Ethnography: Bikram/Hot Yoga
Hello, my name is Paige. My usual day consists of attending high school from 7–2, heading home, and sitting around for the rest of the day. I go to work Mondays, Tuesdays, and Saturdays for 5–8 hours. In my free time I go on my phone and scroll on social medias. I have 2 dogs and a cat, so they get a lot of my attention. I’m sort of a bear during hibernation and only go out a few times a month. That being said, I am not a person who exercises or stretches. I don’t find my inner spiritual being. So choosing a subculture that I have never been a part of was fairly easy. Hot yoga. Yummy!
Bikram yoga was founded by Bikram Choudhury in the 1970’s. Bikram was always interested in yoga. He would spend hours practicing everyday from the early age of 4 instead of participating in any of the other games children his age played. Bikram was born in Calcutta, India on February 10, 1944. When he was just 20, he began opening yoga places. While teaching Japan, he was inspired to incorporate heat in his classes. The heat mimicked the weather in his home country.
Most people also call Bikram yoga hot yoga. These 2 are slightly different. Bikram yoga has their artificial heat up to 104 degrees Fahrenheit, whereas hot yoga only goes up to about 85 degrees. In order to be a Bikram instructor, you have to go through a 9-week class. Since Bikram yoga goes through the same sequence each lesson, if you were to teach Bikram, you would have follow the same sequence. This is why most yoga classes prefer hot yoga. If Bikram Choudhury were to find out you weren’t doing the sequence correctly, he would sue you.
Bikram yoga has a whopping 26 poses. They are also all different from other types of yoga. There are poses like the corpse and the toe stand. Bikram is super healthy and beneficial to your body and spirit. It calms your mind and makes you go to a “happy place”. Since you go through extreme heat, it is recommended you bring and drink lots of water. You also have to prepare for the classes. Know that you are going into a heated room with other people. It takes a bit of time to get used to everything you are about to commit to.
Bikram Choudhury sees himself as the big Guru. Since he created Bikram yoga, he is the only master. His thoughts and beliefs have gone Zapp Brannigan from Futurama. There have been several reports for sexual assault. A total of 6 women have claimed to have been assaulted by Choudhury because he abused his power. Since he was a Guru, people looked up to him and followed his orders. This went to his head and he decided to see just how far it will go.
Bikram yoga wasn’t created too long ago. Bikram Choudhury, though Hejaz been through many trials, is alive and well. The activity is practiced. The alternative is more popular since there are less rules and requirements.
Setting: The yoga studio I went to was at the end of a block. It was a brick building with 2 big yoga posters hanging on either side. The entrance had mosaic tile. When you walk inside you are greeted with a smile at the front desk and a hit to the face with 90 degree air. In the middle of the lobby there are a couple chairs. Along the walls there’s merchandise. When getting the hot yoga room, there are sensor lights that turn from a blinding white to a dim and relaxed yellow tone. Hardwood covers the surface. One wall completely made of mirrors shares the reflection of all the soldiers walking into the room. A very faint sound of music can be heard. There are little gold Buddha elephants in corners of the studio.
People: Everyone comes in and sprawls out with their different colored mats. The most popular color being purple. The colored mats kind of reflected the personalities of the owners. Purple being the ones who last minute shopped for their mat, or grabbed the first one they could find. Different designs and patterns shared the person took more time to pick theirs, and loves hot yoga as a hobby. Black shared the Plain Janes, brightly colored shared the Loosey Gooseys. More females attend than males. People wear tank tops or breathable shirts, leggings or work out shorts, and no socks. Nobody had their hair down. Everyone brought a water bottle with.
I interviewed my Uncle, Lucas. He is very outgoing and funny. He is the one everyone looks at after making a joke so they can get his approval. He is very athletic and fit, and has taken martial arts classes, but I would never guess that he would enjoy hot yoga.
Me: Ok, start off with your name
Lucas: Um Lucas..(doesn’t get why I am interviewing him about his hot yoga experience)
Me: How old are you?
Me: Why did you decide to go to hot yoga?
Lucas: I heard that it was good for you. Like releasing toxins and relaxing your muscles. It’s like a getaway for my body.
Me: Did you like it?
Lucas: Sure. It was super relaxing, but kind of boring. Nobody talked to each other and it was kind of the same poses every time.
Me: What was your favorite pose?
Lucas: The tree. I forgot what it is called, but I’m pretty sure it was the tree. I still practice it all the time. It helps with my balance.
Me: Why did you stop going?
Lucas: I got too busy. Work and college takes up a lot of time.
Me: Would you ever go back?
Lucas: Maybe. I would probably just do regular yoga because there is more diversity.
Me: Thank you for letting me interview you, Lukie.
Written and Unwritten Rules:
- keep quiet. this is a place of relaxation
- no socks
- no talking to your neighbor
- change into yoga clothes before coming in so there are no disruptions
- don't chug water (unhealthy)
- don't shower right away (the sweat helps your skin and your relaxation is at risk if you shower)
- no falling asleep (super rude)
- whisper to yoga instructor if you have a question
- walk softly (no elephants)
All BIKRAM Yoga Poses:
Some Yoga Terms:
Most people look at hot yoga as being the class that “skinny people” go to, to find their spiritual selves. It’s white people status. It is something girls do after getting lattes with their friends and buying Lulu lemon leggings. It isn’t a practice most people would want to partake in. Getting hot and sweaty while exercising is not what people look forward to after a long work day.
What most people don’t understand is the practice is so healthy for your body and your mind. Like my Uncle said, it releases toxins and helps soothe the soul. You go in to a deep relaxation while treating your body. It is peaceful and widely practiced everywhere in the world. I think some people may think that since there is a greater heat, you are losing weight faster. I think that draws them in. After a long, hectic day, people just want to relax. That also draws them in. People sign up because they think it’s newer and more interesting than regular yoga.
I thought it was going to be terrible. Being in a sauna with many other people doesn’t sound pleasant at all. It was all that bad, though. Sure, it was hot. It felt gross and sticky. But the outcome was nice. Seeing people in their relaxed state was really interesting. It was quiet and calming. It was a wonderful feeling after 6 hours of school. I can’t imagine how it felt for people after 8+ hours of work or dealing with their children the entire day.
Bikram/hot yoga isn’t something people practice to lose weight. They also don’t do it because they have to. Hot yoga has healing properties that people look forward to. It eases stress and responsibilities. It’s an exciting addition to one’s schedule.
26 Postures. (n.d.). Retrieved May 21, 2017, from https://www.bikramyoga.com/about/26-postures/
G. (n.d.). A Beginner’s Guide to 8 Major Styles of Yoga. Retrieved May 21, 2017, from https://www.gaiam.com/blogs/discover/a-beginners-guide-to-8-major-styles-of-yoga
Comprehensive list of yoga terms, meanings, sanskrit words, terminology, definitions and meanings, sanskrit translations for Hatha, Kundalini, Bikram, Iyengar, Ashtanga plus other forms. (n.d.). Retrieved May 21, 2017, from http://www.yogaglossary.com/
Rinzler, L. (2015, June 02). Everything You Need to Know About Meditation Posture. Retrieved May 21, 2017, from http://www.yogajournal.com/meditation/everything-need-know-meditation-posture
Shalva, B. (2015, April 09). After sex scandal, a Bikram yogi asks whether it’s wise to put so much faith in a guru. Retrieved May 21, 2017, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/inspired-life/wp/2015/04/09/after-sex-scandal-a-bikram-yogi-asks-whether-its-wise-to-put-so-much-faith-in-a-guru/?utm_term=.bea520bbc2d9
The History of Bikram Yoga and Its Health Benefits. (n.d.). Retrieved May 21, 2017, from http://historybuff.com/history-bikram-yoga-its-health-benefits-Kp9BqR40AJQw