We’re talking about the yoga style, not the yoga dude. (Though his fate is questionable, too.) In the wake of an already rocky reputation furthered by recent rape allegations, Bikram Choudhury is on shaky ground and his multi-million dollar franchise is starting to show some cracks.
While it’s highly unlikely there be quite the same Anusara-sized fallout, where the brand itself all but dissolved after founder John Friend’s terrible year, there is a trend of distancing happening in the Bikram community for those who do not wish to be connected with accusations of sexual misconduct, rape and ego-driven power plays. Now with the Bikram sequence no longer protected under U.S. copyright, the disenfranchised are starting to make some plays of their own. Hot yoga is hot right now, in case you haven’t noticed.
This Yoga Journal article poses the big question, ‘Will Bikram Yoga Survive?’ We’d say that all depends on you: the teachers, the studio owners, the practitioners, the community. Lately there hasn’t been much public conversation, but slowly murmurs are coming to the surface and changes are taking place.
YJ interviewed Stephanie Dixon, owner of the former Bikram Yoga Summerlin in Las Vegas, who just recently changed the studio name to Summerlin Yoga and has started to phase out Bikram classes.
“I don’t condone that type of behavior, and it’s not what I want to represent,” Dixon told YJ. Dixon says she’s been contacted by several other studios asking advice on how to transition away from Bikram Yoga.
And from the descent into the murk and the mud rise shiny new lotus flowers aka Bikram hybrids and/or hot-to-regular yoga bridges and bandaids, like Mark Balfe-Taylor’s Revitalize, an alternative to Bikram’s 26 poses he’s promoting to wannabe ex-Bikramers, with a teacher training and everything. Gotta strike while the yoga is hot, ya know?
Even the United States Yoga Federation, the organization run by Bikram’s wife Rajashree responsible for all those asana championships, has made a concerted effort to separate themselves from Bikram (yoga and Choudhury) which could be a smart move for their Olympic dreams, or just a smart move in general.
But while there’s certainly an air of dissension, distancing and entrepreneurial enterprises, there are many Bikram devotees who couldn’t care less about the accusations because they believe strongly that there’s a big difference behind Bikram the man and Bikram the yoga.
David Kiser, owner of Bikram Yoga Charleston in Charleston, South Carolina told YJ: “The yoga goes way beyond the man, and the practice is pure and simple. Nothing Bikram the man does can change that.”
So will Bikram Yoga survive? It may be too early to tell, but we’re pretty sure it’s going to look a lot different from the showy Rolex-wearing, Rolls Royce-riding bad boy image its leader has put forth for so many years. The times they are a-changin’. Friend, Desikachar, Bikram…are we done with the power-fiending gurus now, please?
Lawsuit update: Court documents state that the next hearing for one of the lawsuits filed in May is scheduled for October 23, 2014.
- Bikram Choudhury Accused of Rape in Two New Lawsuits
- Rajashree Choudhury on Championing Yoga Asana as Competitive Sport
- Big News: Federal Court Rules Bikram Can Not Copyright Asana Sequence