A Quick Note on some Bikram Drama
*Originally posted April 22, 2016
Day two has happened. It was delightfully sweaty and in just the second class some of my mobility has already improved, which is promising. Maybe I’ll be more flexible by the end of this then I thought I would be! Before we go forward I though I might catch you up on what’s gone on in the Bikram community as of late. Those of you who practice might already know, and it feels weird writing about Hot Yoga without acknowledging it.
If you’re unfamiliar with Bikram Yoga it is the hot yoga (both in temperature and popularity) that created traction in the early 2000’s. Its popularity grew & grew, but the bubble burst this year when the founder Bikram Choudhury’s wife announced their divorce in January because of the six sexual harassment suits that were brought against him in 2015. The nail was slammed in the coffin when he was found guilty this January and ordered to pay $1million to one of the plaintive. So why would I choose to take a yoga class created by a confirmed sex offender? Because Bikram Yoga is the first form of exercise I ever fell in love with. I started practicing in 2004 and was certified right after graduating university in 2008. Teaching Yoga was my bread and butter job while I was living in New York trying to be an actor and comedian. I met some of the greatest people I know by doing Bikram Yoga.
Some people might ask why I would continue practicing yoga created by a guilty sex offender. And to them I reply, why did people continue practicing catholicism after it was discovered the amount of sexual abuse and cover-ups going on in the church? I’m going to guess because those scandals didn’t effect their own communities directly. Much like the catholic church the Hot Yoga community is big and I didn’t start and continue practicing yoga because of Bikram Choudrhury. I’ve only met the man twice; once at a yoga seminar when I had just started, and then again during teacher training. My training had just over 300 students so I highly doubt he remembers me, let alone knows my name. We are not close.
I began practicing and kept with it because the Bikram Yoga community in New York is awesome. When I first started practicing I worked at theBikram Yoga NYC Studios once a week in exchange for free classes. It was my job to do laundry, fold towels, and clean mirrors. While I did that I got to gab with the other students and ask the teachers all sorts of questions before and after class. If I hadn’t spent my Sunday mornings in college at the old 72nd studio I don’t know if I would have become a teacher. I remember talking to my dad once on the phone and he asked, “Are you going to church in New York.” And I replied simply, “Yoga is my church.” That seemed to satisfy his curiosity.
Once I became a teacher I hopped from studio to studio teaching all over the city like most of us do. But the studio that wound up being my home was Bikram Yoga Harlem. Whenever I’m back stopping in to take class there is a must. I was there in February and Erik the owner was kind enough to let me teach a class even though I hadn’t taught since July of 2015! The community there is awesome and one reason why I’ve kept yoga in my life is because to simply stop would be to lose good friends.
Admittedly when I moved to London it was easier to distance myself from the practice because I didn’t know anyone in the yoga world here. I usually go to Bikram Yoga Highbury & Islington, and though my practice has been sporadic at best, the community there welcomes me every time I walk in the door. Sarah who works behind the front desk greats me with a smile and the owner Georgina, is excited to tell me about the new magazine she’s laughing called Lyra. Though Bikram Choudrhury came up with the 26 postures and two breathing exercises that is Bikram Yoga, the man himself has had very little to do with my own practice and the emotional, physical, and social benefits I’ve gotten from it. It’s my practice, not his. And it always has been.