Within the world of yoga, there are many ways you can practice it under various teachings, postures, and eleven esoteric yoga practices. Sometimes they are related to geographical areas, while others are manifestations of religious yoga, while specific practitioners develop some.
Different types of yoga and their various practices can suit other people for different reasons; finding the proper yoga practice for you can be worthwhile with some research.
Today we will be exploring Bikram Yoga; learn if it is for you in the guide below.
Bikram Yoga was invented by a man named Bikram Choudry in the 1970s, assisted by his wife, Rajashree Choudhry.
Together, they made yoga, at least this practice, popular in the U.S. and generally across the West, peaking with some 1650 studios across four countries. The now bustling yoga market and community in the West can give thanks to Bikram’s teachings.
In essence, Bikram yoga is a type of ‘hot yoga’ done in hot conditions, with the main focus of exercise leading to the kind of weight loss that was desirable in the U.S. at the time. The practice relied on 26 different postures known as the ‘Bikram Sequence.’
The unique thing about Bikram yoga, beyond its unusual postures, is that it is mainly undertaken in a room with a humidity of 40%; according to Bikram, this was to imitate the climate of India.
Origins Of Bikram Yoga
Bikram began studying yoga in 1969 while in Calcutta, bringing it with him to L.A. when he moved to California in 1971; by ‘74, two U.S. students helped him open his first school. Being in L.A., the classes soon began drawing the attention of celebrities and investors who hadn’t seen much like it.
Initially, Bikram classes were free and ran very much as they do in India; once the classes Bikram put on started to gain interest, a fellow student told him he couldn’t run it like it was in India. So he soon started charging $5 per class, and its popularity grew.
Realizing the popularity and growth of the yoga he had introduced to the West, Bikram soon devised what would be called the ‘Bikram sequence,’ which includes the 26 postures. Most of the yoga Bikram invented was based on the teachings of B.C. Gosh.
Generally, each Bikram class was around 90 minutes to two hours, the class cycles through the ‘Bikram sequence’, which relies on 26 postures, 24 of which are ‘asanas’ (a body posture) while 2 are ‘pranayama’ (breathing exercise).
The other unique quality is the heated room, use of mirrors, and carpets.
Most yoga is done in a studio with wooden floors where students use yoga mats, mirrors are considered related to the ego in most yoga practices which they seek to dissolve, so it was strange Bikram used them. One author described a Bikram class:
“The yoga took place in a room heated to around 41C. It was packed and it stunk. There were mirrors everywhere, and the room was carpeted, which absorbed the stench and the sweat.”
Bikram yoga trains its yoga teachers, which is not a common practice for most conventional yoga. In addition, Bikram teachers took a hands-on approach to help posture, which is not common in Yoga, and Bikram himself was described as having an ‘abrasive’ teaching style.
Bikram Yoga has come under great scrutiny from many in the yoga and athletics world, while some question the genuine efficacy of the yoga practice, others present evidence that it was more of a cult of personality for Bikram than anything centered around wellness or health.
We will present them in chronology.
Bikram Yoga was becoming more and more popular by 2010, but already by 2002, Bikram had been using his lawyers to send cease and desist suits to other Yogis who endeavored to teach Bikram yoga, presenting the ‘Bikram sequence’ without his permission.
In 2011, Bikram enacted suits against anyone trying to use the Bikram sequence without his authorization, in other words, Bikram sought to copyright his Yoga practice in a case against ‘Yoga For The People’.
The case went against Bikram the U.S. Copyright Office states that yoga postures or ‘asanas’ cannot be copyrighted as Bikram wanted them and others could teach it.
Bikram’s strange teaching style struggles to assimilate into western norms, and there was mounting evidence he was abusing his power with inappropriate teaching methods and potential sexual abuse.
By 2014, 5 women were suing Bikram for sexual assault or harassment. One suit described a cult atmosphere where Bikram utilized his inner circle to find younger women to abuse. There were also mounting claims of sexism, homophobia, fat-shaming, and general rudeness and nastiness.
In 2016 he was ordered to pay $6 million in reparations to the women; he soon fled to India, where he has stayed ever since. Another entity took over Bikram INC. Bikram still lives in India and teaches Bikram yoga himself.
In 2015 a systematic review of Bikram Yoga did find that it was effective at helping lower body strength and joint motion and had other health benefits. This came after a 2013 review of yoga-related health cases found three occurred in Bikram yoga classes.
One was a case of rosacea from lousy hygiene in the class, another was hyponatremia due to low sodium levels. At the same time, one was a reported psychotic episode related to the yoga practice.
While Bikram yoga made yoga popular in the U.S., and it was a prevalent yoga practice, it seems that Bikram allowed this to go to his head. The result was a meteoric rise to fame and wealth and an inevitable fall from grace that led him to flee the country.
Bikram yoga is still taught in the U.S.; usually, under the name ‘hot yoga,’ many of these classes distance themselves from Bikram’s name and approach.