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Bikram Beef with Yoga to the People, ‘Directly Copying’ a ‘Disrespect’

in Business of Yoga, YD News, Yoga Feuds

BEEF! Uh oh. Bikram may have his legal team under lockdown once again. The offender? Yoga to the People, the often mat-to-mat packed and sweaty yoga studio touting “no glorified teachers, scripts or pedestals”  with multiple locations around NYC, as well as West Coast.

And they wrote it in a letter, to the people. Apparently the beef came to fruition last week when Bikram Manhattan closed its doors at the Penn Station location, pretty much blaming YTTP for stealing their clientele. Founder and director Raffael Pacitti spoke out on their website:

“Over the past few years, the presence of our competitors, YTTP’s Greg Gumucio, who offers Bikram Yoga classes under the guise of “hot” or “traditional” yoga without certified Bikram teachers, has made it impossible to continue,” Pacitti wrote.

It’s true, there are similarities: 26 postures, heat, stinky yogis (heh). But Bikram Manhattan charges $20 while YTTP is a mere $8.

Though according to Pacitti, it’s about honor and honesty:

“Mr. Gumucio and his team have taken it upon themselves to violate this honorable and ancient system in the interest of commerce and in making money,” said Pacitti in his note.

Gumucio shoots back, telling the Daily News that Pacitti is whining and playing the blame game.

“We do offer the same kind of yoga at a much cheaper rate, and we’re obviously doing a really good job,” he said. “It makes it very convenient to him to blame us.”

“In New York, you’re paying $20 to 25 a class,” Gumucio said. “To me, that was just very cost prohibitive. Our commitment was to give the less financially able an opportunity to practice.”

Which they have, but will this lead to more yoga lawsuits and ownership claims? Will YTTP try for a bid in the Olympics too??*  We’ll have to wait and see! Fire up the yoga torch!

*kidding, sort of.

Here’s the full letter. Click to enlarge.

Yoga to the People Manifesto

[NY Daily News]

——

Earlier

45 comments… add one

  • lucky

    Wow. That letter reads (to me) so pretentious and blind while the manifesto ROCKS!

    touche.

  • would Bikram like some cheese with his whine?

  • Romer

    Finally greed meets it’s destination!!

  • fran weller

    i agree!

  • I’ve been to YTTP, Berkley. I would not set foot into a Bikram studio. It’s about principals.

  • wow, i wish there was a “like” button for the commentators, i’d give all four i see so far a huge yes! i “like” your comment!

    beyond that, most people know i grew up in houston, and lived in texas most my life, and going to workout anywhere where the temp is the same as that which i tried desparately to avoid, is, well, just not my thing ;-)

    but now that i’m in vermont, might try one of those “warm” sessions, but not til winter ;-)

  • Mel

    If Bikram’s global chain of studios are the “McDonald’s of yoga” (as he has said in many interviews) it sounds like TGIFriday’s and Chili’s just moved in next door. LOL

    You package something, suck the soul out of it, train and hire zombies to teach your monotonous 26 postures and then spend every TV interview bragging about the millions you’ve made — and then karma catches up with you.

    As we say in America: “Tough shit.”

  • fran weller

    amen!

  • JeffreyD

    If you really want pretentious, how about that manifesto? Or that a yoga studio has a “manifesto” in the first place?

    I agree with the principles, honestly, but YTTP classes are overcrowded and not that good.

  • Sally

    Good for $10 and under yoga. Time to start knocking off the pretentious and expensive studios by putting them out of business. It’s a recession. Tired of Bikrams minions yet?

  • fran weller

    yes!

  • Here’s the thing – you get what you pay for.

    It’s expensive to run a Bikram yoga studo. You have to pay for heating and good staff. YTTP is only doing half of that. They heat up the room, but then they train their teachers on their own, very cheaply, and then – apparently – don’t pay them. It’s called cutting corners. If you pay your teachers a living wage AND keep the room hot, there’s no way you can afford to charge only $8 a class and stay in business.

    This just breaks my heart.

    Even their “manifesto” is a knock-off. “Never too bad, never too late, never too old or too sick (or too anything!) to do yoga and start from scratch once again.” That’s Bikram.

  • Matt

    Have you ever taken any classes at YTTP? I have been practicing the Bikram sequence for nine years at pretty regular pace in Bikram studios and “hot” studios all over. I have taken close to a hundred classes at YTTP locations in Seattle, SF , and the majority in NYC. Their donation studios are the only true “put your mat down and pay what you can” studios I have encountered. Their studios are always clean and welcoming. Their hot studio in Chelsea is state of the art radiant and forced air heat with an antimicrobial floor. Their teachers have been the most consistent of any studio I have found. They do an awesome job straight up for less than half the price of the competition. This isn’t ancient India, nor is the Bikram sequence ancient – it’s America and competition is the name of the game. A better product at a better price is always going to win. They are staying in business and charging $8 a class by making this transformational practice available to a much larger portion of the population. Over the years I have had so many people tell me they wish they could continue to do yoga but it was just too expensive. Finally, a solution arises. Thanks YTTP.

    On a side note, as a contractor working in NYC last summer, I viewed the former home of Bikram Yoga Manhattan on 26th and 8th in Chelsea. It was the worst taken care of, most dilapidated studio I have ever seen. Carpet squares for the hot room floor! Disgusting. Absolute disrespect to the studio. Funny enough it was YTTP who came in and gave it a wonderful facelift.

  • fran weller

    “Over the years I have had so many people tell me they wish they could continue to do yoga but it was just too expensive. Finally, a solution arises. Thanks YTTP. ”

    you are so right!

  • Henry

    What a scummy thing to do to claim another yoga studio put you out of business with a notice like that. But then that’s Bikram, the Hummer of the yoga world. Talk about a waste of energy resources for something that is not needed in yoga, extreme heat. Between that, the fruit loop of a founder and the cultist followers as evident from the writer above, it’s the marketplace that will decides if Bikram yoga lives or die.

  • Yogagyrl

    I don’t believe that either party needs to put down the other party to benefit (the Letter from BYNYC as well as the deliberate jab in the manifesto of YTTP), we make our own choices and live with what we get from them. It seems that everyone making a comment thinks that it is Bikram himself that wrote that letter or owns that yoga studio in NYC…if you read the letter you’ll see it is the owner, not Bikram. Bikram does not own all of the Bikram studios worldwide, they are all privately owned, not franchised.
    It’s interesting that in their manifesto, YTTP states, “no script” and yet in the description of their teacher training, they say, under “participant expectations”, “Study outside of training for dialogue practice and quizzes”…..huh? Dialogue? HUH? There is sooooo much flack around Bikram yoga and his dialogue…people don’t believe that teachers should be told what to say, etc (I’ve been teaching Bikram yoga for over 8 years), yet by learning the proper things to say in a class creates a way of teaching yoga safely to everyone. I agree that some teachers are mechanical, but isn’t that true for all styles of yoga…or for that matter in all areas of life? So, it seems that YTTP sees the benefit of this dialogue because they are teaching some kind of it to their teachers…I’ve not taken a class there so I cannot comment on the class itself, or the teachers.
    I think it’s sad that people are so (seemingly) angry and disrespectful toward people who choose to practice a different form of yoga than they do. Yoga is about faith and union and self realisation…just have a thought about what you are realising by putting other people down.

  • abbylou

    I am not a fan of Bikram, but I do think that you get what you pay for– at least for asana. Yoga (and I mean asana) is a big business. When you practice at a studio with “affordable” classes, the classes are packed. You don’t get as the same quality of instruction and you aren’t corrected as much.

    I began my yoga practice at a large well-known chain of yoga studios (not Bikram) where I received excellent instruction and how to practice safely. A few years into my studies, I relocated to an area where the yoga pickings were slim apart from gym yoga and community center-type classes. I started doing these classes, which were much less expensive, and I didn’t receive much instruction. I thought I was going deeper into the poses, but I was sloppy, and over time I ended-up hurting myself. Plus, a lot of times teachers didn’t show up or were late and had very limited training.

    The well-known chain of yoga studios opened a beautiful studio in my area. That’s where I practice now. Once again I am receiving excellent instruction and learning to practice safely. To me there is value in studying with a quality teacher who arrives to class on time and who can weave some philosophical teachings into the class.

    YTTP does seem to be a bit of a marketing ploy; it’s not all about bringing it to the people (even if that’s what the people want to hear)… At the end of the day, YTTP ends up with the same amount of money charging $8 a class if the class has 50 students in it as the studio that charges $20 a class and the class is attended by 20 students. YTTP ends up with a little more money if the teachers are paid less than teachers at other studios.

    I do think it’s great when teachers teach donation-based classes.

  • Jenny

    As much as the shrills for Bikram want to use this cliche, “you get what you pay for”, let it be said that there is so much yoga out there where you DON’T get what you pay for. The expense of Bikram is the mindless use of carbon energy to hear a room. This is what you are paying for and not the instruction which is minimal (been there, done that) at best. Really how long does it take someone to learn 26 poses?

  • abbylou

    I don’t practice Bikram or hot yoga. Big studios get slammed for being “corporate” and “fancy.” Being corporate or fancy care good if it means well-trained teachers, consistent instruction, and an emphasis on safety. Those are things worth paying for.

  • fran weller

    “This is what you are paying for and not the instruction which is minimal (been there, done that) at best. Really how long does it take someone to learn 26 poses?”

    very accurate!

  • I loved this article. I hope you don’t mind that I put a link to your site at my blog. Amazing when people try to lay claim to something that’s over 2000 years old.

  • Yogagyrl

    I don’t think anyone is laying claim to YOGA, but simply this SERIES of yoga, how it is put together and practiced…is that what you are referring to? Many people put down Bikram and Bikram yoga because of the series itself, they don’t like how it’s always the same, etc…yet so many people are copying it (“traditional hot”, “hot”, “moksha” etc)…it must be a good model!

  • dizzydowndog

    Now that I’ve read Pacitti’s letter in full, I’m amazed. It’s such a whiny, hypocritical rant.

    Bikram’s teacher trainers in SoCal regularly brag to their students they can “earn $600,000 in the first year” when they complete Bikram’s $10,000 teacher training and open their own studios. I’m not just pulling these figures out of thin air, Bikram and the senior teacher trainers have stated this in interviews!

    Sorry Pacitti, you can’t base your entire endeavor on making money and then point fingers at a successful competitor and call them greedy.

    And as far as “Bikram approved” or “Bikram certified” — oh please, get over yourselves. HE DID NOT INVENT YOGA. He simply greedily copyrighted a sequence of postures when he saw other Western yoga promoters like Baptiste and Yee in the rearview mirror of his Rolls Royce.

    And finally, that was a good comment about waste of resources and carbon foot print. Yeah, what the hell is heating all these Bikram studios to 105F doing for the environment???

  • David

    Funny how there is a little copyright bug at the bottom of the YTTP manifesto.

    Many Bikram teachers are able to make a living and many studio owners are able to provide quality service to the communities they serve.

    We are fortunate to be able to have a choice of what yoga style we practice and what studio to practice in.

  • The letter from the Bikram studio is too funny. I’m a yogini of many years and studio owner in Montreal. There are always ups and downs in business and in life. C’est la vie! I doubt poopooing another studio is helpful, even if the Bikram buddy’s claims are true. Even so, persecution of someone else’s business in this public manner is comical coming from a yoga teacher! I suppose we’re all human.

  • it would be nice if in Asia hot yoga of any brand could be available around the equivalent of $8 or $22 per class. it can be the equivalent of $50. that leaves few people able to practice it, only the financial elite. the price comes down a bit if you pay a membership in advance, for a year or no less than half a year. but it comes down to costing about $27 per class.

  • Ryan

    This topic is hot like sauce.

  • I have never been to a proper Bikram class, but I teach a free class on the beach in Durban South Africa. I get sponsored to teach by a wonderful lady who has initiated free exercise Mon – Fri. Some of the people who come could probably afford studio prices, but many of them would otherwise not be doing Yoga. For me that’s the important thing – not what type of Yoga you do, where you do it, or how much you pay to do it – it’s that you are practicing Yoga and expanding your awareness physically, emotionally, mentaly. This said – I would not be ablt to pay bills if my no-one came to my studio classes…

  • Kiki

    As a business owner who understands consumer motivation and the principles of competition, I find Pacitti’s open blaming of YTTP as the sole reason for his studio’s closure to be beyond comical. From a business standpoint, it is alarming that Pacitti would openly admit that his studio was beat out by one that offers a seemingly inferior service! How does that happen with proper marketing, client relationships/retention and excellent service? Mr. Pacitti doesn’t realize that in blaming YTTP for his failure he is indirectly insulting the intelligence and discernment of the market that he could not hold on to for one reason or another.
    Without having ever visited his studio, I still feel safe in guessing that whatever experience was offered there was simply not up to snuff. There are legions of people, no matter their economic state who simply prefer to pay more for a service or product if they believe that service or product to have the value attached to it that they believe it deserves. While price does play a factor, it’s not SIMPLY about $8 yoga versus $20 yoga. It is about value attachment and clearly Mr. Pacitti did not grasp this in time enough to save his studio.
    Business aside, I am still trying to wrap my head around the irony of Pacitti’s argument that YTTP has “stolen” a form of yoga and is being disrespectful in some way. Again, from a business perspective, I get it – copyright, blah, blah, blah. But I have my own ideas about the commercialization and co-opting of spirituality, specifically as it relates to yoga practice which can be EXTREMELY elitist ($20 a lesson and you can only learn it from Guru X and his followers or else it doesn’t count as being “real”) and inaccessible, especially for those who need it most.
    I applaud YTTP for making yoga accessible to people who may not be able to afford it otherwise or who are simply intimidated by the masses of foaming-at-the-mouth yogic perfectionists who are too enmeshed in their own egos to be aware that their behavior is often times antithetical to everything that the practice of yoga is supposed to mean.

  • fran weller

    You write very well!

    “I applaud YTTP for making yoga accessible to people who may not be able to afford it otherwise or who are simply intimidated by the masses of foaming-at-the-mouth yogic perfectionists who are too enmeshed in their own egos to be aware that their behavior is often times antithetical to everything that the practice of yoga is supposed to mean.”

    i agree.

  • Hopefully this fail of a Bikram studio will start a trend. IMO, yoga took a very unfortunate and disrespectful turn when Mr. Bikram was allowed to patent science he did not create and became a self proclaimed rock star in the industry. That ‘whoa is me, the victim’ letter warms my heart and restores my faith in humanity.

  • As far as getting what you pay for, as someone who has practiced in studios, gyms, and community centers, it depends not on where but with whom you are practicing. Many great teachers can be found in locations other than fancy studios Teachers teaching for the love of the practice not to make a name or tons of money for themselves. Likewise, fancy studios sometimes have crappy teachers. Teachers who are aloof, standoffish, condescending, and ego driven.

    For my money, I’ll gladly take a great teacher in a non fancy environment than a crappy teacher in a fancy one.

  • Elizabeth

    If the Bikram studio was losing business to YTTP and chose not to act, that’s their choice. I understand that running a yoga studio is expensive, but I have a hard time beliving the ONLY reason for the Bikram studio emptying and the YTTP filling was the price of classes. (Also, the few Bikram studios I know have classes passes which can bring the cost down significantly, or offer a community class with a lower price a few times a week.)

    I’m going to have to remain skeptical that teacher quality had anything to do with it either. While I cannot comment on YTTP’s teachers since I haven’t taken a class there, I have seen and heard Bikram teachers give completely inappropriate advice on what are, at least to me, very basic points. Actual example: student comes to teacher after class, points to a part of his knee, and says, “my knee hurts when we do triangle [side angle in non-Bikram].” Student then performed the pose. His knee and ankle were completely out of alignment, such that the reason for his pain was obvious: misalignment. Teacher (who also owned the studio and is not a newbie teacher) said, “when you first start practicing, your body releases a lot of toxins. Just keep practicing and the pain will go away as you release the toxins.” It was very upsetting to me to hear a teacher encourage a student to continue a misalignment that could lead to a serious injury.

    My beef with all of this: please, world, quit describing Bikram’s yoga sequence as “traditional” and “ancient.” It’s neither. Bikram invented it, which is his basis for seeking to control or limit the use of that sequence.

  • David

    Personally, I never refer to Bikram as “traditional” nor “ancient,” but refer to it as “Bikram’s method.” He took some traditional stuff, sequenced it, wrote a dialog for it and packaged it in a very, very specific way.

    As I understand it, the only reason he went to court was because people were using his name but not using the same method. So people were doing “Bikram” but they really were not.

    As far as I know, there was only 1 court case and he has never sued anyone for doing any other kind of yoga.

  • David

    More on the issue of the court case …
    If I started teaching some generic yoga and called it “Forest Yoga” but it wasn’t really Forest Yoga, would Ana Forest have a right to protect her name?

  • David
  • Greg Gumucio has known Bikram Choudhury personally for a very long time, he is a highly experienced Bikram teacher (and teacher of Bikram teachers), and he shares Bikram’s sequence via YttP faithfully and respectfully. So this failed studio can complain all it wants, but I doubt that Bikram himself is going to fuss.

  • Emily

    I’ve been practicing Bikram yoga for awhile, in several different Bikram locations. Some of them are great, clean and have great teachers. Some of them are unsanitary and have poor teachers. They all offer it at roughly the same prices pretty much everywhere you go.

    Lets be honest: Bikram yoga is expensive. It is a financial commitment you have to make if you really enjoy doing it and if you feel it gives you the benefits. If I’m going to pay Bikram yoga prices, I’d better be getting good teachers, a clean sanitary facility, and an inviting studio with great community atmosphere. If I pay $20 a class and get a nasty sweaty carpet and a pretentious instructor, I usually don’t return to that Bikram studio.

    I’m not sure what the NYC Manhatten studio was like because I’ve never been there, but NYC has a lot of competition for yoga studios. If you are not super at what you do or cannot deliver at a reasonable price, you are going to fail. That’s just the way the market works, Mr. Bikram Entrepreneur.

  • David

    For all those with “strong” opinions about dialog, this is a nice read and has some good info on what the dialog is and what it is about, written from the perspective of learning the dialog for teacher training.

    http://www.lucilleallen.com/

  • Jackey Good

    as a former instructor at the yoga to the people vinyasa studios, i feel i have to speak out; i was part of their apprenticeship program, as well as a participant of their very first 200-hour vinyasa teacher training, and finally a teacher for them for several months. i practiced daily at both their hot and normal-temperatured studios, latching on to the hot yoga for the benefits it promised. yet i became utterly bewildered when i constantly came out of class in excruciating pain. this pain continued, and i sustained two BROKEN RIBS AND A BROKEN RIGHT HIP. my bones literally disintegrated, damaged from poor instruction given to me by their unqualified instructors (don’t get me wrong, not all of them were bad teachers, merely very, very misinformed). i had two surgeries, endured months of painful physical therapy, lost a year and a half of my performing career (i’m a musical theatre singer/dancer/actress), and resumed my hot yoga practice at bikram yoga nyc. it was through this proper bikram instruction that i realized that not only is their operating out from under the bikram umbrella illegal, it is DANGEROUS both physically and mentally. without the regulation that the bikram franchise has to offer, students will continue to injure themselves, believing that they are doing something good for their bodies.

  • maude spekes

    I’ve gone to hot vinyasa at YTTP and Bikram and three different NY studios (one in Brooklyn, two in Manhattan). I was turned off to Bikram by the price, but I would have carried on with it had it not been for the tyrannical and deluded instructors. This really happened: An instructor barking incessantly during the sequence told the following fairy tale: “Let me tell you something about Mr. Bikram. When he was young he shattered his knee cap. SHATTERED. Beyond repair. But through steady practice of Bikram yoga he reconstituted his knee cap, without surgery.”

    Never happened. I said out loud, “Never happened.” Nobody else questioned the veracity of the story or even why our practice was peppered with this kind of bullshit proselytizing.

    How the fuck is this instructor passing along this garbage? Is she a solitary delusional person in a system of sane instructors, or is the Bikram practice full of this inculcated exaggeration and hype?

    I left Bikram because I hated the boot camp yelling at us; I hated the cultish aspect; and because when I tried YTTP, yeah, my mat was next to my neighbor’s mat, but damn, the instructors enabled me to practice by giving me just enough guidance and enough peace and freedom to get what I want from yoga: meditative breathing and movement in a community with likeminded people.

    Fuck Bikram and his shattered knee cap.

  • David

    The story of Bikram shattering his knee during a weight lifting competition when he was 17 years old is a widely known story. I’m not verifying the story, I wasn’t there, but suffice to say that this is something “know” throughout the Bikram community.

    You can choose to believe it or not.

    I’m not sure what you consider as “tyrannical” but to conclude that all Bikram instructors are insane and delusional is to discount the personal experience of tens-of-thousands of people who regularly practice Bikram all over the world.

    Consider for a moment the the dialog that the instructors use is a very well thought out method. Each phrase spoken has all the information the practitioner needs to know to safely enter and exit the posture in the least number of words so the instructions are simple and efficient. The dialog can act as a form of meditation, allowing the mind of the practitioner to focus on something while the body moves through the postures.

    If you don’t like the style, no one is making you practice it.

  • Alison

    As a regular practitioner of Bikram yoga, I have tremendous respect for my instructors, their knowledge of the practice and the proper (and more importantly) improper ways to get into or out of the postures. As a franchise business owner, I would absolutely expect Bikram Choudhury to file suit against anyone who was infringing on the copyright. If YTTP wants to offer hot yoga classes, they should come up with a sequence of different postures. It’s not just Bikram Choudhury that they’re screwing, but it’s also Raffael Pacitti as a small business owner that they’re putting out of business. But, alas, I think all this chatter will be mostly wasted since I’m sure that Bikram will rightfully prevail in his suit.

  • fran weller

    i agree Alison.

  • eknoo0

    Sorry. Bikram Choudhury just lost in the lawsuit. Yoga Cannot be Copyrighted ruled regulators. lol

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