Why India is the best at learning yoga

Adventure India: The best yoga schools

YogaEasy.de: There are thousands of yoga books. What makes your book special?

Otto Stricker: It is the only one about yoga schools, yoga ashrams and other yoga places in India. Every place is handpicked, researched with love and the whole book is documented with over 200 photos.

They introduce different yoga schools in India. What criteria did you use to select the schools?

There are well-known names that no one can avoid. These include: the oldest yoga school in the world, The Yoga Institute in Mumbai, famous universities and state-sponsored training centers such as the Bihar School of Yoga, and of course B.K.S. Iyengar and his institute in Pune. These names had a permanent place on our research list, even if not everyone made it into the top 24.

Recommendations were another important criterion. We talked a lot with students, but gurus and other yogis also recommended us from place to place. Dozens of important and less important things have gone into our ratings. In addition to facts such as rooms and lessons, it could be a friendly smile and an atmosphere of noticeable satisfaction. We also wanted to have a wide selection in the different categories. What astonished us again and again: We already knew after five minutes on site whether the center or ashram we visited was actually good enough to be included in our top list. And we always agreed! So it wasn't that difficult for us to judge.

Why did you have to come first to make such a listing?

Yoga in India is a largely non-commercial subject. Most schools have no profit targets, so the market may be economically small, no matter how big the country is. When we first tackled the topic of yoga in India with the website www.yoga.in in 2010, we found a virgin market. Certainly the questions posed by yogis all over the world have motivated us for our adventure. After hours of research on the web, many were simply frustrated because they did not find out what they wanted to know about the Indian centers. Even a website is of limited help. Insightful impressions and answers to questions that go beyond prices and dates can only be found when you go there and do your research. So, it was high time for this incredibly exciting journey.

Which is your favorite school?

Personally, I like way too many places, for me there are at least eight that simply completely fascinate me. But these don't have to be the eight that are optimal for another yogi. The decision depends on important criteria such as goals (hobby or the desire to become a yoga teacher), preferred style, advanced or beginner, demands on comfort or renunciation, length of stay, etc.

What did you learn from your research about the relationship between Indians and yoga?

In India yoga is always 24 hours, everything is yoga that we often do in 60 or 90 minute classes. The asanas are not the important part. Some Indian yogis therefore do not like what has become of “their” yoga with “us” others are happy about the rapid spread. Some yogis just sit under a tree and don't even talk, they communicate through little pieces of paper. You won't find such oddities in our book, because it focuses on Hatha Yoga, but the variety is enormous. In India, the role of the guru is also defined differently than here. Everyone sticks to one style (and possibly guru) and follows it without ifs or buts.

And what did you learn about German yoga tourists in the process?

Those who go to India and learn yoga take a lot, much more with them than those who just go on vacation and choose Greece, Spain or Thailand, for example. Yoga in India can be a great adventure. Your own horizon shifts. I promise that to everyone who embarks on the adventure.

Where can we buy your book?

In Germany we sell on Amazon.de, as an ebook in all formats on www.yoga.in, or now also on Kindle or Apple Store (is currently being uploaded). It can now be read on the ipad, for example. We are currently self-publishing. Perhaps a reader of this interview recommends a good, professional publisher. The trip was a wonderful gift, for me, perhaps the most exciting, greatest trip I've ever made. However, sales would be better in the hands of experienced sales professionals. We are also grateful for any tips on yoga in India. Have we even left out a wonderful place?

Kristin Rübesamen is a certified Jivamukti and Om Yoga teacher. She lived in New York and London for over a decade and did her training personally with Sharon Gannon and David Life (Jivamukti) and Cyndi Lee (Om Yoga). As a yoga activist, editor-in-chief of YogaEasy and yoga teacher, she has been teaching a very focused, yet challenging style for almost 20 years. She is the author of “Everyone is Enlightened” and “The ABC of Yoga”.