Bikram Yoga is Hot; But there’s a dark side


Photo: Flickr/Yelp

I started practicing Bikram Yoga a few weeks ago.

I’m seven classes in and am already feeling the benefits, including strengthening my core, calming my mind and sweating out toxins. The practice in class can be applied to all aspects of life and is helping me to be more “centered” literally and figuratively.

The structure and repetitiveness of Bikram Yoga are appealing to me. It’s 26 poses, and every time it is the same order, and I am beginning to catch on to the lingo of the teachers.

“fall back, way back!.”

Each time you get to stretch yourself a little further and push harder.

As a result of the yoga classes and seeing a physical therapist and chiropractor, I have gained increased flexibility and I’m feeling great— my range of motion for my legs was about 40 degrees at the beginning of November and as we end the month, am at 75 degrees. The goal is to get to a healthy range, which is 90 degrees and eventually to 120 degrees.

So, it is clear that there are benefits to Yoga and physical fitness in general. But my curiosity told me to spend more time learning about the “Guru” behind the “movement,” Bikram Choudhury.

Here’s the dark side.

The Heat

Claim — Over time the heat can damage your body.

My take — Be careful and know your limits and stay hydrated. This one is on you.

Intellectual Property

Claim — Bikram suggests that only he and his authorized program can teach Bikram Yoga and actively speaks out when his students “certify” teachers in practice. Check this out this long winded video rant.

My take — I listened and didn’t buy into this logic. It would be like saying a college professor can’t teach a class and give someone a diploma in say psychology, which is a compilation of beliefs, practices, and ideas of others. From my limited training, Bikram is a routine and routines take time, and there is no reason why someone couldn’t learn from someone who has spent years practicing and perfecting their practice.

Sexual Assault

Claim — According to the Wikipedia Article, Bikram’s behavior over the years is Akin to Weinstein, Lauer, Louis CK and other celebrities in the media for using their power to take advantage of women.

My take — Simply unacceptable if true.

I am still making up my mind on how to reconcile the physical and mental benefits of Bikram Yoga with the alleged misgivings of the “spiritual” leader.

My gut tells me that exercising is good and the idea of building up strength and resilience, especially for someone who was sedentary for years, could only be good.

For now, I am buying into the physical and mental benefits, and I am not standing on circumstance to limit a workout an community I am enjoying.

What do you think? If the allegations were true and go against your belief system, can you put your body and mind into practicing Bikram?

The post and opinions included are my own and don’t represent my employer’s (IBM) positions, strategies or opinions.