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8 Tips to Consider When Planning a Trip to India

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Figuring out where to go, what to see, and how long to stay can be a daunting process.

We asked Carol Dimopoulos, president of Perillo’s Learning Journeys—which helps yoga and meditation teachers lead retreats in India and other destinations around the world—for her best advice on where to start.

Tip No. 1: Decide when to go

Most experts say the best time to visit India is in winter (from November to March), when cooler temperatures make travel more pleasant, but Dimopoulos says the only time she avoids is late June through mid-August. “After that, you can get great value,” she says. “For example, mid-to-end of September is just after monsoon season and rates are fantastic. And, I always love visiting India during festivals—whether Diwali, Holi, or another—as it’s an incredible way to really immerse yourself in the culture.”

Tip No. 2: Decide where to go

India is vast. It’s also a country where you can find everything from snow-capped mountains to tropical beaches. If it’s your first visit, Dimopoulos suggests focusing your trip in the north. “From a yogic perspective, this is where you’ll find the places that are most important to your understanding of the practice,” she says.

See also India Yoga Travel

Tip No. 3: Get a tourist visa

At least one month before you take off, log on to the government website (indianvisaonline.gov.in), where you can pay for a visa that’s good for six months of travel. If you think you might return to India or want to stay longer, Dimopoulos recommends applying for a 10-year visa: “It’s a better value for the money if you’re like many yogis and India calls you back.” If you’ve left applying for a visa to the last minute, you can use a private company such as iVisa, which will help you save time but will likely cost you more.

Tip No. 4: Get vaccinated

While this is a personal choice, and you aren’t required to show proof of vaccinations to get through customs in India, Dimopoulos recommends checking the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention (CDC) website for vaccination recommendations. “Depending on where you’re traveling, the CDC’s recommendations will be different,” she says. “Talk to your doctor or a travel health specialist about what’s right for you.”

See also Yoga Journal’s Pilgrimage to India

Tip No. 5: Buy travel insurance

This is a must, Dimopoulos says: “Not only does travel insurance cover medical issues that might arise when you’re far away from home, including extreme situations where you might need to be air-evacuated from a location, but it also covers expenses you might encounter due to flight delays and lost baggage.” There are many options when it comes to travel insurance companies. Leave time to do research so you can find a plan that works best for your trip.

Book Indian train travel in advance.

Tip No. 6: Book train travel well in advance.

Using the wide-reaching Indian railways network is a convenient, budget-conscious way to travel. However, keep in mind that trains are often booked weeks or even months in advance, which means it’s a good idea to secure train tickets ahead of time. Dimopoulos adds that doing this on your own—as well as trying to find your seats and handle your own baggage—can be daunting. Her advice: Use a licensed agent to help you book train tickets and organize porters to help with your baggage.

Pack comfortable footwear that is easy to remove when entering homes or temples.

Tip No. 7: Know what to pack

Be prepared—and show your respect for Indian culture. There are a few essentials Dimopoulos always brings when she travels to India:

  • Lightweight shawls.
    “You’ll need to cover your shoulders when you visit temples and participate in ceremonies,” Dimopoulos says. 
  • Comfortable, easy-to-slip-off footwear.
    “You’ll also need to take off your shoes before going into temples or homes in India,” she says. 
  • Warm layers.
    Even if you’re visiting in summer, cities in higher elevations in the north will get chilly at night. “Not to mention there’s a chance you’ll encounter an over-zealous air conditioner at some point,” she says. 
  • Hand sanitizer.
    This is smart for any travel, but it can be especially important in India, where many people eat with their hands and you won’t always find running water or soap in bathrooms. 
  • Pocket tissues.
    These can easily double as toilet paper when needed. 
  • Ginger chews (or anything else that settles your tummy).
    “If you’re driving on winding mountain roads, even those who don’t usually experience motion sickness can get pretty queasy,” Dimopoulos says.

Tip No. 8: Mentally prepare yourself for India

While nothing can really prepare you for traveling to this country for the first time, reading about the culture and learning as much as you can will certainly help prepare you for the shock and sensory overload you’ll likely experience, Dimopoulos says. “India is the kind of place you go to feel with all your senses,” she says. “And while the smells, sounds, tastes, and colors may feel a bit chaotic and overwhelming at first, it’s all part of the experience. Stay open to all of it, and you’ll be able to fully enjoy this incredible country.”

See also 3 Powerful Lessons Learned from a Deep Dive into India’s Yoga



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Take a Look Inside The Rady Children's Hospital Yoga Program

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A volunteer yoga program at Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego is bettering the lives of its oncology kids.

Read the full story here. 



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How Yoga Helped One Child with Cancer Recovery

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Learn more about Julia’s story.

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How to Avoid Social Media Blues

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Yacht parties and bikini bodies got you down? Here’s how to get out of the funk.

I photoshopped a picture of myself once. Okay, maybe more than once.

I’m not talking about adding filters or erasing stains from my shirt. I’m talking vacuuming away parts of my stomach, arms, and even a little thigh. When I gave my husband a virtual tummy tuck, he finally forced me to check myself.

“You can’t talk about self-love and authenticity and then use photoshop!” He was horrified. And then I was, too.

I whole-heartedly believe we’re each put on this earth in our own unique bodies to express our true Selves. And through platforms such as teaching yoga, writing, and using social media, part of my job is to help people realize this. I teach the self-acceptance and body positivity—but I wasn’t always practicing it.

What the bleep was I doing erasing a few pounds with the swipe of my finger?

For the honest answer, we must take a little trip back in time.

I have been dieting since I was 9 years old. Even now, while I may no longer count calories or weigh my broccoli, I still watch every morsel I put in my mouth. I was a child of the early nineties—the era of the supermodel. Pictures of Claudia Schiffer and Cindy Crawford lined the walls of my room. My mum modeled, too (along with her many other careers), and I coveted her air-brushed headshots, just as I did every single page of Vogue.

I wish I looked like that.

Wow, she’s so beautiful.

Why am I so ugly?

These were the lyrics that played on repeat in my head. Not exactly the anthems we want for our children.

The pressure of perfection is a force so strong it can flatten us, if we let it. Literally. It will drain out our color, wash away our texture, and suck us down to some sort of washed-out, skeletal, carbon copy of a Barbie doll.

Under ever photoshopped picture is a human being. A real person, who’s every pore, every wrinkle, every scar, every pound, tells a unique story.

Unfortunately, these are the stories the media does not want us to hear. If we did, we might never buy another beauty product again. Instead, corporate interest spins a golden yarn of the unattainable: the “perfect” woman, the “perfect” man. And the messaging is so loud and pervasive that we absorb it without even trying. Like a top 20 hit you’ve somehow memorized without ever intentionally listening to the song.

See also 5 Poses to Inspire More Self-Love, Less Self Smack-Talk

One day, you find yourself looking at a picture you just took, and instead of seeing the glory in your unique story, you see all your perceived flaws. So, you download an app on your phone that allows you to become a sliver of that “perfect” ideal with the click of your thumb. And like magic, all of the insecurities, the negativity, erase from the screen. That was easy!

But to truly love ourselves in a world that tells us we are not enough is not easy. It takes great courage. It is a rebellious act. It means ignoring the toxic messages and beauty ideals and accept ourselves as we are in this moment. It means looking yourself in the eye in the mirror saying—and really believing—“You are beautiful.” Not because we are thin or tan or have poreless skin. You are beautiful because there is no one in the entire universe that is like you! And nor will there ever be again.

So, the next time you take a picture that you are going to share to the world, I dare you to not add a filter. I dare you to not adjust or alter the image in any way. To share your story in all of its glorious detail. You do not have to be afraid, for I will stand with you. Or hands held, our faces clear, and our soul’s bright.

See also  5 Ways to Radically Love Yourself Today

Here are some tools to help you avoid the perfection trap:

1. When you take a picture, look at the whole picture. 

How often do we take a picture and immediately zoom in to inspect ourselves? Think about group pictures: What is the first thing people do when they look at one? They focus on themselves and their flaws. But it is our imperfections that make us beautifully who we are. I’m a sucker for a big nose and a crooked smile. As Leonard Cohen says in his song “Anthem,” There is a crack in everything/ That’s how the light gets in. When you take a photo, try to see the entire image—the complete scene. Remember where you were, who you were with, and how you felt. Pictures should capture memories not project fantasies.

2. Delete image-editing apps from of your phone. Remove the temptation! 

When I am not being mindful, my desire for perfection can border on obsession. Couple that with social media addiction and it’s a recipe for disaster. At one point, I had 10 different apps on my phone for altering images. 10 different apps! In the same way it is helpful to not have alcohol in the house when you are on a cleanse, removing the apps relieves the temptation. Instead, fill your phone with apps that help you grow creatively. Try learning a new language, playing brain games, and listening to interesting podcasts. Take more pictures of your dog.

3. Unfollow people who trigger you. 

I stopped buying fashion magazines a long time ago because of how bad they made me feel. Even though I knew the images were altered, I could not help comparing myself to supermodels’ stick figures. Nowadays, these types of images pervade social media, and because they appear in someone’s personal feed rather than a magazine, we think they’re real. It’s much harder to deciphering what is fake. If you find yourself constantly feeling bad from looking at someone’s posts, it might be time to stop following them. Instead, find people to follow who leave you feeling empowered and inspired.

4. Get off social media and into the real world. 

One of my favorite things about teaching yoga is looking around the room and seeing all of the different body types. If we all looked or practiced the same, life would be so boring! When I look up from my phone and back out into the world, I find myself in awe of how beautiful everything is, from an 85-year-old walking with their 10-year-old grandchild, to a couple smooching on a park bench. Look around to see just how varied and unique and interesting we all are. Life is beautiful!

5. The next time you take a picture, look for one thing you love. 

As mentioned above, we have a tendency to home in on what we think are flaws. We zoom in, looking for something wrong. The next time you take a picture, instead of looking for what to fix, look for what you love. If you cannot find anything at first, look at the bigger picture. What did you love about that outfit? That location? Who you were with? Start to train your brain to see the beauty. This can (and should) start in the mirror. One of my favorite self-love practices is to say one thing I love about myself every day. It doesn’t have to be physical, either! The more we learn to love ourselves, the more love we have to give others. 



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