Monday, 22 November 2010

Yoga at Kailasam, Kovalam beach, Kerela, South India


A two week yoga holiday in India with a European teacher? Coals to Newcastle? A compromised product of our times maybe? There are though good reasons why this is a great way of learning for many people.

A more traditional yoga course in India is probably more bootcamp than holiday - a physical, mental and philosophical shakedown designed to facilitate complete transformation. Some want this, which is fine so long as you know what you are getting into; but many of us are looking for enough yoga practices and ideas to help stay fit and healthy, balance out some of the excess of modern lifestyles, gain some fresh perspective and enjoy some much needed rest and recreation (re-creation).

A two week yoga holiday at Kailasam answers this need with plenty of structured yoga teaching (3.5 hours a day) but in balance with more than enough free time to head to the beach, swim, bodyboard or surf, read, explore ayurvedic massage and/or hang out with new or old friends.

Kailasam itself is a small residential yoga centre tucked behind Kovalam's Lighthouse Beach. Its British/Indian co-owners, Diana and Mohan, provide a relaxed comfortable fusion of European and Indian hospitality. Mohan is from a caste of masseurs, Diana has a degree and background in sustainable tourism and the carefully chosen Indian staff appreciate their jobs and ensure maximum benefit for the local community.

I first visited Kovalam as a backpacker in 1987 when it was just a few shacks and cafes on the beach. Along with the rest of India it has of course changed and become a thriving, but not over busy, resort. There are beachside restaurants and shops plus sun beds on the main beach (civilisation for some, ruination for others). It's relaxed enough, but for those wanting something quieter there are virtually empty beaches ten minutes walk away.

Many visitors to Kovalam are Northern European, American, Antipodean or Japanese, but, in contrast to some touristy parts of India many locals come to enjoy the beach and a new more prosperous class of Indian can now come here on holiday.

For those wanting to explore more of the region, afternoon or weekend trips can be arranged through Kailasam staff. Possibilities include the nearby town of Trivandrum, an elephant sanctuary, the Sivananda yoga ashram and a boat trip (day or overnight) on the stunning Kerelan backwaters.

As a westerner who has practised yoga for 20 years I feel the type of course offered at Kailasam is the right approach for many westerners. Except for the experienced or the very clear headed, direct immersion in traditional Indian approaches to yoga can be confusing in the presentation or too culturally alien.

This type of opportunity to practice many of the life skills yoga has to offer away from your normal routine, but in a safe environment, is a valuable experience and time well spent.

For more on Kailasam www.yogaindia.co.uk For booking through Free Spirit Travel www.freespirituk.com