Experts say that travel and hospitality brands are well equipped to cater to the demands of the growing yoga industry.
Did you know that the word ‘Yoga’ is derived from the Sanskrit term ‘Yuj,’ which means, ‘to join’ or ‘to unite’? This refers to the union of mind with body, and man with nature.
Due to the sacred knowledge and secretive nature of its teachings, no one really knows when or where Yoga originated. However, India seems to be at the epicentre of this practice as ancient texts trace back to The Vedas.
In the 1800s and the 1900s, the Yoga masters of India began travelling to the West. A case in point is Swami Vivekananda. During the 1893 Parliament of Religions in Chicago, he impressed the audience with his lectures on yoga and the universality of the world’s religions. T Krishnamacharya promoted the concept when he opened the first Hatha Yoga School in Mysore in 1924. Sivananda founded the Divine Life Society on the banks of the holy Ganges River in 1936. In 1947, actress Indra Devi opened her yoga studio in Hollywood and popularized yoga among celebrities. Today, yoga is endorsed by Hollywood A-listers like Madonna, Beyonce, and Jennifer Aniston, making India the go-to destination to learn and practise yoga.
Yoga: A $66.2 billion industry
According to a recent report by Allied Market Research, the global yoga market size is projected to reach $66.2 billion by 2027, registering a CAGR of 9.6% from 2021 to 2027. A major chunk of that will belong to India, as yoga tourism has been one of the key growth drivers of the country’s tourism sector and it is expected to grow further as a segment.
Home to several yoga retreats and holidays, India offers both simple ashram accommodations as well as five-star comfort in luxury resorts. The major centres for yoga tourism are in Rishikesh and Mysore. While the annual International Yoga Festival takes place in Rishikesh, various places like Kerala and Uttarakhand are also being developed as a specialized centres for wellness tourism.
Forecasting the scope of yoga tourism for the next 12 months, Rajeev Kale, President & Country Head, Holidays, MICE, Thomas Cook (India), says,“Given the pandemic-induced stress, corporates will show an increased interest in organising offsites that include yoga activities at popular yoga and wellness retreats. In addition to international, domestic yoga tourism will also witness an uptick as people seek to holiday in their home country. Traditional Ayurvedic resorts, destination spas, and wellness retreats that are offering yoga is expected to increase.”
Top yoga retreats
Some of the renowned meditation retreats in India includes Ananda in The Himalayas, nestled in the palace of a Maharaja at Narendra Nagar in Tehri-Garhwal; Auroville in Pondicherry, which is a multicultural township; The Art of Living International Centre in Bengaluru, which is set amidst organic farms; and Parmarth Niketan in Rishikesh, which hosts the annual one-week International Yoga Festival. Yoga enthusiasts are also flocking to Somatheeram Ayurveda Resort and Carnoustie Ayurveda & Wellness Resort in Kerala; Vana Retreat in Dehradun, Ashiyana: Yoga And Spa Village in Goa; Atmantan in Pune; The Leela Palace in Udaipur; SwaSwara in Gokharna, Khyber Himalayan Resort and Spa in Gulmarg, Hilton Shillim Estate Retreat And Spa, and Nimba Nature Cure Village in Gujarat.
Wellness tourism to India has been growing exponentially with yoga and meditation being a key driver. There is a growing search for authentic yoga as practiced and taught for millennia at its very birthplace. The foothills surrounding Ananda in Uttarakhand are charged with the spiritual energy of yogis for 5,000 years and this draws an international audience, seeking to get initiated into this lifestyle or advance their ongoing yogic journey.
“There is, of course, a significant difference in the approach to yoga and meditation when it comes to a wellness retreat like Ananda. The yoga teachings at Ananda are sourced from traditional and authentic systems of yoga in India and cater to the needs of every participant coming from different levels and age groups,” says Mahesh Natarajan, COO, Ananda in The Himalayas.
Ananda’s spiritually oriented programmes like Dhyana Meditation have gained global recognition, especially in a post-Covid world fraught with heightened stress, anxiety, emotional issues, and trauma. Indian and international customers alike are increasingly making a conscious investment in such programmes that offer the best-in-class expertise. There has also been an increase in clients seeking specific therapeutic solutions through yoga, for example Ananda’s Yogic Detox programme that offers a comprehensive cleansing using yogic techniques or a customised yoga, ayurveda and physiotherapy-based approach to addressing chronic pain management.
Daniel D’Souza, President & Country Head – Holidays, SOTC Travel, says thatthe travel brand has witnessed an uptick in yoga tourism, rejuvenation, wellness getaways, and digital detox holidays.
“Consumers today are looking for anxiety relief holidays and vacations that boost immunity. Many travellers want to focus on improving their mental health and are opting for retreats with in-house counsellors, meditation workshops, and physical activities to boost the mood,” he says.
Travel curators have a checklist when crafting packages for yoga enthusiasts.
“We talk to the customers and understand the objective of the retreat. We identify the right partner resort or wellness centre, which is well connected but still far from the madding crowd,” says Bhakti Taunk, Director, Eastern Travels.
Forecasting the yoga tourism trends for the next 12 months, Taunk says that she sees an uptick in slow travel. “The concept of community wellness and group therapy where people recover and reboot collectively is catching up. We’ve had requests for solo travellers and small groups for retreats where they can collectively grow and meet like-minded people,” she says.
Yoga tourism has witnessed an uptick with the easing of restrictions and there has been an increase in the number of tourists post pandemic. Travellers are looking at ways to stay healthy and active to maintain physical and mental wellbeing. Additionally, Yoga tourism also unites the world for sustainable development. It remains to be seen how well India is poised to cater to the demand for yoga tourism.