By Swami Omkarananda

First off, thank you for taking the time to learn more about my country and spirituality in India. It comes with much joy to meet new people interested in our ancient traditions! So you are thinking of picking up your bags and heading off to India for a spiritual experience at one of the many locations that offer classes in Yoga and the Indian Spiritual Traditional? Or are you a yogi who wants to take your spiritual practice to a whole new level? If you are, you have come to the right place. Before you make the leap of fate towards a whole new way of living in another country consider some of these basic things that can help you in finding a place that fits your needs while spending your time in India. If you are feeling anxious and want to jump directly to the ashram web stie of my guruji, here is the link: http://www.tureya.org/ashram homepage.html Before we get started in our discussion of Yoga in India, here are some photos which I have taken throughout India which might give you a better idea of what you can expect while traveling through our spiritually rich country: This is a Photo of a Yoga Philosophy Debate which was conducted by the Tureya Foundation:

Yoga classes in India are taught in a variety of locations, anywhere from the mountain tops to villas in the city. Here is an asana class being taught at a yoga Institute in Southern India. As you can see the students are sitting on the bare earth.

I do realize that photos may not give you the best idea of what it is like in India, but they can at the least give you some context of what you can expect when you begin to travel the country. The Indian culture is arguably one of the most unique and diverse cultures in the world, both in the past and in the present. The argument for this is that India has sustained so many varieties of spiritual traditions and cultural changes throughout its history, from the Indus Valley Civilization 10,000 years ago to the Arian rule in Northern India only a few thousand years ago. From the ancient to the present day, there are still many traditions have survived the arc of time, and one of those traditions is Yoga. Yoga was not always considered to be part of the Hindu Tradition. It was only after the Arians embraced the Yogic practices that it became a companion to those who practiced and prayed under the Hindu Philosophy. Before this, yoga was a cultural heritage, a pillar that many people from India would use to evaluate their values and philosophical beliefs. If you look closely, you will find some of the yogic practices mixed into all of the religious practices and philosophies, including Sikhism, Buddhism, Jainism, Muslimism, and even Christianity. But as time passed Yoga became comely associated with Hinduism, but it still exists today that yoga can be found mixed in with all the world religions. Today’s India still hold many varieties of the Yogic tradition, and if you, as a traveler, are trying to find yoga in India it is best to try and narrow your search and find a specific location that suits what you are looking for. Yoga is not simply Yoga, as you might have already known, and there are over 7 major philosophically different practices of yoga (traditionally speaking), and hundreds more that have been devised by yogic practitioners throughout history. So each Ashram or spiritual center in India is going to embrace a different philosophical practice which they

believe is the best means to achieve spiritual enlightenment. On this website you will find some of the different type of practices of yoga: http://www.tureya.org/homepage.html There are also major cultural difference between Northern and Southern India which will definitely shape your experience while traveling through the country. Much of Northern India was totally committed to trade with other countries; the Silk Road was perhaps one of the greatest trade routes in the history of humanity where merchants from Europe, Asia, and Africa exchanged goods and merchandise with distant countries. One of the primary reasons why the British invaded India and held it under rule for nearly 400 year was because India had spices, silk, and minerals that no other country in the world could provide. Northern India was one of the principle hubs for this international trade, and the entire culture has been deeply affected by this international exchange. For this reason you will be able to find a much larger population of people with ancestors from the Middle East and other parts of the world while you travel Northern India. You will also find that the culture of Northern India has been shaped and molded by its historical business affairs. While Northern India was engaged in significant international trade, Southern India remained relatively isolated from the Northern affairs, and instead the Southern Indian culture was shaped around its village based communities. For this reason the culture remained relatively unaffected by any substantial change throughout its history, and even today the ancient language of Tamil is still spoken as the primary language, a language that has been existed in written form for over 5,000 years ago. In Northern India the culture was being molded by its interactions with Western nations while in the South many people continued living in the same style as their ancestors did thousands of years earlier. Because of this, many scholars would argue that the Southern Indian culture reflects a tradition that has existed for centuries together, and many of the religious and spiritual philosophy from the past still remain vibrant and alive in the Southern Indian Culture of today. One of the first major philosophical beliefs of yoga originated from Southern India, this being the Shivite tradition where people worship Lord Siva as their god. The Shivites shaped yoga into a unique spiritual practice which used many of the esoteric practices of Yoga that are commonly known as Kriya Yoga, Tantra Yoga, and yoga meditation. Their spiritual practice was created under the belief that all parts of the universe existed as one consciousness which used its imagination to create all of existence. This philosophy was very unique because it embraced all aspects of life and considered them to be equal because they all originated from the same creation. Today this same mentality and belief remains a unique part of the Southern India culture as people accept care for each other, not only as friends but as family of the same creation.

If you would like to learn more about the yoga or culture in Southern India, please visit the Tureya Foundation’s website which offers detailed information about yoga in India. You will also find some great resources about the Indian tradition including articles and videos. http://indiashram.org If you do have any other questions regarding yoga in India, please feel free to contact me at: Swami Omkarananda: Omkara@gmail.com