WELP, HERE WE GO: LETS TALK ABOUT BIKRAM YOGA

WELP, HERE WE GO: LETS TALK ABOUT BIKRAM YOGA

I have avoided this subject for a long time. Why? Because I don’t like being wrapped up in yoga drama. But the #1 question I get asked is: Cool! You do yoga? Do you do Bikram? And my answer is no.

And normally, I keep this answer to myself. But after yet another lawsuit filed against Mr. Choudhury, I feel called to finally give my educated opinion about Bikram Yoga.

PLEASE NOTE:

This is not me bashing Bikram or the teachers and students of this system. Seriously. My place in this world is not to judge or criticize. I’m only doing the best I can to teach in my own right: to share the information I know to be true and offer my own interpretation of events in a way that may serve others.

If you practice Bikram Yoga and read my blog, please know that I am not judging you or wishing you to stop your practice. You are your most valuable teacher. Let your own inner guru tell you what to do.

Okay. So.

Here is my beef with Bikram. Buckle up.

 

{ The Dude }

Bikram Choudhury, as a dude, raises many a red flag for me. His actions and method of training teachers are not what I would associate with yogis on a path of service and surrender (what we call Ishvara Pranidhana).

Again, I’m want to stress that I’m not trying to judge or project any misguided opinions onto Mr. Choudhury’s character. But I do think that actions speak for themselves.And if you don’t know what I’m referring to, there is an abundance of information out there about Mr. Choudhurys financial and sexual escapades. This recent TV profile sums it up pretty efficiently.

 

{ The Heat }

Those who condone Bikram will maintain that the heat is one of the cure-all, a secret magic ingredient of a yoga practice. I firmly believe this is a shallow claim backed by a shallow understanding of the human body.

Thousands of years of Ayurvedic tradition will maintain that certain people are not suited for exercising or existing in extreme levels of heat. And competitive and perfectionist environments aggravate the effect heat has on the body. This is to say (for those who follow Ayurveda) that a Bikram yoga class is extremely pitta-aggravating which I do not believe is a good thing in today’s society of busy-bees and Type-A go-getters.

Because Ayurveda is the ancient medical counterpart to yoga, I find it troublesome that the Bikram Yoga system has deemed it appropriate to neglect this very fundamental aspect of Ayurvedic philosophy. Personally, I do not feel comfortable second-guessing this ancient wisdom. But again, that is just me, and Mr. Choudhury can do he pleases.

Bikram supporters will also claim that practicing in extreme heat helps detoxify the body.

So does practicing in the non-extreme heat.

Furthermore, living a generally sattvic and healthy life will keep you clean enough to not require sweating your tits off to the point of endangering your body and compromising your state of mind.

Let’s not forget that a toxic mind leads to a toxic body one way or another, no matter how much you sweat in a yoga class.

I also understand that Bikram students maintain that the heat enhances flexibility and accelerates the healing processes of the body. I know, from my own experience, that the heat does, in fact, enhance flexibility.which can also lead to overuse, misuse, and further injury of the body. And that doing one super-intense activity for a short period of time in the name of healing pales in comparison to assisting your bodies healing processes in a more gentle, moderate, holistic, and consistent way.

{ The Money }

Like I hinted at before, Mr. Choudhury’s financial motivations also make me nervous.

 

{ The Owning Yoga }

Sorry dude, yoga doesn’t owe you anything if it was here first. And it was. For like.thousands of years.

 

{ The Sexism }

We all know about the sexual harassment scandals. This is the extreme side of Bikram. What concerns me, even more, is the subtle ways in which Bikram Yoga condones the sexualization of yoga.

From promoting the practice as something that will improve sex life and give you a sexy body in 30 Days is a great way to sell yoga.

Additionally, I know teachers who have been publically humiliated by Bikram Choudhury. I know teachers who felt uncomfortable wearing shorty shorts in their classes because they felt degraded. And this makes me nervous.

 

{ The Mirrors }

Any yoga class that requires you to look in a mirror while you’re practicing makes me nervous. In my experience, mirrors invite students to participate in judging themselves and others in a way that is much more obvious and accessible than if a student were to simply look around the room.

I also firmly believe that it is better to know how alignment feels in the body rather than what looks a certain way. And this is a very serious implication that students carry with them off the mat when they are taught to practice in a way that focuses primarily on how something looks and not what feels right.

{ The Lack of Creativity }

Teachers are trained from a script. You do the same 26 poses every time. I don’t get the sense that creativity and individuality are nurtured or encouraged in the Bikram community. I might be wrong. Please correct me.

And I do not believe that doing the same 26 poses will cure all illness for everyone. Sorry, but everybody is different and everything I’ve learned about the human body, Ayurveda, and energetic healing indicates that ailments should be treated holistically and individually according to a person’s specific needs.

 

{ The Competition, the Militarism, and the Overall Anti-Sweet G Vibes }

More than anything else, it is the environment of Bikram yoga classes that makes me most nervous. I’m not saying I haven’t met super nice and nurturing Bikram teachers. I have. I am talking more about the energy that Mr. Choudhury consciously propagates in his teacher training to be the general attitude that Bikram teachers propagate in their own teachings.

Teachers with microphones who call people out for doing something wrong also make me extremely nervous. First of all, wrong is a very subjective term in yoga.Everybody is different. Also, a lot of alignment cues are different in Bikram classes, so people who are accustomed to practicing Vinyasa might just be confused, not wrong.

My overarching opinion about doing a pose wrong is that if you’re not hurting yourself, you’re doing it right. There’s always room for improvement or deepening the pose if that is what will truly serve a student.

But I have heard it said in many Bikram classes that if it doesn’t hurt you’re not doing it right.

So you see why this might be concerning: I don’t see a lot of room there for students self-awareness, let alone healing of the body.

To use a position of authority to command others and then publicly criticize them sets a tone for competitiveness and external measures of success.

I have been taught that yoga is about listening to the guru within, honoring the wisdom of the body, and learning to detach from the distractions of the external world.

Which means it really doesn’t matter if I can see my toes behind my head in the mirror during dancer pose.

And that, my friends, is all.

May we take this moment to honor our inner guidance systems, to honor our teachers, and to pray for Mr. Choudhury so that he may resolve whatever he must resolve, and to the students who have been affected by his actions find the healing they also need to teach their Truth and share their Light.