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Open Thread: How Are Bikram Choudhury’s Rape Charges Affecting Bikram Yoga? Teachers, Students, Studio Owners – Let’s Talk

in Business of Yoga, YD News
bikram-choudhury-yoga-teaching-training-blackout

Original photo credit: Reed Saxon for Associated Press | digital alteration by YD.

In light of multiple lawsuits against Bikram Choudhury alleging sexual assault and rape – there are six, presently – the Bikram Yoga community is now left to figure out what next. This post is intended to open a discussion forum, to create a dialogue and to bring to light any questions, concerns and thoughts held by Bikram studio owners, Bikram practitioners and the general yogasphere.

There’s been a lot written about the accusations (you can read more about the lawsuits here, here, here). A recent piece in the New York Times highlights a major problem facing some Bikram Yoga studio owners who wish to distance themselves from the namesake. “I stopped sending people to training. I changed the name,” says former Bikram studio owner Tiffany Friedman. She was “appalled” by the “cultish”ness of Bikram teacher training and recently renamed her Bikram studio Haute Yogi Manhattan Beach.

“I saw how people really wanted his favor and wanted him to shine a light on them and wanted to believe he was a guru and had all these powers. It was heartbreaking,” Friedman told the NYT.

As a whole, though, the Bikram world has remained largely silent. There have been no audible rallies for either side. No facebook pages, no petitions, no impassioned blog posts, no campaigns to express support for the man, nor the exodus from the franchised pack, which is surprising if only because many practitioners of Bikram are so fiercely devoted and loyal that one might assume there would be an Anusara-style response of Bikram proportions. The first lawsuit was filed in 2013, and since then five more women have come forward with formal accusations. And yet, mum. In fact, the majority of Bikram studios have chosen to basically ignore anything that’s going on beyond their steamy carpets even though the name of their business is tied to a man notorious for his outlandish, offensive mannerisms who will soon be going on trial to face rape charges.

It may be denial.

“A lot of people have blinders on,” said Sarah Baughn, 29, a onetime Bikram yoga devotee and international yoga competitor whose lawsuit against Mr. Choudhury in 2013 was like an earthquake among followers of his style of yoga. “This is their entire world. They don’t want to accept that this has happened.”

There is the possibility of his innocence and the judicial limbo that may be keeping people generally quiet, besides that Bikram’s legal team is well-known for being quite powerful and aggressive in defending his business, which is intimidating in and of itself. Bikram’s lawyers claim there are “thousands of Bikram yoga teachers, studio owners and practitioners who have conveyed messages of support and encouragement.” They’ve also said in a statement that the claims “are false and dishonor Bikram yoga and the health and spiritual benefits it has brought to the lives of millions of practitioners throughout the world.”

Regardless of the convictions, the charges themselves could place, and in some cases have already placed, a heavy toll on the Bikram empire.

But, again, no one really wants to talk about it.

When we put out the call for Bikram studio owners and practitioners to speak up and share their thoughts, we could almost hear the locust poses buzzing in the distance. We reached out to Bikram Yoga studios in NYC and the response we received was just as chilly, ranging from, “No comment at this time,” by the Marketing Director of Bikram Yoga NYC to a referral to an interview from last year where Tricia Donegan, owner of Bikram Yoga Lower East Side, shared her thoughts on the scandal. We checked in with Donegan who confirmed that, indeed, nothing much has changed from last year.

In the interview from March 2013, Donegan, explained how day-to-day operations at the studio are pretty much same old. When asked if she felt the need to distance herself from Bikram Choudhury or stand behind him as a community she responded: “We need to be able to separate the practice we believe in—a practice we believe improves health and well-being—from the issue of sexual harassment. Stopping the yoga will not change the power dynamics that allow sexual harassment to exist.”

While that wasn’t really a straight answer on whether or not the yoga can be separated from the man, we feel for teachers like Donegan who are somewhat stuck between a rock and a sweaty place, who believe in the yoga they teach so strongly that, to them, the only clear option right now is to continue doing what they’re doing. Until something else happens and they can’t anymore. This something could be the conviction of their leader and the subsequent dismantling of his massive empire. We saw it happen on a much smaller scale with John Friend and Anusara. (Note: Friend was never sued by any students for sexual harassment or rape.)

Bikram Choudhury has 300 yoga studios in 40 states and Washington, D.C., with 600 studios worldwide, as of 2012. He still makes money from his franchised studios and from the strenuous teacher trainings that cost trainees upward of $10,000 that he still leads himself. This drops the question of ethics and action (or inaction) square into the laps of studio owners and teachers who pay for the Bikram name. Then there are the thousands of practitioners who have benefitted from Bikram Yoga and wish to continue the practice, but might not want to associate with the Bikram name. What do they do? What do the studio owners who have built their businesses and livelihoods on Bikram Yoga do now?

Maybe the answer is nothing at all? Last year, Eric Jennings, owner of Bikram Yoga Decatur expressed his commitment to the yoga despite the negativity around the brand:

As for me and my studio, which has been teaching Bikram Yoga for 11+ years, my first loyalty is to my students. My next loyalty is to the instructors who work with me and to my own personal practice. Behind all of that is a loyalty to the brilliant Bikram Yoga series and method. As long as I continue to teach the Bikram Yoga series in accordance with the Bikram Yoga method I see no reason to consider changing the name of my business. It may be true that the negative publicity is tarnishing the brand but the yoga which I have been promoting and practicing for these many years is just as profoundly effective as it has always been and my commitment to it, and to my community of yoga peers, is unwavering.

(See: Bikram Studio Owners And Teachers Respond To Rape Charges And The Community Divided)

Or maybe the answer is for the Bikram Yoga community as a whole to take a huge step to the left of Bikram Choudhury the person and get rid of the name entirely, as Benjamin Lorr suggests. Lorr is author of Hell-Bent a book which touched on some of the troubling behind the scenes experiences as a Bikram teacher trainee, including some sexual harassment. We asked for his thoughts regarding the latest rape lawsuit news and the question of “what next?” His response via email:

Hopefully the latest allegations will finally move the Hot Yoga community to take action. As I made clear in Hell-Bent, I believe Bikram Choudhury is a predator. He is effective and dangerous precisely because he uses yoga’s best qualities to manipulate and control people who believe they “owe” him for the genuine life-changing benefits they receive from an asana sequence. The sexual assault allegations are merely the most grotesque and prominent examples of this behavior.
As for the question ‘What now’? It’s the same as last week, last month, last year. Take his name off your studio, get his face away from your brand, and for god sakes don’t send your students to his training. I’m not entirely confident in the criminal court’s ability to untangle rape and sexual assault claims stretching back decades being made by women who were too fearful and enmeshed in his community to come forward while there was still physical evidence. But I am confident that we as a community can cut him off economically and deliver a small amount of support and justice while these cases and their civil counterparts proceed. Once that basic step has been accomplished, a natural rebuilding process can occur.

The questions are many, but the heaviest looming have to do with what the Bikram Yoga community – the teachers, studio owners, practitioners – will choose to do next. Do they carry on with business as usual as if nothing is happening? Do they band together and reclaim the yoga from their troubled guru? Do the students continue their practice under the Bikram name or will they move on, forcing studio owners to do the same? This, maybe more possible than ever since Bikram Choudhury lost his fight to copyright his 26 pose yoga sequence.

Will there be a revolution? We hope that in the very least there will be a discussion, a forum for honest and open dialogue so that people do not feel intimidated by or fearful of coming forward whether it be to express support, disappointment, confusion, personal experience or otherwise.

We’d like to start that open, honest and respectful discussion right here. Silence speaks volumes. Words and actions speak louder.

UPDATE:

Petition Calls for Bikram Choudhury to Resign and Be Removed from Yoga Brand in Light of Rape Charges

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Earlier

67 comments… add one
  • IMHO

    Bikram Choudhury is not worth the time or electrons required for a lengthy criticism of the loathsome, shriveled man. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. The civil courts will set things straight.

  • Kyra

    On the one hand, he created a sequence of yoga that has literally changed the lives of several of my friends, and that is a wonderful thing.

    On the other hand, he used his power not just to accrue likely insane amounts of wealth (which I don’t begrudge him, see above) but then went on to use that power to manipulate people. With the rigid control he seemed to evince in teacher trainings and in licensing, I, sadly, find the allegations too hard to dismiss–even the staunchest defenders don’t deny things like those public massages, which is just…creepy.

    Anyone who abuses power, over anyone, is utterly morally bankrupt. I left Bikram yoga when I first heard hint of these allegations, because I did not want my money to support that/him. Just like with ethical eating parts of yoga, ahimsa, etc, I find ethical consumer choice in who gets my yoga studio dollars. And they have not gone to Bikram in a long time.

    I’m devastated for the Bikram teachers, who do believe in the practice and have sunk heart and soul and money into his teachings. I hope they drop their associations with him. Hey, who knows, maybe they can *improve* on his sequence now that the training wheels are off!

  • I’m a Bikram teacher, and went to TT as a means to an end, to teach the 26×2 that I stand by. But I never stood by the man himself (so I’ve always been conflicted). I think what makes this tough is that what made the Bikram community so special was that it was unique, all of us went to the same training, all of us loved the yoga and none of us seemed to get bored of doing the same postures everytime. But we’re at a crossroads and as much as we all loved the community it was ultimately led by fear. I really wish all of us could band together, change the name together… Maybe Ghosh yoga…? Create our own website so people can find a 26×2 class at a studio nearby, but could also find classes that include some of the original Ghosh 84, maybe a yin class, and with a little TLC we can stop supporting a man who’s violated our practitioners, our teachers, and ultimately our community, we can work together in rebuilding a worthwhile community that we believe in and that we can be proud of again….!? Just a thought.

  • I practice B.Y. and had thought about attending training. But when I looked into the ethics of this man, and heard how his egomaniacal behavior is manifested, I decided there was no way.
    I will still practice, but have zero respect for B.C.

  • I am not a Bikram yoga teacher, nor do I practice his style of yoga. I do know that many practitioners have benefited from his practice and that is wonderful. From my perspective, he represents many of the ills we see in yoga today: a cultish following, abuse of power, greed, violence toward women, narcissistic. He has been accused and has not yet been tried. I hope that our yoga community is wiser from this experience and learns to see the red flags before something like this occurs again.

  • sandy

    he is a human…just like all the rest of us. why do folks put others on a pedestal? we are all fallible human beings and they will never be the perfect mirror we EXPECT. Part of the game of life. reality and a risk unfortunately. I agree I don’t think he is worth the time either. But to think…. just because someone practices or teaches yoga is a better human than others…. is living in a fairytale. This is what bothers me about ‘yogis’….they feel that gosh how could a yoga teacher/guru do this or that. Or that person practices yoga so they are more enlightened or spiritual, or kind or compassionate or etc etc etc. so self righteous with the belief that yoga folks are indeed much more superior than others. I feel for those that bought into his practice. We put our faith and beliefs in friends, business associates, law makers, religious leaders and marriage partners to have them fail too. Just a part of life. I hope those that followed him can shake this off and repair what may crumble from all this and find clarity in their next steps.

  • Stefan

    If Bikram is a “predator” Mr. Lorr is a parasite. Both portraits are caricatures with some verisimilitude. I think the reason we don’t hear more about this from the Bikram community is more exhaustion than denial; we’ve known about these charges for 2 years now; none of the constituencies have been very good at listening to the others; we keep repeating ourselves; what’s the point? To those who want to destroy the Bikram “empire” I simply ask you to ask yourself why. Is it really to protect others or is there some self-interested motivation as well?

  • Erin Westman

    I don’t understand why anyone would want to give a dime to Bikram Choudhury. You can try to separate the methods from the man but by attending Bikram classes and trainings you are financially supporting him. Denial is running very deep in this community.

    • Lex

      Most of the studios have not signed his franchise agreement. By attending classes, you are giving money to a studio owner that went to training, giving him $ once, probably before all of these accusations. If you don’t want to give him $$, ask your studio if they’re part of the franchise.

  • Chris

    Overall, this situation is very sad. Over the years, I have received many benefits from my Bikram practice. I am grateful. In my humble opinion, I think the majority of people complaining and criticizing ‘the man’ use moral higher ground to perhaps financially benefit from some mass exodus away from the practice. Tomorrow I will renew my membership for a year , support my local studio and get on with my practice. In the future, I would like to not only own a studio for the practice, but find ways to make an impact in low income communities by sharing ‘the practice’ and watching others benefit like I have. It is my deepest hope that those harmed are compensated, more strict lines of respect are drawn for teachers/students and those who don’t wish to do the practice, go towards what makes them happy. Many people who have been a part of something good have been assholes. Please reference Picasso, George Washington and Bob Dylan. Articles like this, with their hateful slant and biased comments show how small minded and ‘territorial’ the new landscape of yoga can be. Namaste

  • Since I’m quoted above I want to be clear. My studio is not officially affiliated with Bikram, Inc. We do not support him financially in any way. I have been told by Bikram loyalists that I am obligated to change my name because of this. They say I’m “stealing” from Bikram by using his name. I have also been told by Bikram separatists that by continuing to use his name I am condoning Bikram’s alleged bad behavior. But the thing is, wouldn’t it be stealing if I continued to teach the yoga he created and called it something else? And since I believe the yoga method and technique is valid and beneficial should I discount that and stop offering it to the many people who want to continue to practice it? The truth is that studios like mine do not have a clear and easy response. Our decision to draw a distinction between the man and the yoga he created isn’t equivocation, indecision or opportunistic. It’s simply the best response we can think of to continue to promote the practice without simultaneously choosing to defend what is increasingly looking like indefensible behavior.

  • Joe

    i don’t know…he’s just a person…. Sure, he had the brilliant idea to patent his series, great but not relevant to the yoga itself. I don’t really care about him. I care about my practice of yoga and being physically and mentally better. I don’t think I’ll change what I do, because of who he is. ‘Bikram’ is just a word, a label. He’s just one version of a Shakespeare translation from ancient India, and it’s convenient consultant and good. I don’t think I’m going to judge the studio owners, most of whom pay nothing to Bikram for his brand other than their training. I definitely feel there is a separation from the man and the practice. He has a weird sexual complex, let the courts decide –and if he did it, then fuck him–but I’m not going to stop yoga, and I like his sequence–and I think it’s petty to fuck up a piece of art because the artist is an asshole. There’s been a lot of assholes.

  • Whenever I read articles and comments on this topic, I am always surprised at how quick people are to pass judgement. In this country, it it still innocent until proven guilty, and we do not have access to the information we would require in order to pass judgement. So for me, I keep going to yoga and maintaining my blog watching how it all plays out.

    What is more troubling to me is that the women who are accusing him remained silent for years. No one went immediately to the police, and saying that it is a difficult/scary thing to bring such charges is not an acceptable response to the behavior they are claiming to have experienced. I agree that it would be an incredibly difficulty and scary thing to have to stand up against, but by not doing it then you have not done all you can to prevent it from happening to other women.

    Let’s be clear….I am not blaming the victim. No one ever deserves to be treated in the ways these women allege. What I am saying is that IF you are raped/sexually assaulted then it is your responsibility to yourself and to other women to immediately bring that issue to light in an effort to make sure it stops.

    • David K

      @Leigh – It sounds very like you are blaming to the victims to me.

    • Sam Louise

      Leigh: you are absolutely clueless about sex abuse/assault and how it affects a victim. Get off your high-horse on what victims “should” do and what they are supposedly “responsible” for. You are helping to perpetuate age-old myths about rape that if a person really was assaulted they would be ready to call the police or tell a friend immediately. It doesn’t work that way. Educate yourself for godsake. You do NOT get to decide when or if a victim reports. The victim does.

    • Sue DiCostanzo

      Your kidding me…..you really think it is easy for women to step up to the plate and tell the authorities that you have been sexually assaulted…..please…..

    • Allison

      I find it horribly ironic that you are decrying the passing of judgment on the man, and then turn around and pass terrible judgment on his victims. Your statements are the very definition of victim blaming. Unless you have been there, and you clearly have not been, do not dare to state what a victim of sexual assault should and should not do, do not dare to assume what it is like to experience both during and in the aftermath. “I’m sure it’s difficult/scary” is a huge understatement.
      These women are extremely brave for coming forward, no matter how long it took. They are putting their reputations and livelihoods on the line to stand up for what is right and to protect those who will come into contact with Bikram in the future. People like you, with your victim blaming that your claiming is not victim blaming, are the reason victims do not always immediately come forward.

      • Mary

        Well put, Allison. Thank you.

    • CTG

      Leigh, you’re surprised at how quick people are to pass judgement……………..and yet you are judging the victims. Not “blaming” them — how kind — but you are judging them.

      Obviously, you have never been the victim of sexual assault, or you would never make these asinine comments. You have NO idea whatsoever of how difficult and scary it is to report a sexual crime. You have NO idea of the strength it takes to voice this crime, knowing that people WILL blame, WILL point fingers, and most likely will NOT believe. How many times have we, in this society, heard these bullshit excuses – “she shouldn’t have been there” “she shouldn’t have been wearing those clothes” “what did she do to provoke it” “she must have been asking for it”. And you think it’s just oh so simple to stroll on down to the local police station and file a report — knowing that’s possibly the response that will be given???

      This is a crime not just of physical hurt, but of mental hurt. That mental hurt can be the obstacle that is the most difficult to overcome……………..and it can take years. Instead of judging and “not blaming”, how about SUPPORTING and ASSISTING women in being able to speak up without fear of MORE humiliation and unbelief?

  • Julia

    I went to teacher training in 2010 with the latest victim and I vividly remember Bikram interacting with her in a way my friends and I thought was predatory. We knew Bikram had a girlfriend in our training class and that he was a lech. I never suspected that he was assaulting people, but anyone who didn’t have their head under a rock at training should be saddened, but not terribly surprised. I bet the senior staff members knew though, and that makes me sick.

    We’re not ignoring these allegations. We talk about them in the staff room. We talk about them on message boards. But our focus is on our students. Everyday people walk into our studio with all kinds of pain; physical, mental, emotional. We watch the yoga heal them the way it healed us. To say we should stop doing this kind of yoga is naive. It’s throwing the baby out with the bath water.
    The issue of dropping Bikram’s name is complicated and should be at the discretion of the studio owner. This isn’t a franchise, each studio has the right to do what they want.
    I work at one studio that dropped the name and added vinyasa classes to their schedule. They are busier than ever under the Hot Yoga name.
    However; there are lots of crappy Hot Yoga studios out there with second rate teacher trainings. Most studios that want to keep the Bikram name probably want to do it, not out of loyalty to the man, but because Bikram yoga has exploded in popularity over the last few years and the name Bikram tells you you’re doing the real deal: a powerful 26 pose sequence, in a hot room, with a certified instructor.

    It’s a complicated issue and we are all processing it in our own way. But to say we are sweeping it under the rug, or that the majority of the Bikram yoga community is “cult like” as was alleged in the New York Times article is sensationalist, and just plain bad journalism. We’re just people trying to better ourselves with this yoga.

    • Yogabro

      Good point about the training! In 10-years of Bikram Yoga I’ve never really had a bad teacher–the teacher training is very solid. Let’s face it, there really aren’t going to be 10s of thousands of yoga masters out there, so the training strictness and consistency is to ensure a high level is kept. He should be ashamed though, that while he can create something that has helped so many people, he could also easily cause a huge negative impact to thousands of yoga practitioners (and his alleged victims) that he should be aware of after all his years of yoga. It is really a disappointment he really couldn’t see that it is so fragile.

    • Yoganthehood

      About the cult like comment made by former studio owner, Tiffany Amelia Rhodes..she was in the 2014 TT Facebook group yesterday and I asked her about her massaging Bikram because it did not sound right that someone as old as she is would be massaging a grown man. I figured since he is a “predator” that he would only have young women massage him. So I asked her why were you massaging him if you did not like the training or him? She replied that the article had misrepresented her statement and in less than an hour the article was modified. Correction: February 24, 2015
      An earlier version of this article referred incorrectly to an action of Tiffany Friedman, owner of Haute Yogi Manhattan Beach, during a Bikram training session. Ms. Friedman said other teacher trainees massaged Mr. Choudhury at the sessions, but she did not.This is what was posted
      I was not fact checking I was simply asking her a question and a modification to the article appeared. So do not take everything you read as the gospel. People lie all day and accuse people of all sorts of things.
      And also having a girlfriend and rape are 2 different things….

  • Yoganthehood

    I come from a group of folks(black folks) that in the 60’s were falsely accused of rape by white women and the men were lynched(no trial). So in this season of Black history month let’s learn something. White women in history have always fantasied about being with Black/brown men and have lied about it. Black men have died and been jailed behind those false accusations so when I see accusations such as these it reminds me of American history. In the 1950’s Paramahansa Yogananda was accused of sexual things by white MEN whose wives were doing “these yoga kriyas” and learning about kundalini energy from a brown man in the 1940’s and 1950’s. Are we in a country where one is innocent until proven guilty or not?

    • Allison

      This is a disgusting, racist rant and should be removed from the thread. Every member of your family is more likely to be struck by lightning or attacked by a shark than you are to be falsely accused of rape. This is rape apologia at it’s finest and you should be ashamed of yourself.

      • Mary

        Well put, Allison. Thank you.

  • Yoganthehood

    ANd also why are there no rape allegations from his earlier years when he first got to America? Because he was broke as a joke! Has anyone attended TT posting on this board? The women(mostlywhite) in these trainings throw themselves at the man, fight between each other about who is going to massage him or bring him water. This was my first time ever seeing white women act this way towards a BROWN ‘guru’. Daily I would be like…wtf is wrong with these women so I can see how some women could feel as though they were not getting enough attention from Bikram yada yada and then the accusations start rolling in.
    Now if I am being raped in Bikram’s Beverly Hills home with his wife and son upstairs…best believe Rajasharee would have found out as soon as the act was over!!! Better have a rape kit test available….I just don’t buy it.

  • Nancy

    Found this on another Yogadork thread…lengthy but good comparison
    Nancy
    To give you fair warning, this is a bit lengthy. While I understand the shout out that, “It’s no longer socially acceptable to separate the man from the brand” comments; Let’s examine what that suggests. I’m in no way condoning what Bikram and people like him do, I want to point out some hypocrisies of statements asking studio owners to drop the Bikram name. If you fall for that, then you should also never use an IBM product for it’s relation to the Holocaust; An Apple product, run by Pegatron Group as regards to child labor practices; Eat anything that comes from the Kellogg (KBR) manufacturer because of KBR human rights violations on the U.S. dollar; You should never drive a Ford (Among automakers, Ford Motor Company is the worst) or use anything from Chevron because it’s guilty of some of the worst environmental and human rights abuses in the world.

    We all have products including Saran wrap, Ziploc bags and Scrubbing Bubbles. Dow has been destroying lives and poisoning the planet for decades, but good luck not buying or using anything from them. Coca-cola…well lets see… abuse of workers rights, assassinations, water privatization, worker discrimination.

    Caterpillar is the world’s leading manufacturer of construction and mining equipment, diesel and natural gas engines, industrial gas turbines and diesel-electric locomotives, but for years, the Caterpillar Company has provided Israel with the bulldozers used to destroy Palestinian homes. That’s not nice.

    With Nestle Chocolate the forced child labor is rampant, because more than 40% of the world’s cocoa supply comes from the Ivory Coast, a country that the US State Department estimates had approximately 109,000 child laborers working in hazardous conditions on cocoa farms.
    Don’t buy or use Samsung either because it’s facing allegations that one of its suppliers based in China has been using child labour in order to meet demand. (I know, they’re making changes, so is Bikram. They have to.)

    Don’t use sugar or buy products containing sugar from the sugar giant Tate & Lyle that is accused of using child labor and being complicit in expropriating land and inflicting violence on people. Tate & Lyle ingredients are used in a wide range of foods around the world. Don’t purchase or wear Nike clothing or shoes either, they have been accused of using child labor in the production of its soccer balls in Pakistan.
    Without realizing it, we all purchase products from Monsanto. It is, by far, the largest producer of genetically engineered seeds in the world, dominating 70% to 100% of the market for crops such as soy, cotton, wheat and corn. Monsanto, best known today for its agricultural biotechnology products, has a long and dirty history of polluting earth with some of the most toxic compounds known to humankind. From PCBs to Agent Orange to Roundup.

    You shouldn’t use anything from the beauty product giant L’Oreal. It has made a lot of headlines, but not in the most positive way. From the presence of lead in their lipstick, to resuming animal testing to sell new products to the Chinese market, L’Oreal has found themselves in hot water with consumers who demand ethical practices and safer products.
    L’Oreal is no stranger to controversy. Founder Eugene Schueller, who formulated the first hair dye product in 1907, was a well-known Nazi sympathizer and, to this day, the company is embroiled in a legal battle due to the fact that its German headquarters are situated on land that was confiscated from a Jewish family during World War II.

    Oh you yogi’s and your Lululemon. The seeds of that company’s problems were planted early, with its initial founding in Vancouver in 1998. Former CEO Chip Wilson, an avid snowboarder, said he came up with “Lululemon” because he delighted in the idea that trying to pronounce the name — with its three syllables beginning with “l’” — would pose a special challenge for the Japanese, whom he enjoyed making fun of. From that less-than-enlightened starting point Wilson went on to create a huge controversy in 2005 when he announced that the firm would rely on child labor and “sweat shops” in China, after three competitors in his native Vancouver went belly up due to rising labor costs.

    We all at one time or another have had the need to use doctor prescribed drugs. Pfizer is the largest pharmaceutical company in the world; it’s also one of the worst abusers of the human right of universal access to HIV/AIDS medicine.

    Who doesn’t want to save money on products that we use everyday in our home? So we go to Wal-Mart. It is the biggest corporation in the world. It owns 5,100 stores worldwide and employs 1.3 million workers in the United States and 400,000 abroad, as well as millions more in the factories of its suppliers. Many people have heard of the way that Wal-Mart steamrolls its way into every possible town, destroying local supermarkets and countless small businesses. We have also heard about Wal-Mart’s long track record of worker abuse, from forced overtime to sex discrimination to illegal child labor to relentless union busting.

    So lay of the Bikram owners to drop the Bikram name. Just teach the yoga.

    Sources:
    http://www.laborrights.org/in-the-news/14-worst-corporate-evildoers
    http://www.foodispower.org/slavery-chocolate/
    http://blueandgreentomorrow.com/2014/07/11/samsung-accused-of-using-child-labour-in-its-supply-chain/
    http://rt.com/business/apple-accused-china-kids-labor-742/
    http://news.sky.com/story/1300504/samsung-supplier-accused-of-using-child-labour
    http://www.theguardian.com/business/2013/jul/09/tate-lyle-sugar-child-labour-accusation
    http://www1.american.edu/ted/nike.htm
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/stewart-j-lawrence/when-yogis-kill-the-grisl_b_1077457.html
    https://books.google.com.au/books?id=yQ0N59fv38gC&pg=PA96&lpg=PA96&dq=companies+with+sordid+history&source=bl&ots=GCnfNKpzm7&sig=OTbfeOPOMeJ9HZzUaeJ__Bn9zaE&hl=en&sa=X&ei=R2bmVJmvDYSF8gWWmIGACg&ved=0CBwQ6AEwADgK#v=onepage&q=companies%20with%20sordid%20history&f=false
    http://www.vegetarianbeautyproducts.com
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IBM_during_World_War_II

    • Allison

      So, according to your logic, we should continue to financially support a sexual predator because oh, well every major corporation has their issues? People have a chance to take a stand against this kind or behavior, and they should do it.
      It is true that in general people should do more research about the products they buy and the companies that are profiting from their purchase. However, that does not mean that because you purchased a Samsung phone you are already so morally corrupt that you cannot take a stand against Bikram.

      • Mary

        Again, Allison, thank you for taking the time to slog through & debunk Nancy’s perhaps well-intentioned, but nevertheless ridiculous argument.

  • I would like to share my experience with you as a now 15 year Ghosh yoga practioner and 12 year studio owner and one who changed our studio name and direction over 2 years ago. First off I would like to say that I have been a part of this process, ( I am actually in the picture above in the sea of students practicing with Dharma Mittra ) that I am not better than anyone else who chooses a different path. I realize that for all of us Studio Owners, Teachers and Students alike we must listen to one another and be brave to stand up for what we know in our hearts is right. History will tell an amazing story of this man good and bad alike. All you need to do is meet people who have been influenced by him. Each decade since he arrived on US soil he helped and hurt people alike. Go back to the 70’s and meet his early students in the same sentence they will adore him and be appalled by his actions. Bikram tactics have always been the same FEAR FEAR followed up by LOVE LOVE…..like a disfunctional parent. Each decade a stand out student will rise above and take some attention from him….Tony Sanchez in the 70’s, Jimmy Barkan and Baron Baptiste in the 80’s, Greg C. (yoga to the people) in the 90’s and Esak Garcia in the 2000’s……and what does Bikram do he cuts them off and ridicules them publicly for taking a different path. He makes an example of them in front of us all and myself included believed somehow they had lost their way and that Bikram was the only true source of info. But as the years continued I observed so many issues and I began to learn a different approach to my yoga practice with Tony Sanchez and many others. The Bikram community at large contains so many wonderful individuals and Bikram is able to capitalize on their goodness that covers up his deception. As a studio owner over the last 12 years we have been continously threatened with franchise documents to sign or die, to only follow his monolauge to never modify his approach to postures, the list goes on……many of these were enforced by his lawyers….one of which was thrown out by Bikram and is now sueing him for all the BS he put her through. So many people say Bikram Yoga 26X2 is the only way….but I ask you all studio owners, teachers, and students alike to ask yourself had Bikram taught you 33×3 would you be saying the same?? I believe many would be saying the same thing Bikram Yoga works…..you see I believe it is his charisma, knowledge and all the wonderful people who have made it grow to what is has become today. The problem is now people will become lost because Bikram did not encourage people to think for themselves, did not allow for science to improve upon oral tradition, did not allow for modern day biomechanics to be infused into practices that could be better. When you have owned a studio many years you know that there are common Bikram injuries and weaknesses. There is actually a Bikram body type that is easy to spot….strong in some areas and very unstable and weak in others. The chain of events that set us all free began with Greg C. (yoga to the people) as he freed yoga and Bikram does NOT have a copyright on 26 x 2, Sarah Baughn had the courage to speak out and gave way to many others, and the practice can be improved and improvised for a better and more sustainable practice. Some people like to draw comparisons to John Friend and Bikram but what I noticed when Anusara was going through its scandal was that all of John’s senoir teachers spoke out against his actions and asked him to step down. In the Bikram world when Sarah Baughn spoke out all of his closets employees circled the wagon and protected Bikram…we all have to ask ourselves why this is? I have worked with John since he left Anusara and he is completely humbled by his actions and abuse of power. Remember his relations were consensual unlike Bikram’s alleged actions. How is it we stand behind this man? Is it because we feel like we need him? John’s senior teachers are smart, educated and were always encouraged to grow and learn. Bikram teachers are often taught “What does the dialouge say?” Have you ever noticed that many Senior teachers have distanced themselves from the Bikram community? why? because they have moved on in many directions. I know that the story is a bit different for us all but at the same time quite simaliar. If we keep doing the same thing over and over expecting different results well you know answer!
    You are FREE….FREE to expand.

  • Northern Harrier

    I have several responses to this post and comment thread. The bias informing this response is that I was a plaintiff in a similar lawsuit against a different yoga group and I spent 5 years in the Anusara community after that.

    -Its great to hear from more Bikramites. I think the sense of the specialness/uniqueness cultivated in the practice, teacher training and community mentioned by many of the commenters has kept us apart. Welcome to the field.

    -On the question of what will happen to Bikram after what we saw happen to Anusara: The reason Anusara imploded so quickly and John Friend was thrown from his pedestal in a few short weeks has to do with basic habits and characteristics of that community. These habits included a commitment to full integrity, cultivation of critical thinking and deep inquiry, and the evolution of the method. Even John Friend learned and grew and changed before being overthrown. As a comparison in Bikram, the primary attribute cultivated is the ability to repeat the exact same words about the exact same sequence into eternity, and to believe the message that this is the best yoga sequence on the planet. And many of the teachers come to the training knowing Bikram is a jerk, so full integrity is not a basic expectation of this yoga. Bikramites won’t dismantle the empire because the basic attributes required to do so are not cultivated in the collective.

    -About the issue of the label “cult” as well as the separate (but very inter-related) issue of what we can know about the truth from the legal process unfolding: The label cult, also known as “high demand authoritarian group”, is established by academic research. This field has been active almost as long as the field of psychology itself. The Bikram Yoga Empire has been established as a cult through a precise and detailed system of evaluation, and this serves as the legal basis for these lawsuits. The monumental step just achieved, which is the reason we are all talking, is that the case has moved past the phase where the legal defense team can plead that the claims are baseless and thus get the case dismissed. The base has been established, the judge agrees that adequate evidence and theory have been provided, and now the case moves forward to discovery, which is the preparatory stage for a trial. Most likely, the legal defense team will make the plaintiffs and their counsel suffer as much as possible and try to waste all of their money, resources and life energy. At the end, they will most likely settle with the plaintiffs and never admit they did anything wrong, before this goes to the trial. Do not be fooled by the lack of a criminal case or the lack of a civil judgement as evidence that Bikram might be innocent. These women already have a significant victory of a legal basis established. The fight from here is over how much cash this legally established reality is worth.

    -One more thought on the “cult” label: I was a serious, high level devotee to my first cult for 7 years. And then I was a peripheral member of my second cult, Anusara, for 5 years. Both of my experiences were life changing, amazing, and full of the deepest joy and love I had ever known up to that point. I also rebelled against the label cult – I thought to myself, I would never join one of those and people just don’t understand. When I finally did accept that I was a cult-hopper, I had a very difficult time integrating my positive experiences and growth with this harsh/painful reality. Accepting my first cult was a cult led to a serious bought of PTSD and complete and total upheaval of my life. Accepting my second cult was a cult was thankfully a mild aftershock in comparison. What it comes down to is a similar phenomenon we are observing with climate change: politicians arguing they don’t believe in science in addition to the fact that its cold and snowing where you live does not change what science has established. It’s a narrow, self-serving view jam packed with some combination of denial and a lack of full commitment to integrity. If you really care about rape and sexual assault, you cannot continue to participate in the name and method. If you don’t care, that is also your choice. And yes, I judge you and that is part of my yoga. Feel free to name call and curse me – I’ve endured more than you can imagine by bringing down my own sexual predator guru and saving thousands of lives and families, instead of taking the easy road of denialism.

    • Erin

      Thank you for one of the most well-thought-out responses I’ve seen to this story yet. I especially appreciate your comments regarding the Anusara/Friend scandal and why the fallout was different (i.e. whether followers are encouraged to cultivate integrity, critical thinking skills and evolve the practice vs. simply follow along, regurgitate, and live in a self-perpetuating echo chamber).

      I’ve posted this article and some of my thoughts on a local yoga teachers’ facebook group in my city with the intention of starting a dialogue about our responsibility as yoga teachers. I’ve received thoughtful, supportive feedback from several (presumably non-Bikram) teachers along with defensive, egocentric, “poor-me” feedback from BY studio owners denying any financial or personal affiliation with the man and not acknowledging the abuse or complicity. Sigh.

    • Bravo. Very well-articulated summary.

    • Northern Harrier, thanks for sharing your story. It is hard to believe, when in it, that it is a cult. Afterward, it is clear. But you struck a nerve when you mentioned PTSD. Actually, you hit the nail on the head!

  • Chris

    I’m new to BY. Love the practice and the studio I frequent. With these recent allegations, I am now wondering how much of MY money is going to this man. How does the franchisee payout work? If I buy a membership, does all the money go to my studio owner? How much trickles down to him?

    • S.L.M.

      Hi Chris,
      Depends on the studio. Some pay fees, some don’t. Some teachers pay for re-cert., some don’t. Some continue to send new teachers to Bikram Teacher Training, some don’t. Ask the studio owner. If they support him financially, find another studio that doesn’t and keep practicing!
      Aloha,
      Shannon

  • Kirsten

    Well. Wow.

    As someone who successfully fought off a would be attacker (not a yogi!), I am saddened to see some posting about blaming the alleged victim. However, in the same vein, we must wait for a verdict – we do have innocent until proved guilty as a staple of American justice.

    Secondly, Bikram didn’t “invent” this sequence. That’s why he didn’t get copyright – he popularized it, but in the throusands of years of history of yoga, I am sure someone somewhere did this squence at some point in daily practice. That’s how I feel about any set sequence, the arrogance of claiming the sequence as unique and special speaks to an unbalanced yogi.

    Studying Ayurveda and the yogic texts, this whole debacle should not be surprising. This method of yoga is extremely agressive in terms of aggrevating the Pitta dosha and unbalanced as it is rajasic with minimal sattvic qualities. If you heat yourself up to this level and amp up those firely elements, you are bound to engage in behaviors and practices that are not “yogic,” because the aim of yogic is a balance towards sattva – so that in and of itself shoudl be a red flag that the yoga practice must be balanced.

    I’m certainly not saying a rajasic or Pitta constitution makes a rapist, but when you read about the imbalances and dysfunction of that, it does lay within the Dis-EASE of those systems.

    To the Bikram community – a name is important. I already stayed out of those studios due to the huge ego around the practice, the yoga I learned was about reducing ego. So I encourage a name change as well as exploring the practice away from a set sequence – but if those poses work for you, if the heat works for you, you can still offer it and should, but consider being your own brand and giving your yoga practice or studio a more gentle, calming name to erase the negativity of even the hint of impropriety. That’s being focused on your students.

    To have to go to a studio and see a name that even conjures up the image of violence and sexual assault is at once and immediately something that puts a student in a bad mental state – when yoga’s aim is to reduce that suffering. If you are a strong enough teacher, if you are a good enough teacher, your space and students can handle you changing the name.

  • Naturally we are all conflicted as human beings and each lawsuit and allegation sort of makes me angry that such behavior has tarnished what I believe is still the fastest and most effective form of yoga (done in the proper temperature) to heal the body and mind emotionally and physically. We know the results and as teachers know it’s about the student. Eventually
    Bikram I think will become used more like Pilates in differentiating types of yoga. But the damage is done. And the strong studios will evolve to compete. Hey Megan, email me at hotyogadirector@gmail.com

    • Aron

      Dude, heal the body and the mind emotionally??? What? Like in the way that Mr. Bigram is healed?

  • Sherilyn

    I attended teacher training in 2013. I went for my own personal growth. As many people will verify this kind of yoga is a powerful, life changing tool. It was everything people say, both good a bad. No matter it changed my life in a positive way forever. I have to admit the tactics used to make people stick to it are harsh, but that is what made me stay the course. If someone asks me nicely to stay in the room, I would leave when the going gets tough. But when someone yells at me to stay in the room that gets my attention. Sometimes a little tough love goes a long way. Even if it isn’t Bikram giving the orders, this yoga is a life saver. Maybe he could apologize and change his ways personally, but please, please don’t change the yoga.

  • jeromearmstrong

    It shouldn’t be that difficult for owners to change the name to Ghosh Yoga, that’s what it is based off of, and its a much richer tradition that just what Bikram teaches.

  • There are alternatives… 2 years ago we created bē HOT YOGA following the teachings of Bishnu Ghosh. Forget the negative energy and follow a positive path.
    http://www.beHotYoga.com

  • I just want to thank everybody who is participating in this discourse. It is essential for us as a community to continue on this collective path. I am convinced we are moving towards a healing environment that will serve the wider community as we follow this path through transitional times.

    On a more self serving note I would like to clarify an important point. It was my wife Zefea and I, representing evolation yoga, that fought and won the case against Bikram that proved there was no copyright on the 26+2 sequence In 2012.
    We are all better off because of this landmark decision.

    With Gratitude and a bit of attitude

    Mark

    • cant say

      Take this for what you will. I am a yogi. I have practiced bikram yoga for two years. in these two I’ve learned more than I’d ever want to know. I was a lucky one, I had the bes studio owners whos names will never be mentioned for privacy reasons. either way things escalated quickly for me, I went from not being able to touch the ground to so flexible I could do standing splits in nine months. towards the end of this, I had a great chance to meet a very influential member of the yoga community. This person came to teach a workshop.. I was close with the owners soafter the workshop I got invited to g out to dinner with said yoga celebrity and the owners of the studio. blah blah blah, long night short I got to have a private dcussion with this person with no one around. And I asked about these rape alligation. this person knows bikram so we’ll that they probably know what his shit smells like.with a look of regret on their face, they said they are true, and that it has happened. And ill justleave it at that. names dates are unimportant, what is important is that bikram did do this to these women, and everyone including his wife are covering up for him.

    • Hi, Mark. Good to see you here, and thanks for you and your wife’s hard efforts.

      I left the Bikram community in 2011. It became most unsavory. The local community seemed to reflect the HQ. It was always clear that the man himself was idiotic. I became a teacher because I loved the practice, like everyone else. I don’t give a damn about the man. Love the yoga. Still do. I had been practicing since ’03, and teaching since ’06. I missed the students and the teaching very much. But there was no going back.

      I practiced on my own and decided to develop something that I could teach. I risked getting slapped on the hand for using many of the postures in the Bikram sequence. I figured if he wanted to come after little-ol-me, with my 10 students, fine. I also knew he had bigger fish to fry.

      Since 2012 I have been teaching my version of hot yoga (Hot Mix Yoga), based on Ghosh, and have developed a teacher certification curriculum for other students who have also left BY. I was encouraged by Mark Drost, Greg of YTTP, and the folks at BeHot Yoga. Thank you all.

      It has been a huge learning experience and time of growth. Like I have told others who have sought my counsel over this, there is life after Bikram. Yes! Be F R E E!

  • Kate Williams

    I attended BY classes for 3 years and loved it, and saw many health benefits. But when all the damning articles came out, I had to stop going. I did not want to send a sexual predator one more penny, and since the studios are franchises, I had to stop altogether. There are plenty of other places to spend my exercise dollars. It’s a shame that the studio owners and teachers have to bear the consequences, too. I hope they are all able to drop that dirt bag criminal and remain successful yoga studios.

  • Sallie

    I read these letters tonight from the Toronto Studio. I believe the Canadian’s took care of their girl. >>>>>”You may have heard or read about recent and renewed sexual assault charges against Bikram Choudhury, the found of Bikram Yoga. These charges are very disturbing and not something we take lightly. For this reason, it is very important to us that our community know that while we continue to value the yoga practice he helped to introduce, we do NOT support or work with Bikram Choudhury as an individual by any means. We do not make any financial contributions to his franchise and no longer send individuals to his teacher training program.”
    This is a letter sent to their students from from the Toronto bikram yoga studio. AND
    A FRESH START FOR OUR FIFTH YEAR.
    Anyone who has been to our studio knows that we are a caring, compassionate community of Yogis. Andrew started Bikram Yoga East York because he believes in the yoga that you have all grown to love. That has not changed, but what is changing is our name. We are now simply BYEY YOGA. The “B” represents the Bishnu Ghosh lineage of Hatha Yoga that we have collectively practiced for many, many years. Bikram Choudhury was Ghosh’s student, and popularized his teacher’s style of yoga.

    We are grateful to Choudhury for bringing this yoga from India to the West, but we can no longer keep his name on our door. In light of the serious sexual assault allegations he is facing in the United States, we want to take steps to ensure that our students know we absolutely do not condone or supper this type of behavior. And while some may argue that these are “only allegations” and nothing has been proven in court, the multiple claims are just too disturbing to ignore. We also want to make this clear; we have NEVER paid the Bikram Yoga organization a single dime. This studio has and always will be completely independent. Over the next while, you will see the name transition on our signage, website, social media, etc, but rest assured we will continue to offer you the best yoga experience; a safe, clean an positive environment which will always include the Bikram’s beginning series. Together, let’s move forward and create an even stronger community of Yogis in the East York and the Greater Toronto area! Andrew Moniz Studio owner.

    I am glad to see many studios like this one in Toronto DROP THE BIKRAM NAME. There are many of us supporting that he also stop “trainings”. When I started doing the yoga, it was with a sweet teacher from a gym that opened her own studio, and it included many styles of yoga. It was always sad for me when she and her partner had to part the business and said she was only allowed to do this one style. I never understood. I can no longer be a part of a community who supports this man. Going to “training” absolutely ruined any appreciation I used to have. Once you have invested you try for a while, but when its sick there comes a time that you just have to walk away.

  • Esther

    A clarification is needed here: bikram yoga studios are NOT franchised. Attending classes at your neighbourhood bikram yoga studio is NOT putting money into Bikram Choudhry’s pockets; he makes money from the Teacher Trainings, his speaking events & his merchandising – therefore I consciously refrain from promoting or facilitating the aforementioned.
    I, like Eric J & Tricia D, stand behind the bikram yoga series created by Bishnu Gosh.

    • Mary

      Some studios do a pay a franchise fee to Bikram. Not all, but some do. Also, Bikram does, as you mention, make a lot of money off of the teacher trainings. Studio owners who send students to trainings are filling Bikram’s coffers, which was fine when he was simply spending it on wristwatches and Rolls Royces. Now, however, he is using the funds to avoid taking responsibility for harming several members of our community. And, please, before all of you “let the courts decide” people come scurrying out to correct me: BS-some of these women are friends and colleagues and there is no one here who would, after hearing from a friends that she has been raped, and then waits to be empathetic until the courts decide he actually did it. Bullshit. This is only the part of you that is either so scared of Bikram, scared of the implications to your livelihood, or both. To be silent is to be complicit.

  • mary

    Why are studio owners still addressing this issue as one of Sexual Harassment, as quoted above? Bikram has been accused of Sexual Harassment, yes, but the main point is that there are several women accusing him of forcible rape/attempted rape. I understand your predicament, studio owner, but repeatedly labeling this all as an issue Sexual Harassment is bizarre, and makes one think you are either seriously in denial, or deliberately trying to spin the story towards a more comfortable plane for yourself.

  • Not surprising. Bikram is terrible. I have been doing yoga off and on for 30 years. So much trendy bullshit has come in this period. I won’t mention all of them. The only one I like is basic Hatha. The rest are terrible. Yoga is supposed to make you feel good. I always hate how I feel after a Bikram class. Its the worst of all the new fads. Just some new trendy crap like Kim Kardashian. This guy owns a Rolls Royce. lol Suckers! He actually tried to patent the Asanas in his sequence. They have been around for thousands of years and he tried to own them for his own profit. Look at all the minions in his class. Another Sociopath leading a bunch of sheep for profit. Oh and by the way for all you that do yoga. Your not more enlightened then the rest of us for doing yoga. Grow up
    P.S. Sun Salutations are awful.

  • Paul

    I’ve been practicing the Bikram series for almost 6 years. The benefits don’t stop. But that’s because I have a healthy outlook regarding both the practice, and the fallibility of people who’ve just memorized a dialogue. People have to practice Yoga because of the benefits. That being said, a Bikram studio is one of the most consistent ways to get : a) a heated room, which is a real pain in the ass to do yourself, and, b) a “facilitator” who more or less consistently guides you through a series. However, many facilitators are simply parroting a dialogue, and I have seen many people make the same mistakes over and over again, without individual attention and correction from the teacher. That being said, however, you cannot injure yourself if you pay attention to alignment and follow YOUR inner intuition. Some students are not strong minded enough to now the difference, and they are at risk. The business model requires that they move things along, and stick to the 90 minutes, and many things are often left unsaid, which your own intuition and careful study and patience can provide the answers to. I would NEVER give a cent for teacher training, even though I’m confident that I would make an excellent yoga teacher. It doesn’t matter. I use the Bikram series , it does not USE ME. And so it is with all noble and ancient systems that often get dressed up in new clothes and touted as, well, the re-invention of the wheel. Follow your intuition, and make sure your money is going to someone you respect and want to support in a business relationship, like a studio owner who is not paying franchise fees. If some sucker wants to pay thousands of dollars to enrich you know who, and then come back and make $50 bucks a class after giving up 9 weeks of their life to indulge in cult behavior, it’s their choice, and the fact that you pay $10 a class or whatever for something that benefits you really has no bearing on all of this. Namaste.

  • Iarwain

    6 women have come forward. That being said, the plural of anecdote is not evidence. Rape is an accusation easy to be made and hard to disprove though the accused may never be so innocent. It’s not for me to judge the man or the allegations for his accusers. Allegations made against Bikram’s should be tried in a court of law, not in a court of public opinion. If there is proof beyond a reasonable doubt of the accusations against him, then Bikram should pay dearly. But if there is nothing more than the ipse dixit — the bare allegations of his accusers alone against Bikram then I think one should consider that there are far too many cases recently of false accusations (or multiple questionable accusations) against innocent men (many released from prison by innocence projects around the country). Regardless of the outcomes of the cases against Bikram, his reputation is now forever damaged. Google never forgets.

  • Joe

    He still makes money from his franchised studios and from the strenuous teacher trainings that cost trainees upward of $10,000 that he still leads himself.

    Part of this sentence is wrong. And it allows others to post in ignorance:

    I’ve received thoughtful, supportive feedback from several (presumably non-Bikram) teachers along with defensive, egocentric, “poor-me” feedback from BY studio owners denying any financial or personal affiliation with the man and not acknowledging the abuse or complicity.

    I’ve heard from Bikram Yoga studio owners that they do not pay any franchise fees. That may have changed in the last few years, but many who criticize Bikram as a financial empire, simply don’t have all the facts. When he first started doing large scale trainings and certifying teachers studios had to comply with certain rules to use his name and likeness: the dialogue, temperature, mirrors, carpet, room size/ratio length to width, but they didn’t have to pay franchise fees.

    Every lineage I’m familiar with has had some falling out with men behaving badly: Bikram, Desikchar and Desi. But I’ve also seen many many women fawning over famous/rich, engaging and energetic men. I’ve certainly heard enough stories about Bikram YTT to suggest that this happened there. That certainly doesn’t give him or anyone the right to take advantage of people as Bikram is accused. But please spare me the moral power play of assuming I condemn or condone an individual’s actions while still practicing the method.

  • Janglemuffin Trapnose

    Here’s how it is for me… I can deal with his egoism, and the qualities that seem to be antithetical to Yoga. He does really try to help people, and that is great… but no amount of helping excuses any amount of abuse.

    One of the social crises that we are facing right now is the sexual exploitation of women, particularly by people that they are close to.

    What sucks about this situation is that the women feel so bad about what happened, and the betrayal of their trust by someone they thought cared about them… that they frequently don’t report it when evidence could be gathered. It’s only after reflection that they speak about it to friends and family, who encourage them to call it out for what it is (or not). Then, these women endure a barrage of scrutiny, insults and blame… even though they were the ones who were violated… many if not most do not come forward for this reason alone.

    At this point there can be no criminal trial since there is little evidence to collect. In most cases, unless the perpetrator confesses not conviction can be attained. So the only recourse is to pursue a settlement, which makes them look like gold-diggers… but it is their ONLY legal recourse to get some kind of justice! The perpetrator never has to acknowledge guilt, just pay money… which sucks.

    Actually, I just thought of a potential solution. When queried by reporters about what she wanted to resolve the situation, Sara Baughn stated that what she really wanted was for Bikram to acknowledge the truth and get some help. If a neutral 3rd party was to get a notarized document with the signatures of all six accusers stating they would drop their case if Bikram provides a full written confession, submits himself to treatment and counseling, removes his name from the brand and steps down as CEO… then they will drop the charges. This would clearly demonstrate that they are not motivated by financial gain. They might have to get together and create this document themselves as lawyers won’t make a cent on this deal. I wonder if anyone has thought of that? Bikram may not want to sign it, as a confession may open him up to criminal charges… not sure on the legalities there. But it would at least be an effort toward legitimizing the motivation behind the claims.

    Maybe he didn’t understand what he was doing was rape (but really, Bikram… really?) and he thought the women were just playing “hard to get”, or whatever… If he just presented the facts from his perspective, then maybe he could get on a path where he could be legitimately respected again (you too, woody alan, bill cosby, roman polanski, etc…). Follow the example of David Lettermen when he was blackmailed for having an affair, come clean! I respect that! But he denies that anything happened AT ALL… which only makes him seem more guilty in my eyes. His lawyers told him not to admit anything, and that is what he is doing… but I think he is lying.

    His advances probably weren’t the obviously violent kind, which is how he excuses himself in his mind as “not hurting anyone”… he doesn’t consider putting his penis somewhere it isn’t wanted as “hurting”.. but he’s wrong (likely he just can’t believe that his students wouldn’t want to have sex with him).

    I feel badly for Rajashree, she’s probably been raped by him more then anyone else… and known for a long time about his infidelity. He’s probably had numerous consensual encounters as well. I’m all for polyamory if that’s your agreement with your partner, but somehow… I doubt she agreed to that (though he may have insisted on it). Most likely he didn’t tell her anything at all. I’ve heard many reports of him saying derogatory things about his wife.

    Sadly, now that I have come to the conclusion that he really is disingenuous, I am calling into question everything that I have learned from him. When I turn to the dialogue, I see many unsubstantiated medical claims. Do you really think half-tortoise gives you the same benefits of 8 hours sleep? Of course not! Yet he REQUIRES his teachers to repeat this BS.

    A few months ago, the owner of the studio I teach at had a STROKE (an actual stroke stroke, not just heat stroke or exhaustion. There was brain damage.) while practicing in class … nobody wants to bring it up… but maybe it had something to do with the HEAT!

    Don’t get me wrong, I love to blaze it up and get it as hot as I possibly can, I think it’s fine for most people… But Bikram teaches that his yoga is a panacea which can resolve any medical crisis, for anyone… His understanding of physiology is not substantial enough to make such a bold claim! He does not train his teachers about who may be in danger, because he doesn’t know enough about the hazards to explain what they are! There’s thousands of us telling people that “the only way out is through” with no real understanding of whether people are suffering real damage or not.

    In the Yoga sutras of Patanjali he states that one of the primary components of self-realization is freeing yourself from the disturbances of your mind. In my view, Bikram has done the exact opposite of this and used the Yoga to feed and empower his mental disturbances. this is not the proper use of yoga.

    The practice he proliferates can build personal power, but does nothing to guide one in the proper use of it. When you are choosing a teacher of any discipline, look at the example of their life, look at their own practice. Is their teaching rooted in their own experience? Are they pleasant to be around? Do they contribute to the larger community? Or is something else going on?

  • It is pathetic and sad that this man was able to have such poor conduct for so many years without people speaking up. I have great sympathy for the teachers and students who have invested their energy, time and money into the Bikram practice. Another aspect of the downfall of Bikram are some of the 26 poses themselves. As yogis become more educated in anatomy and biomechanics, it will soon become widely known that many poses in the Bikram 26 pose series actually pose considerable risk to practitioners. I have known dozens of people with severe knee injuries and herniated discs from poses like hero( supta virasana) , rabbit, as well as seated forward bends, locust, and standing head to knee poses. The limber hyper-mobile people are in the most danger because there will be ‘good’ at the poses and be blindsided by the lack of nerve tissue in the ligaments needed to keep the spine and joints stable.

  • It is pathetic and sad that this man was able to have such poor conduct for so many years without people speaking up. I have great sympathy for the teachers and students who have invested their energy, time and money into the Bikram practice. Another aspect of the downfall of Bikram are some of the 26 poses themselves. As yogis become more educated in anatomy and biomechanics, it will soon become widely known that many poses in the Bikram 26 pose series actually pose considerable risk to practitioners. I have known dozens of people with severe knee injuries and herniated discs from poses like hero( supta virasana) , rabbit, as well as seated forward bends, locust, and standing head to knee poses. The limber hyper-mobile people are in the most danger because there will be ‘good’ at the poses and be blindsided by the lack of nerve tissue innervation in the ligaments needed to keep the spine and joints stable.

  • bill hargraves

    this is about the practice not the person.
    I live in Vegas and unfortunately the practice is disappearing because of the person.
    How unfair to all who will never experience this amazing discipline because of our love to vilify an individual.
    thank God I found a studio dedicated to the practice not the paparazzi.
    If the individual is guilty than so be it….but he is not the practice or a representation of it…this is bigger that 7 individuals with a conflict.

    LEAVE THE PRACTICE ALONE TO SURVIVE AND SUSTAIN AND CHANGE THE LIVES OF MILLIONS TO COME.

  • Spring

    I’ve been thinking of attending BYTT for several years but have been concerned about some of his methodologies. but the most recent allegations has given me what might be the final pause.

    for those studios who will no longer send students to the TT, how will you develop new teachers? and will you studio owners band together and recognize your individual trainings so that someone can teach in multiple studios like you can today? I see that Mark and Zefea at Evolation (Hi Mark!!!) have created a collective that others are joining and this may be on avenue.

    I’m not attached to the man or his training. Although I do respect that he and his training are how I’ve come to know and love this practice.

    But given training is not cheap, and that I am a world traveler, I am attached to a training that doesn’t significantly limit where I can teach. I’d love to see the community of studio owners and teachers solve this challenge for those of us who want to be the teachers of the future.

  • Justin

    I practice many different forms of yoga and love the 26+2 in the heat – it is not hard to find non bikram branded studios to practice in, which I do.
    There is simply no ethical reason to support a predatory rapist by going to studios with his name on the door – it is not yoga, which as we all know is much more than asana. How am I embracing ni yam by doing this?
    If there was an amazing hairdresser named after Adolf Hitler I wouldn’t go there. Etc.
    People can jump up and down but yoga is not about wealth and the lack of unity in the community is bad for yoga in the west. Full stop.

  • Folks, it’s a cult. You’re engaged in an “amazing” spiritual practice that you’re in denial about. That denial is what BC worked with: you’re tools.

    Whole Foods – another cult – is going through the same thing with it’s guru, Marc Gafni: sexusl predator, silent followers, the questionable ethics of the whole enterprise (Is food a moral enterprise? Is stretching really an accomplishment?) We hxve overlapping cult “communities” advancing illogical ideas as delivered by questionable men (and women: I see you, Oprah, in your empire of quack doctors and motivational healers like James Arthur Ray who killed three people on a spiritual retreat.)

    Like all cultists, you’ll deny it, but you’ve been sold a bill of goods and can finally finally see one of your wizards in Oz for what he is. What about the others? What about yourselves?

    Bill Bye The Science Guy just gave Monsanto a clean bill of health. Neil deGrasse Tyson defends GMOs. The NYT came out AGAINST recycling in 1999. “Organic” means nothing but you wasted your money.

    Wake up, People: They got you,….

  • What's in a name

    Are we done hanging the man? Are we better humans now that we did it? If he has indeed done what he has then he will pay for it in time…there is no doubt about it. Until then leave him be, and enjoy your practice. Any practice. Thank the people that brought you the practice, but stop short of worshiping them. The rest will take care of itself.

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