offering elements targeted to its core aims. Signing up for the special yoga retreat ensures daily practice sessions with your own private yoga teacher.

On Your Doorstep: Every evening, as dusk descends in Rishikesh, it’s time for the Ganga Aarti – a devotional ritual using fire as an offering.

8- Soukya

In naturopathic circles, Dr Issac Mathai has a reputation as a bit of a miracle worker. The guru runs this holistic haven in the countryside east of Bengaluru – a world apart from its crowds and chaos. Set aside at least a week to enjoy the holistic therapy programs on offer here. Whether it’s Om meditation, yoga asanas (postures), acupuncture, hard-core detoxes, mudpacks, touch therapy, or ayurvedic treatments like the flowing-oil-on-forehead shirodhara, the practitioners here are second to none. It’s strictly digital- and alcohol-free, but you’ll soon forget about the stimulus of the modern world when you have the birds, bees and coconut trees for company.

On Your Doorstep: Throw yourself into the chaos of modernday Bengaluru, 15.5 miles (25km) west, with its botanical gardens, markets and cafe scene offering a progressive slice of Indian life. Whimsical Bangalore Palace, residence of the current maharaja, evokes bygone royal splendour.

9- Sri K Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute

When it comes to ashtanga yoga, there’s no better place in the world to practise than Mysuru. Home to the late Sri K Pattabhi Jois, the founder and guru of ashtanga yoga, it’s also where this hugely popular form of modern-day yoga was developed. KPJAYI’s courses – which have attracted celebrity guests from Madonna to Mike D of the Beastie Boys – last from a minimum of one month to a maximum of three. Sharath will expertly guide you through all the techniques based on ancient Indian yoga scripts.

On Your Doorstep: The town’s close to the cosmopolitan city of Bengaluru, and Bandipur National Park, where you can spot tigers and elephants.