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.
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:
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.”
“I’m the most spiritual man you ever met in your life.” – Bikram
“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.
Yoga is an expansion of consciousness not a arena for narcissism and greed.
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.
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:
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