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Yoga ‘Don’ Bikram Choudhury Calls American Yoga ‘Fucked Up Circus’

in YD News

Bikram Choudhury Jesus Pose

Top “dog” indeed. Is Bikram Choudhury yoga’s messiah or just a narcissistic ass? In yoga ‘business’ this guy is in the running for top CEO (can’t forget about our friend the Swamster) with a keen mind for building his brand and watching his assets multiply. In the spiritual practice of yoga, Choudhury is the “the man” and not in a good way. Bikram is so sure of his hot yoga style that when asked if he’d make any changes to his 26 poses, like say, to add downward dog, he basically laughed it off calling D-dog “American circus.” And the clowns in the circus? Oh, well they’d be the teachers of course!

This all coming from a man who wears a zoot suit to his yoga competitions, sports a $58k Piaget watch (given to him by one of his students apparently?) and who owns so may Rolls-Royces he’s lost count…35? he guesses. Self-described “brain-washing,” scripted yoga classes, unsatiated thirst for lavish posessions, a battalion of Rolls-Royces. Anyone else creeped out? Osho revisited?

Don’t worry about his own 6,000 disciples though, Bikram watches over his teaching herd like any proper mob boss, “I take care of people like I am their own father and mother. That’s a key to my success. I take care of people, and they take care of me.”

Honestly there are so many ridiculously outrageous quotes in the rest of this interview it’s hard to pick our favorite! And that’s the edited version.

Here’s a top contender:

Q: Why do you call yoga teachers “clowns?”

A: Because they are clowns. Circus clowns. They completely [expletive] up yoga. They crucified hatha yoga in America. There is no yoga called kundalini, power, vinyasa, dog yoga.

We follow 4,400 years of Patanjali’s The Yoga Sutra. There are eight kinds of yoga—karma, hatha, raja, vedanta, bhakti, mantra, jnana and laya. What the hell is vinyasa?

And Iyengar school [which uses props] looks like a Santa Monica sex shop. You don’t need those things to do yoga.

They make so many stupid things here [in America]. I am teaching the exact same postures as my guru [Bishnu Ghosh] taught me.

Not like he has an opinion or anything.

So is Bikram’s slick self-assured attitude enough to keep his followers entranced or will it turn people off to the point of disgust? Either way he’s asking for controversy and he’s gonna get it! Circus clowns unite!

Yoga’s Top Dog Oversees a Hot Commodity [Chicago Tribune]

Bikram, the McDonald’s of Yoga, Serves it Hot But Not Fresh [Chicago Tribune]

29 comments… add one
  • Kirk

    Thank You.
    I’m a Bikram teacher. Bikram yoga was the only yoga where Iwas made to feel welcomed. Having a “JUNK BODY” “SCREWLOOSE MIND” etc. Bikram’s Beginning Yoga class was and is still the best!!!
    Here are a few reasons. All the current yoga publications show
    trendy, fit, young, non-working yoga people who all have terrific alignments, postures, and holier than thou attitudes. These magazines and websites do NOTHING to let “commom” junk body types know that yoga IS a way out of chronic problems.
    I have been to many other type of yoga classes in the area, and as a male, Im immideately shunned, and “Put in my place” by the instructor. Hey Im not a douchebag bar hopper, Im a discliplined Bikram Yoga instructor who knows my place, When in Rome, do as the Roamns do.
    I have had more than my share of new Yogis come to me after their first 1 or 2 classes and make a similar statement. They have been shunned by the typical yoga crowd protrayed in the mags and other studios. That unless they can slide into Lululemmon and perform like the bendy-flexy types, what is the point of showing up.
    Bikram is just the opposite. Pure hatha yoga, 26 of the first 84 postures, breathing exercises, and someplace EVERYONE is welcome.
    As far at a lot of the other styles of yoga I have practiced for several years…. I agree with what Bikram says and some personal research, a lot of the other styles are copies of one another and I have a strong suspicion that at least seventy five percent is hi-bread postures, developed by some yogadork to salve over their narcissistic personality.
    Call it an indictment of some of Yogas leading lights, But I think we can know BS when we see it….

  • Balfy

    Who is the dork here?

    Bikram Yoga, quite simply the most accessible, demanding, real yoga out there. No chants, oms or pretentious bollocks. Bikram tells it how it is and I have personally witnessed transformations of body after body. Anyone feeling the need to write such crap, either didn’t get it, didn’t do it or is so bothered about what is going on around them they forgot the purpose was to focus and learn and develop themselves right there in the mirror.

    Those that love him, forgive the guru for his fleet, watches etc, mainly because we don’t practice for him, we practice for us, and we practice because the series is superior to other things we have tried and adaptations of hatha yoga we have tried. Simple really. The writer of the article is the type of idiot that I try to avoid in the other styles of yoga, judgemental without really knowing, maybe he also thinks I shouldn’t do yoga because I am not vegetarian

  • All I can say is you have to check this film out. It’s a documentary version of everything you discuss on this blog.

  • Thanks… I like the blog and the comments too… It is good to have a range of opinions.


  • “We follow 4,400 years of Patanjali’s The Yoga Sutra. ”

    I’d like to know which sutra says you have to crank the heat to 100+ degrees.

    “What the hell is vinyasa?”

    yikes. if Bikram doesn’t know the definition of vinyasa — after all, it IS a Sanskrit word — then……wow.

    I’m just sayin’…..

    “These magazines and websites do NOTHING to let “commom” junk body types know that yoga IS a way out of chronic problems.”

    wow. that’s interesting. I teach yoga as a “way out of chronic problems”, on the physical level and otherwise.

    sounds like I should be making the dough like Bikram does. WTF am I doing wrong?!?

  • Wow…I had no idea that real Hatha Yoga involves relentless flashy materialism and turning asanas into an Olympic sport…and if what he’s teaching are simply the real asanas that have been passed down from guru to guru, how can he justify patenting any of it (as if it’s simply his own commodified version of yoga)?

  • Monica

    Bikram is simply an overpaid aerobics instructor, as all his teachers are. Nine weeks to do two classes a day, and learn only 26 postures does not make you a yoga teacher with any quality, other than to teach a 26 posture aerobic “yoga” class. I taught Bikram for years, and worked with three different studios. At some point, your practice just evolves. You realize that you want to do inversions, you want to learn meditation, and you want a savasana that isn’t stuck between poses. I think Bikram has done a GREAT service, as to open a door to thick minded individuals (including myself) to walk through. He quotes the Bhagavad Gita on his website… he forgot to quote this ” You have the right to work, but never the fruit of work. You should never engage in action for sake of reward, nor should you long for inaction. Perform work in this world, Arjuna, as a man established within himself- without selfish attachments, and alike in success and defeat. For yoga is perfect evenness of mind” (Easwaran, 2000, p.13) I think Bikram is just taking advantage of the Western mindset, as are his teachers. Ive never met a bigger group of Ego filled people in my life. I hope they all find their path too. We ALL have the light in us, sometimes people just tend to hide it for longer.

  • i have always found this photo of Bikram especially offensive.
    as for this interview- SSDD.

  • Wow! Yogis gettin’ heated up. We don’t need any Bikram on this blog roll. Red Hot.

  • Wyatt

    I like Monica’s comments. Very nicely balanced thoughts.
    I don’t dig the tone of Bikram in the above quotes. Yoga is an evolving “way”, individual for each…individual. How could there be any one “way” that is “best”…?

    I have had some great Bikram class experiences, but Bikram himself is just very untactful (evidenced above). Veiry little humble or connect thought in his pronouncements… Yogic?

  • Jill

    Although I agree with most of the statements about Bikram himself, i truly enjoy the yoga. As somewhat of a newbie I was warmly welcomed not only by the teachers but by the people in the class. It isnt a focus on how flexible you are its a focus on improving your self weather it be mental, or physical. I have done other types of yoga trying to fix my dancers body and they didnt work for me. Bikram does. Ive even started to build more lean muscle and lots of my joint pain in my knees and ankles have gone away.
    How ever, when the yoga instructors begin to compare him to a “saint” I must role my eyes. He has been pretty monopolizing, and trying to turn something like yoga into a sport? I dont think so..
    Honestly though, each to his own right? What works for you might not work for someone else, and Bikram has found a way to make alot of money really easily. Thats more than i can say for myself i suppose.. He does need to be a little more careful about what he says.. that is absolutely unacceptable to put down other types of yoga that might be great for other people, and especially in such a manner that he did.. and that picture is very offensive in my opinion..

  • Tony

    Personally, I’m grateful for Bikram yoga. I doubt I’d be practicing today if it weren’t for Bikram. There is a reason why it’s called Bikram’s _Beginning_ Yoga. It was just what I needed to get me started and prepare me for other styles of yoga.

  • Mel

    I’ve been practicing Bikram yoga for about six years. I’ve never met the guy, don’t think much of him, find his public persona flat-out obnoxious but I like his heated yoga. I don’t do the yoga for him, never have. If and when I go thru yoga instructors training, it won’t be thru his school.

    I started dabbling in alternative “mainstream” vinyasa flow yoga a couple years ago. Sometimes I have an awesome class and feel limber and strong afterward, sometimes not. The same goes for Bikram.

    As for the young, uber skinny, flexible yoga snobs in the ridiculously over-priced workout clothes: those you can find in ANY discipline, not just Bikram or vinyasa.

    I’ve seen the documentary “Yoga Inc” and I urge everybody to watch it, as well as “Enlighten Up”. According to these docus, all Western yoga is commercialized, very different from its origins, except maybe Iyengar who is 80+ yrs old and still teaches in India.

    Some yoga schools/disciplines encourage a cult-like mentality, Bikram’s certainly does. Again, you can benefit from yoga but it doesn’t need to be your religion.

    • I attended the Yoga Journal Conference in San Francisco this past weekend as a guest of a booth holder in the Yoga Marketplace. Yoga conferences are organized commercials for clothing, props and philosophies – I should know this – and yet I found myself battling feelings of cynicism and despair. When the classes I wanted to attend were sold out with no room for ‘guests’ I decided to avoid the conference completely. I turned the weekend into a writing retreat, practiced yoga in the privacy of my hotel room and watched the sunrise from the Ferry Building across the street. Real yoga. No commercials. Perfect.

  • Sarah Hulslander

    This article is ridiculous. Bikram Choudhury is a genuine man and his yoga is genuinely the best. Period.

  • Jane Cameron

    Bikram is awful – the McDonalds of yoga, militarist, cultist, anatomically clueless.

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