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‘Yoga Don’ Bikram to be Bigger Than Elvis?

in Business of Yoga, MUST READS, YD News

Look out world, here comes Bikram the Yoga King! With megaton balls, and a massive hot yoga empire getting ready to capitalize the pants off you.

And we thought Lady Gaga yoga was bigger than Elvis… Bikram is going to BE Elvis!  Or so we gather from the latest story about Mr. hot pants Choudhury close to reaching a deal with Colony Capital, a $30 billion asset yielding investment firm making bankroll mostly in real estate, but which has also previously played a hand in buying Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch, arranging a debt-relief package for famed photographer Annie Leibovitz and more recently stepping in to purchase the Weinstein bros-founded Miramax Films from Disney. They mean business!

So why the interest in yoga? Because it’s a huge industry with an estimated over 100 million practitioners worldwide! Need we bring out the ‘yoga is worth $6 billion’ card again? Reports say Colony CEO Tom Barrack has been chatting up Bikram for several weeks now and we may hear something about a “deal” as early as this month.

Via NYPOST Pagesix:

The partnership comes as Barrack has formed a new venture under the Colony umbrella with his sculpted actor buddy, Rob Lowe. The two have been deal-hunting for opportunities in media, entertainment, sports and other lifestyle brands.

What’s the Bikram connection? According to sources Barrack and Bikram are longtime pals, but have just now entered into negotiations to “grow the highly franchised yoga business into a well-managed global industry.”

Fabulous! The ‘Yoga Don’ is setting the world on fire one 105 degree room at a time! Looks like he’ll show us what a TITAN is. Whereas Anusara Daddy John Friend downplays the “Moguel” title, Bikram is having it for breakfast.

We have no idea what this means exactly, but we can at least rest assured he won’t be putting out any pop albums. Good grief, we hope!

Will this improve Bikram’s chances to bring yoga to the Olympics? Will he finally get that 43rd Rolls Royce? Oh, we kid.



31 comments… add one
  • a cave in India is looking damn good to me right now……

  • We can only hope humility will set in.

  • Yogini3

    The only thing I like about Bikram is that for the first year and a half of my regular yoga practice, I too avoided inversions. But that’s only because I didn’t LIKE ’em …. not because of any particular identifications of ’em with clowns or circuses …

  • Shanda

    I am at a complete loss for words… which is an impressive feat that I suspect only Bikram Himself can accomplish.

  • Annie Oh

    Bikram doesn’t own a “franchise”. Currently not one single studio owner pays Bikram anything. He spent 3 years working with an international franchising operation, all the while promising his studio owners and teachers in training that “at most” the franchising would cost them a couple thousand a year and would bring mega-benefits. When the package finally came the sign up costs alone, for nothing in return, were $10,000, not including training or tri-annual recertification. There were additional annual costs as well such that the cost of being part of the franchise system would have meant many studios currently in operation would have gone out of business. The studio owners wrote Bikram a letter and told him, respectfully, where he could shove his agreement. He has NO legal basis for insisting his teachers buy in.

    I owned a large national massage therapy company. I used to tell people all the time that the hardest thing about it was the practitioners. Trying to “manage” massage therapists is like herding cats. Yoga teachers are the same. They are independent thinkers and don’t conform well to other people’s structures.

    I feel sorry for anyone who lets Bikram convince them of his control over “his” people. The man is a consummate liar. He invents reality out of thin air. I will keep watching with a bemused smile. His “teacher training” is a joke where you learn little about yoga and everything about Bikram worship. I’d be shocked if anything came of this…

  • First I have to say – YogaDork, you are awesome.

    Bikram is certainly a character. The only thing bigger than his bank accounts are his ego and his legal team. During ’08 teacher training ($10,000 per), attendees were forced to endure hours of old video footage ranging from “That’s Incredible” episodes from the early 80’s to Bollywood B-movies in which Bikram played some part. That is one of the many ways that Bikram attempts to “reprogram” Yoga teachers so that they go out into the world like cult members spreading his gospel. I would stop just short of calling him a megalomaniac, but he’s just about as close as you can get.
    His franchise is certainly making him a lot more money, even though most people can’t afford the tuition. As to whether his so-called patented 105-degree brand is all it’s cracked up to be…I’ll just leave that one alone.

  • Bevie

    I’m so happy I came across your blog. I’ve been taking a hot yoga class that uses the 26 postures of Bikram. It’s transforming my life and I thought I would be interested in taking the Bikram teacher training. I was shocked to find out the costs as well as the commercialism involved. It seems so hypocritical of everything that yoga teaches us and I cannot take this man seriously. I’m pleased that others feel the same and I will seek out training elsewhere.

  • Great write-up! There are now many Hot Yoga studios that are NOT under the Bikram umbrella, and thank God. Yoga is like music and there are millions of notes and styles not just 26!

    If anyone on here is looking for a Hot Yoga Teacher Training alternative see VegasHot.com.


  • Oh, Bikram’s thought that he was Elvis for YEARS, this is not new! And he does have pop CDs out, they just never made it into the mainstream. The funniest one is probably the “country western” track. Absolutely ridiculous and very entertaining. The man grew up on Elvis…

    @ Adam: They don’t HAVE “hours” of old video footage. They’ve got maybe 60 minutes total of old news clips, and they are priceless. It was one of my favorite parts of training: seeing the clips of Bikram when we was really young, like in his 20’s. Other than the hair, he’s hardly changed a bit.

  • I was training at White Lotus at one point when Ganga White mentioned The Guru Papers: Masks of Authoritarian Power by Joel Kramer and Diane Alstad, which tries to tackle the dangers inherent in the guru system. Bikram is a classic case of an Indian guru attempting to deify himself. The hitch for Bikram is that the United States has a very short attention span.

  • I absolutely hate how “Bikram” makes money by capitalizing on a style of yoga that has been around for thousands of years…
    I suggest you all watch “Yoga Inc.”

  • Tara

    Several years ago I ruptured my L5 disc in my spine, riding an ATV in Alaska. Unable to work, walk, stand or sit without tremendous back and sciatic nerve pain, I went to the top medical experts and spine specialists at Scripps Hospital in La Jolla, California for help. They gave me two choices 1) drill through my spine, remove the disc and fuse three vertebrae with a steel rod, ($75,000 and immediate relief from pain), or 2) do nothing and ride out the pain with physical therapy, pain killers, chiropractors, and yoga. Then I discovered Bikram yoga. I admit, the first few months were hell. But soon my body responded. Only with the heated class and the ‘camel and rabbit’ postures, was I able to go deeply enough into my spine, to heal the L5 disc that was ruptured. Now, i’ve been doing Bikram yoga for ten years and my body thanks me every day. After ten years without back pain, I’m living proof that Bikram knows more about healing the spine then all of the back specialists, chiropractors, accupuncturists, and drug companies combined.

    Meanwhile, over the years, I’ve had to protect myself from countless ‘yoga experts’ and ‘holistic health care practitioners’ and well intentioned ‘true believers’ who LOVE to rail against Bikram. And now seeing your website I’m seeing how far people will go to make themselves seem more knowledgeable than they truly are. While all of you, BLAH, BLAH, BLAH, yoga dorks, yoga dawgs, and media whores are great for juicy entertainment; you are no one to assess the health benefits of Bikram yoga. Ironically, YOU are also the one’s profiting on people’s confusion about yoga and lust for entertainment. However, you should be careful, because had I listened to you, I might have never tried Bikram yoga, and would still be on pain killers, having chronic back pain and doing relaxing, but ineffective yoga. Or worse, listening to Eminem while chanting ‘Om’ in a sun salutation. You may think that doing 108 sun salutations listening to Eminem’s ‘lose yourself’ and Rolling Stones ‘Sympathy for the Devil’ while chanting ‘Om’, qualifies you all as lineage holders or a yoga experts, but I wholeheartedly disagree. And having to deal with such a spurious and entertaining yoga community, I have a lot more compassion for Bikram’s game face and smile that his egoic comments ruffle your ‘enlightened’ feathers.


  • Tara,
    Even the Indian government has found Bikram’s attempt to copyright yoga sequences to be annoying, that is why they launched a massive database documenting the ancient lineage of the asanas.

    No one in this thread has been critical of Bikram’s asanas or sequences. Yoga is an ancient healing modality and Bikram’s yoga works just as well as other forms of yoga. Yoga is yoga. Apparently in your case, the heat worked for you and that’s great.

    Yoga Dork has brought a fresh spirit of open debate into the yoga community, which I think is healthy. I don’t think the Yoga Dorks and Yoga Dawgs of the world are profiting on people’s “lust for entertainment,” they are simply combining their love for the ancient science of yoga with their modern Western culture and the internet, which is rather rowdy and vocal.

    It’s good to hear you defend Bikram and to remind everyone that he has contributed valuable teaching to the community…. but he really ought to stop trying to copyright asanas.

    Yoga belongs to everyone.

    • Tara

      Thank you for your heartfelt response Amy, I give my respect and respond in kind. As I think you can tell, i’m not trying to spam your thread. In fact, I thought the photo of Bikram was very funny.

      Yes, yoga is for everyone. Just like music. Know one owns individual notes or chords. However, when you put chords together in specific sequences and write a song, are you not the creator of that song? I know this was unprecedented in the yoga community, but this is not the same world as when Bikram was in India teaching yoga for free. If i’m not mistaken, it was Shirley McClain who told him he had to charge Americans for yoga or they would never respect it. She was right. The yoga community should be thanking Bikram for demanding respectable prices for a product that not only changes people’s lives, but allows them to run their businesses. And if you have spent your life writing music as your sole source of income, wouldn’t you want to protect the ownership of the songs you wrote? Those asana sequences were Bikram’s contribution to yoga, they never existed before. Just as Mozart’s music never existed until he wrote the songs. Yes, the notes existed for thousands of years, but not in those sequences. Bikram brought the completed sequence to his teacher Bishnu Ghosh and said he created his masterpiece. Oxygenating your blood, then systematically pumping freshly oxygenated blood to every part of your body in 26 postures, with each posture preparing you for the next, while the twenty second savasana between each posture allows the blood to completely circulate the body. With each posture preparing you systematically to go deeper and deeper into the spine. I now realize what this means for the quality of people’s lives. Then writing the dialogue so that you not only know precisely where to place your mind in each posture, but then an authentic level of mastery could be duplicated worldwide to thousands of teachers relatively easily. It was nothing short of ingenious, coming straight from one of the greatest yogis of the twenty first century. This is a serious contribution to the yoga community. I believe he deserves to own his creation and so do the courts of the United States. Besides who better to maintain the integrity of his designed sequence as it’s distributed worldwide than Bikram himself? People make fun of him because of his personality, and that’s fine, Mozart was creepy too. But I don’t make fun of Mozart’s music or Bikram’s yoga or his decision to deliver it to the masses in heated rooms or to charge his teachers what he does for training, or to protect the integrity of his company as it grows worldwide. He’s not selling hamburgers, or coffee, or entertainment, or a half assed, dumbed down product that appeals to everyone. And if it doesn’t work, why do so many dedicated, smart people swear that it does? And having spent quality time with him, I can honestly say, his heart is bigger than his ego, which may be hard for some to believe.


  • Kindel

    I’m with you Tara!!!! Bikram Rocks!

  • Hey Tara,

    That was a beautifully voiced defense of Bikram…. you really made me see his side of the controversy. Thank you for sharing your passion. It’s clear from all the yogis who study with Bikram that his sequences are powerful and transformative and his students are loyal, and in your case, quite eloquent. I will remember what you said about Bikram’s heart being bigger than his ego…. Thanks to Yoga Dork for hosting such a lively discussion.

  • Tara

    Thank you Amy and Yoga Dork,

    May we all find a viable practice and surrender to the process.


  • Yogini5

    Thank you, Tara.

    Healing/self-healing is a process, and lucky is the person who finds it from their practice in this lifetime.

  • Tara,

    I am just upset over the fact that a man can franchise on a practice that has been around for thousands of years. It isn’t truly HIS practice. He does not deserve the title. I am 100% for hot yoga. I just will not attend any of his bikram studios but instead do it in my home..which is heated. Hot yoga is AMAZING for you. But the man Bikram Choudhury is just….awful and I will never support him.

  • Yogadork! You took the words right outta my mouth! I also never thanked you for previous mentions of my website/blog, but that’s because I only just realized it today when I googled my site and you came up. Peace to you! Here is a link to a satirical comedy story I just wrote about Bikram. http://karmalampoon.com/?p=1519

  • Yoga Dork and Karma Lampoon, we love you! Thanks for Bikram article. It is humorous when student’s feathers get ruffled over satya. Just keeping it all real, Zazo!

  • Toddy

    I’m hoping that one day Bikram will get so big someone will open a studio in a town called Marble Bar in Western Australia where the summer (which lasts 5 months) temperature range from 105 deg F to 120 deg F. It could be the first airconditioned Bikram studio.

    Bikram is hilarious and not for me but I’ve learned something important in the last few years: The only bad style of yoga is the one that makes you want to not do yoga.

  • Bikram is a stud!

  • Ed

    Bikram’s Yoga is absolutely unparalled in it’s effectiveness as side-effect free natural medicine, and as preventive medicine. Bikram’s Yoga has curative properties for asthma, allergies, lung disorders, heart disease, cancer, MS, heartburn, depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder. Please see articles: “5 ways bikram’s yoga reverses the cancer process” as well as “bikram yoga better than zoloft for depression”. Bikram’s Yoga is the most important tool in America for curing our health care problems.

  • Anna

    Well this was a very enlightening discussion indeed. My question is really to Ed. As I know very little about Bikram Yoga but I am very interested, would you kindly refer me to if there has been any medical research done on benefits of Bikram Yoga as the claims are very interesting and, if true, fantastic. I would like to do more research into Bikram Yoga and if anyone can pint me in the right direction I would be grateful.
    Many Thanks

  • Ari

    Bikram has several albums out actually. He works with famous Bollywood soundtrack producer Bappi Lahiri. Bikram has a couple of good songs.

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