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Why You Should Never Take a Bikram Yoga Class

Written By: Ambre Iris

 

Step aside Donald Trump, there’s a new bad hombre in town. Bikram Choudry is a self proclaimed yoga “guru” who founded a 26 pose heated yoga sequence that seduced thousands of young seekers. There are 330 Bikram studios in the United States and 600 worldwide; this is far beyond your local community yoga class. Bikram is also a 70 year old guy who teaches class in a tiny speedo, wears a $1 million diamond encrusted watch, and recently has had 6 sexual assault cases filed against him.

bikram cover

Bikram Choudry, founder of Bikram Yoga, reportedly worth $70 Million

If you’re thinking about going to take one of these classes you should know what you’re supporting. Bikram put a copywright on this style of yoga (going against yoga’s all inclusive moral fundamentals of unity and connection) and even went as far as suing former students who attempted to teach “Bikram yoga” without paying him a percentage.  His ideology goes beyond his own self promotion and casts a dark shadow over a once pure yoga community. To give you an idea of the type of man he is, in an interview conducted by HBO Real Sports, Bikram defends himself against his sexual assault allegations saying that if he wanted sex, he could make “a line of the most famous, beautiful, women in the world.”

He goes on to explain that he doesn’t need to sexually assault women because he could sell his sperm for a million dollars. In fact, he attests that 4 women actually committed suicide because he would not sleep with them.

Still thinking about grabbing your mat and heading to a Bikram class? Maybe this photo from Bikram’s facebook page will change your mind:

bikram 1

If you want to become a certified Bikram instructor, you have to go to Bikram’s school that costs upwards of $14,000 (the average cost of teacher trainings range from $3-5000). Once there, students endure  9 weeks of grueling 105 degree heated yoga courses, restricted food and water, late night bollywood movies and an environment where you must get permission to use the bathroom. A few lucky students are chosen to massage Bikram, bring him tea and brush his hair.

Why are we allowing a man to turn yoga into a money making scheme disguised as spiritualism? Still not convinced? Bikram also hates gay people. I’m not making this stuff up. He is quoted as saying Aids is caused by gays. It is the truth. But these fucking asshole guys love me, they love Bikram.

bikram 2

“I’m the most spiritual man you ever met in your life.” – Bikram

trump beauty

“Nobody has more respect for woman then I do.”  – Donald Trump

Bikram was ordered to pay $7.4 million dollars in punitive damages for sexual harassment, wrongful termination and gender discrimination yet his style of yoga is still one of the most sought after practices in the western world.  (Trump has also had many, many sexual assault allegations against him.)

It’s kinda like how Donald Trump bragged about grabbing women by the pussy and described Mexicans as rapists and yet he is still in contention for the President of the United States. What is wrong with us? Bikram’s story gives light to a larger conversation about misogyny and the combination of celebrity, ego, wealth and power putting men in position to take advantage of women. This narcissism cannot be dismissed, the terrifying impact has already been made. So what is the alternative answer, where do we go from here? I don’t know about you but I’m embarrassed and I’m angry. I refuse to ignore, rationalize or let this kind of hatred dictate our social construct especially in the yoga arena. Yoga in it’s essence is meant to unite, connect and release us from suffering.  It is an expansion of consciousness not a arena for narcissism and greed.

bikram rolls royce

Yoga is an expansion of consciousness not a arena for narcissism and greed.

trump rolls royce

As a yoga instructor myself, yoga is my church, my teachers are my trusted mentors. The deep spiritual practice of yoga is sacred and represents at it’s core freeing oneself from ego. So we must move past the egomaniacs and narcissists on our path to an enlightened self. We cannot let people like Bikram (or Trump) break our spirit or divert us on our path. As seekers, consumers and voters we must set a higher standard for what we allow into our lives and into our psyche. The conversation is out there, the facts, soundbites and claims and let’s be honest, you can never unsee that picture of Bikram in rainbow cheetah speedo.

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We have a social responsibility to set the barometer and not to allow this misogyny to dampen our mind, body or spirit. I think it is our job to illuminate it, forgive it and find an alternative. The good news is there is another way. On the path and looking for guidance? Here is a list of positive male and female teachers and role models representing yoga and it’s spiritual core values right here in San Francisco:

janetstoneyoga.com

Darrenmain.com

Petegyoga.com

Robinduryea.com

Shynyatayoga.com

Stephaniesnyder.com

Rustywells.com

Looking for wisdom and inspiration from literature? Check out these texts: The Bhagavad Gita translated by Paramahansa Yogananda,, The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, Light on Yoga by B.K.S Iyengar, Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda, Fierce Medicine by Ana Forrest, A Life Worth Breathing by Max Strom, Awakening Shakti by Sally Kempton.


Ambre Iris is a Yoga teacher specializing in Hatha Vinyasa Flow, Restorative, and meditation. Offering classes, workshops and private instruction throughout California.
Find her on Facebook @ambreirislosangelesyoga

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  • Jessica Trimble

    Did you mean “ROLE model?” Cause I’m not sure what a roll model is. I mean, I guess I could think of some interesting ideas, but…

  • Carina

    Hey there 🙂 I appreciate much of what you say, but do not agree with your view on this very special yoga. Bikram is a man, he did birth this yoga that saved my life. Three years ago there is no way I could have walked into a yoga class where a teacher would have asked me to chant, to share my light, or do do anything more than “pick up my foot”. After eight years of debilitating depression (all forms of treatment from pills to ECT) and five years of drug addiction I was a shell. Six months after my first Bikram class I became a teacher. I got my first job as an adult. Now I sit in an airport in Jakarta because this amazing yoga has given me the opportunity to teach in Asia and share this love with others. I now have the responsibility to say “all yoga is good yoga” and “the man that taught me about this yoga has done bad things but it doesn’t negate the healing power of this yoga” also this yoga helps people of all ages, levels and disabilities. I teach only from love. I refuse to let anyone try to take that away. Bikram yoga teachers are a very special breed.

  • sherry

    I started Bikram Yoga eleven years ago as a menopausal totally unfit woman. My life improved so much with the struggle in the class and through the yoga that I went to teacher training. I struggled more there….With both postures and insecurities but it was one of the best times of my life and there was even more changes after. I opened a school….still more struggles keeping it open and every time I thought I would close someone would come to me and tell me how this yoga has changed their lives. The lady who after attending almost daily was able to tell her husband the last time that his fists put her into hospital that she was done with that after 24years of hell (her confidence had grown every time she came to class). The man who lost 54 kilos and went off 10 different types of drugs that he was taking every day. The nurse who was part of a cardiac team, who told me she no longer had panic attacks on the way to hospital…..I could go on page after page with other stories. The article above seems to deal with the man and not the yoga. With one man and not the thousands of people around the world who go to class to become the best version of themselves that they can be…Our body houses our soul. Our body and our mind are what we navigate this world with.I wouldn’t live in a dirty house and find that Bikram yoga cleans my house, quietens my mind and helps me to serve us. I hope to be practicing this yoga till the day I die.

  • Josh

    What a dumb article