International Yoga Day: Hit by pandemic, yoga tourism sector in Mysuru banks on PM event for revival

Hit by the pandemic, the yoga tourism sector in Mysuru is hoping to return to its former glory as Prime Minister Narendra Modi is slated to attend the 8th International Yoga Day celebrations in Mysuru Tuesday.

A tier-II town in Karnataka, Mysuru is a global attraction for its heritage, legacy and the annual Dasara celebrations. Also known as the Pensioner’s Paradise, the town attracted around four million tourists every year in the pre-pandemic times.

According to the Yoga Federation of Mysuru, at any given point of time, there were about 2,000 foreigners learning yoga in the pre-pandemic era in the city.

However, the pandemic also provided an opportunity, with registrations for online yoga classes showing an uptick. But this trend did not help the yoga tourism sector in Mysuru, as the inflow of tourists remained low owing to travel restrictions.

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Notably, there are about 50 registered yoga centres in Mysuru and more than 50 unregistered or unrecognised ones that cater to thousands of yoga students across the globe.

Sri Hari, convener, Yoga Federation of Mysuru, said the pandemic was both a boon and a bane for the yoga sector. “While yoga tourism came to a halt due to blockade of international flights and lockdown, the demand for yoga classes grew. The number of trainers also increased,” he said.

The number of trainers increased by at least two-three folds and people started taking yoga classes online. Also, the demand for individual yoga trainers who visit homes of learners shot up owing to the pandemic situation, Hari added.

He said they were expecting more people from across the world to choose Mysuru as their yoga tourism destination following the prime minister’s visit to the town on the occasion of the International Yoga Day. Yoga trainers from Mysuru can also get more opportunities elsewhere in the future, he added.

Praveen from Mysore Hatha Yoga Kendra said, “The demand for online classes post Covid-19 has increased but we are not for it. Offline classes are the ones which are genuine and they uphold the ethics of yoga. We have observed a lack of interest among online students. The inflow of yoga students is still not up to the mark but there has been an increase in the number of yoga experts.”

Archana Bharath and Bharath Shetty, a couple who run Yoga Bharata and India Yoga centres, said they were hoping that international travel restrictions will be lifted soon. Archana said, “The number of foreign nationals registering in centres here is yet to bounce back to pre-Covid-19 figures but it is gradually increasing. When it comes to Indians, the belief in yoga has increased as many are experiencing stress.”

Citing an example, Archana said, “The India Yoga centre, which is specifically for foreign nationals, registers 36 students in a batch. Post-Covid, the numbers dropped but they are slowly picking up again. We now have 15-18 students in a batch.”

Notably, Mysuru and yoga have more than a century-old history and yoga was patronised by the Mysuru royal family both before and after Independence. During Krishnaraja Wadiyar’s regime (1884-1940), Tirumalai Krishnamacharya began teaching yoga in Mysuru. He is said to have learnt yoga in a cave at the foothills of Mount Kailash. He initially started teaching yoga to the royal family and the king later decided to hold classes for the public as well.

Later, Krishnamacharya’s student BKS Iyengar continued teaching yoga in Mysuru. Even to this date, BKS Iyengar Yoga (the format named after him) is widely practised in Mysuru. With yoga gaining popularity, another student of Krishnamacharya, Pattabhi Jois, made a name for himself. Today, many yoga centres in Mysuru teach specific styles of Yoga.

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