Over the years I have noticed there are two types of Ashtangi parents: those that wish they could go to Mysore, but are afraid to take the kids and those that book their tickets. We fell into the second category and never thought twice about it.
Our daughter, Rowan, got to experience the Ashtanga pilgrimage to Mysore a month after she turned one year old. Since then people are always asking me for feedback on my experience in traveling with a child to such an intense place. Paul Dallaghan recently wrote an article on Ashtanga.com about taking your kids to Mysore that had some great information and our experiences with a child in Mysore were pretty much the same.
We enjoyed it so much that we plan on taking her to Mysore again at the beginning of next year.
Planning before taking your kids to Mysore is helpful, but it is India after all and at some point you have to just let it go. We had an apartment set up beforehand, which is probably the only thing I felt was a must to have (who wants to apartment hunt in India with a kid in tow?) and we had a routine for our days. Someone watched her while we practiced – which was nice so we could practice together – but a lot of couples I saw there with children did the “switch-off”. That also seemed to work and Sharath was pretty accommodating for couples with children. (Watch out for Guruji giving large amounts of chocolate to your kid!)
We were lucky that our landlady watched Rowan for us. She would get up at 5:00 am (!) and we would bring Rowan down to her. She was a school teacher and would grade papers in the early hours while Rowan still slept. She had a grandson the same age as Rowan and they played together very well. Her older son also watched Rowan some and we still email them from time to time. They always want to know how she is doing and when we are coming back to Mysore.
We also let Rowan attend an Indian nursery school that was around the corner from Guruji’s shala. She had a great time and I will let her attend again this year. She was the youngest one at the time (most kids were 2-4 years old), but the kids loved her and the staff were really nice. They spoke English well and it was easy to communicate with them. They also made it a point to let me know they were Christian Indians and were very bummed that Rowan was going to miss Christmas with them ( 🙂 ). They were open from 8:30am â€“ 12:30pm â€“ so we dropped her off after practice and breakfast and picked her up before lunch. We had to fill out a registration form when we enrolled her (it asked for our caste) and then we paid on a monthly basis, which ended up being around $12.50 per month. It was a little overwhelming for her at first because she was the only non-Indian at the school and ALL the kids wanted to play with her at once. They got used to her and she loved having some playtime with other children.
We did set up some playgroups with other children of Ashtangis, too. Some parents I saw with kids there never left their apartment except to practice and others, like us, were off every weekend exploring or hanging out at the pool. I think that people who warn you from taking children to Mysore are probably the type of parents that freak out every time their child falls down. I went into the experience thinking that she would probably get sick at least once, but there are good hospitals, doctors, and chemists in Mysore and I wasn’t worried (she didn’t get sick though).
Obviously there are going to be places you like to go more (i.e., that are set up more kid friendly) and places you might not go. Restaurants on the whole were fine. Staff ALWAYS liked her and would often take her and watch her while we ate (usually that was because there were five staff for every one person and they would rather hang out with a cute kid than do nothing). She was still mainly breastfeeding and eating some solid foods, but we didn’t really have a hard time finding food for her. Breakfast ended up being her largest meal. You can get some wonderful Western-style breakfasts at many places around Gokulam. The Green Hotel, the Southern Star, and Green Leaf were restaurants we ate at frequently because they were the most accommodating. We also frequented many of the homes of Indian women who make lunches for students. They always loved Rowan and would take her out of my arms as soon as we would enter. It can be a bit unnerving at first, but they were always very gentle and loving with her and she adored the attention. Coffee Day ended up being an afternoon treat on many days. The staff would take her from me (this happened so much everywhere we went!) and keep her behind the counter with them. All the young Indian kids that hung out in Coffee Day also loved playing with her.
Getting around in Mysore was pretty easy. We had a motorcycle and did the Indian thing where we sat her in-between us and rode around with her on the bike. I actually put her in a front sling carrier and that made me feel safer since she wouldn’t wiggle out while we were driving. I probably won’t do that the next time since she will be older. I bought a helmet for her here in the states before we left (you can’t find them in India) and made sure she wore that, too. We went everywhere on the motorcycle â€“ even as far out as Chamundi Hill and the dam.
Jason was a good driver and we tried to not drive after dark when we would often take a rickshaw. I also brought a cheap umbrella stroller (one with bigger wheels to get around in dirt) and it came in handy when walking around Gokulam and when we went to the zoo.
We also did some traveling in India while we were there and I never had a problem with it. Rowan enjoyed the experiences and we always found that people loved her and were accommodating.
We took the train to Chennai for a trip to Auroville for a few weeks. Even though the train ride was about 7 hours, it went fine. We stayed in Auroville (a.k.a the jungle) for two weeks and practiced yoga with Chad and Monica. It was during a freak monsoon and it rained more than I have every experienced in my life. That was the roughest point of our trip to India with a kid and that was only because we were stuck indoors for days at a time with a one year-old with boundless energy. And even that wasn’t too bad.
Overall, our experience was greatly enriched by taking our daughter with us. We wouldn’t hesitate to take her and her baby brother or sister (hopefully, one day!) back with us. I would be happy to talk to anyone more about it or answer specific questions if you are thinking of taking your children. You can email me directly at taraisagoddess(at)hotmail.com.
[About Tara: Tara Morton has been practicing Ashtanga yoga for about 7 years. She lives in Encinitas, California, and practices with Tim Miller. Since Rowan’s birth, she has curtailed her yoga teaching (though she still teaches occasionally), and now mostly focuses on her practice. Rowan’s father, Jason, is a full-time yoga teacher. This article is based on a four-month trip to India studying at AYRI in 2005, which is documented on Rowan’s blog, Yoga Mommy, on Ashtangi.org.
Thank you so much to Tara for sharing her experiences with a toddler in Mysore in this well-written and personal article! â€“ Ed.]