Mysuru yoga centres yet to emerge out of pandemic’s shadow

Zero foreign arrivals have hit yoga studios, which now hope that PM’s visit on World Yoga Day will help in revival

June 17, 2022 06:43 pm | Updated June 20, 2022 11:14 am IST - MYSURU

A file photo of a rehearsal in Mysuru for the International Day of Yoga celebrations, to be held on June 21, 2022.

A file photo of a rehearsal in Mysuru for the International Day of Yoga celebrations, to be held on June 21, 2022. | Photo Credit: SRIRAM MA

While COVID-19 situation is under control for now, despite the persisting fears of a fourth wave, yoga tourism in Mysuru, one of the country’s top destinations for foreigners to learn the ancient art, is yet to recover from the impact of the pandemic. In fact, many yoga studios catering only to foreign nationals have shut down.

Only a few centres have survived the pandemic and managed with online classes. They are hoping to see a pre-pandemic-like yoga season by next year with many countries lifting all curbs, easing international travel.

Fear of future waves

“The threats of future waves are perhaps deterring foreigners from visiting India for yoga. The curbs have gone and the situation is much better but the yoga centres are yet to get back the students. The continuous losses since the last two years with no offline classes led to the closure of many studios. Those having their own buildings are running classes for locals, but there are only a few,” says yoga guru Shashi Kumar, founder, Nirvana Yoga Shala (Mystic School).

Foreigners used to avail tourist and student visas to learn yoga not just in Mysuru but also places like Rishikesh, Goa, Pune, and Dharamshala. The yoga centres here used to run to their full capacity from October till March as foreign nationals used to make a beeline to Mysuru’s schools. The common sights of foreigners clutching yoga mats in the upmarket Gokulam and Lakshmipuram here are missing after COVID-19 outbreak.

Hope of revival

On the brighter side, yoga enquiries from foreigners have picked up for slots in October to December, thanks to the International Day of Yoga which Mysuru is hosting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi leading the celebrations.

“Once the fear of travelling is eased, the studios may start getting back the students. The mayhem which COVID-19 caused in India is still haunting their minds. We are hopeful as teachers’ training yoga and short-term yoga classes caters to them,” explains Mr. Kumar.

A few yoga teachers said Mysuru is no exception as other yoga hubs are facing the same scenario. The situation is bad in Rishikesh. Goa can still manage with its regular tourism, they feel.

Many yoga gurus feel that Mr. Modi’s visit to Mysuru for yoga day will trigger ‘Brand Yoga’. “The impact could be felt in the days ahead. The grand IDY is a big step for promoting yoga tourism for which Mysuru is well known. People have realised the benefits of yoga on health,” said yoga exponent Sri Hari, convener, Yoga Federation of Mysuru,

2,500 a month

Prior to COVID-19, about 2,500 foreigners would arrive here every month from October to discover yoga. The duration of their stay depended on the course(s) they chose. Even after March, foreign nationals still visited the city to learn yoga but the arrivals were fewer in number (around 500 a month) because of the wet weather.

Weekly classes were introduced to suit the itinerary of foreign nationals who come on tourist visas. There were packages (based on duration of travel) to learn the basics of yoga and then traveling around the country to discover places.

Now, relaxation of visa norms (tourist and student) for yoga enthusiasts could boost tourism economy post-pandemic, according to yoga centres.

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