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Inside Bikram’s Asana Championship: Fedoras and (Non)Assholes

in Business of Yoga, Events, YD News

bikram08champsNeal Pollack is a dad, an Alternadad who does yoga (among other things, apparently).  Papa Pollack is an Ashtangi, not a Bikramite, which is why we give him yoga props for venturing into the alternate universe that is Bikramland at the 6th Annual International Yoga Asana Championship, better known as a Bikram love-in, a couple weekends ago in LA.  For those of you too busy yogaing or tweeting, or suffering from too much eye strain to read the whole article (really? talk to Macca about that) we’ve done the work of skimming through for the best bits, like sweet coconut cream. And now to experience the magnificence that is Bikram and his people.

Here are the highlights:

Bikram loves birthdays (*especially his own): To kick off the weekend Bikram threw himself a lavish birthday party, a “nonstop cavalcade of Bikram worship” naturally. It was actually paid for by his franchise-owning devotees. He takes care of his people. And they take care of him, see.

The Competition: Men, Women AND children (under 18) categories. 5 compulsories: standing-head-to-knee; standing bow; bow pose;  rabbit; and a seated forward stretch. 2 optional poses to “tell a story,” or to show off your skills, either one. They don’t have to be Bikram poses, but why shoot yourself in the yogitoes? Duh. No mention of whether the whole room is a toasty 105 degrees? Our guess is no, which is just sacrilegious if you ask us.

The Competitors: Bend it like Bikram. These yogs are flexible, like Cirque du Soleil contortionists, which we always find hilarious considering our favorite Bikramism in which the ‘Don’ dubbed American Yoga a “fucked up circus.”  Yes,  flexible, and starry-eyed disciples. When Pollack  boldly confessed himself a non-believer someone snarled, “Well, if you want to go practice your ujayii breath off in the corner, that’s your business.” Oh man, they just went there.  sigh. We kind of wonder sometimes who will win the yoga brand dedication award:  Bikram’s bourgeoisie or the lulu lollies??

The Trainer: Mary Jarvis the “Bela Kerolyi” of Bikram’s army has trained many international champions. She describes her stringent screening process: “If somebody’s really arrogant, I won’t train them. They can have a great posture on stage and be a total asshole.” A this point we’re pretty confident she’s familiar with asshole standards.

Olympics Yoga: Oh they are serious. Bikram’s wife Rajashree has started a not-for-profit federation to get the ball rolling. The yoga “event” would be open to all disciplines even though Mrs. Bikram hasn’t seen much interest from outside the Bikram realm. It sounds like there isn’t much interest being sought after.

Conclusions: Well it’s just as you might have imagined a weekend with Bikram and his people would be like:  a sweaty, contorted meeting of the converted, with lots of bling and coconut water.

Why go for the Olympics Bikram? You are ready made for your own reality-TV show! Think Donald Trump meets Ray Kroc.

Full article at Slate.com

Earlier… Yoga Wars: Bikram’s Cometitive ‘Yogort’, But What About the Children?

Yoga ‘Don’ Bikram Choudhury Calls American Yoga “Fucked up Circus”

photo above is from 2008’s champs

6 comments… add one
  • I can’t tell you how much the idea of a ‘yoga competition’ makes my stomach churn. Seriously. Seems to me, they’ve turned it into a yoga-style external form competition – which is surely the only thing that can be measured here? I guess you can’t win the championship by focusing on your internal sensations, how open/closed your channels feel, etc?


    Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  • Ugh…I get into arguments with people when they start talking about “real yoga” or any setting up of judgmental perameters that go against the broad diversity and embrace of so many different ideas, beliefs, and practices that fall under the rubric of yoga–from the strict old-school Hindu thing to Christian yoga and people just trying to tighten up their butts–because that openness and acceptance is what makes me feel at home in the yoga world, with my own ever idiosyncratic and iconoclastic viewpoints being accepted along with everyone else’s….

    And yet…competetive yoga…why not have competetive psychotherapy while we’re at it? Somehow, coming away from a yoga “event,” having “lost” at yoga…ugh…ugh…ugh…ugh…ugh…

  • gotta tell ya — seeing those pastey skinned white guys in the little trunks kinda creeps me out….eeeeeeuuuuuuu

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