BIKRAM CHOUDHURY AT YOGA MATTERS?

For many people their Bikram Yoga time is ideally a respite from the ‘troubles’ of the world outside the room. Other practitioners use the time to reconcile problems of the world to try to make sense of all the chaos.  At YM we err on the side that the vast majority need the mental break and so we keep our talking on the task in hand.  What do we do ‘tho when the method’sname’ becomes contaminated with ‘trouble’ and talk about it crosses the threshold into our reception where people like to chat openly about what they have heard or read in the news/social media?   No matter how we try to keep everything in its box, things spill out, lines get blurred; a lesson in nothing is ever really under our control.

The time before/after class is never best utilized talking about these ‘troubles’ and certainly our precious 90 minutes is not the time either!!  It is not relevant to what we are trying to achieve in the room… and so this is where a blog comes into its own so the topic does not contaminate those precious 90 minutes of practice … people can choose to read or not… absorb in their own time… I have held off writing anything on this particular topic for YEARS; put it on the back burner, figured people will google and draw their own conclusions and in the meantime I will just get on with instructing because all that ‘other’ has no real bearing on what we are practice.  However it seems the time has come when we must address this matter for our students, a few of whom have been ‘asking’, albeit in roundabout ways.

The purpose of this blog is not to go into the details of the Bikram Choudhury allegations; all you have to do is google and you quickly hit ‘the allegations’ and trial by media for BC.  Sadly his ‘name’ has now tainted ‘prospective student’ searches for Bikram Yoga classes worldwide and your search result is as likely to throw up some tawdry report on BC behavior, lawsuits, allegations/ settlements, as it is to show you where your closest Bikram Yoga studio is.    For quite a few years now others around the world have been putting their take/spin on events in the Bikram world.  I should stress here I speak only for Darren and myself in this blog. We do not speak for any other Bikram teachers either locally or from around the world.  The purpose of this blog is to clarify and share our feelings.

WE DO NOT JUDGE

These allegations are very serious, they have been troubling our community for years and we do not possess the knowledge or qualification to comment on their truth or otherwise.  Yes there have been settlements; interpret that as you will. We are not sure we will ever know the truth. We can only ever comment on our own experience.  Thousands of graduates have not had the experience that the litigants describe but yes he was often totally irreverent in his speaking.  We personally never felt offended by him.  We were never at risk of losing ourselves just because we immersed ourselves on an intensive teacher training with the famous Yoga master/divisor of a transformational sequence.  Yes, it would be wrong to assume that our experience was the same as anyone else. Is the man and his inner circle faultless? We have no visual or experiential knowledge or expertise to judge or try pronounce guilty/innocent.  If Bikram has done something illegal that is surely being addressed now and is for others better than us to judge. He will get what he deserves if not in this life, certainly the next.  There does not seem any doubt now ‘tho that at this moment he is in a ‘state’ of narcissism and this is truly deeply sad.  We can’t help but wonder if he had landed anywhere but LA when he first came to the west would this have all turned out differently.

Whatever the truth, we do not believe we can criminalise everything he has done in his life before this era.  There is great wisdom (the method) and humour (see his book) in a lot of what Bikram has done for the Yoga world.  That does not all become invalid due to later sins and so we will continue to give him his credit due for bringing his system to the world.

Ah, the dichotomy of life…

You see, as human beings we are perfectly capable of having ALL SORTS of divergent feelings and opinions about Bikram the man AND we can also have COMPASSION FOR ANY AND ALL VICTIMS IN THIS SAD TALE.  We are not blind, we just don’t know; that doesn’t make us bad.  It cannot be wrong of us to say that in the world today but please call us ignorant or stupid if you will.  If this ever plays itself out to an end that is TRUTH, whatever that is, we WILL handle it, ultimately either way we are not the victims here.

ONE THING WE DO KNOW: BIKRAM DID LET ‘HIS’ TEACHERS DOWN

WE CAN comment on the fact that as two Bikram teachers we do feel let down.  Even without the more recent scandals certain camps LOVED to knock Bikram the man; he had made himself an easy target, dogmatic in many of his views and the stances he has taken in the past, he courted controversy to the groans of many of his teachers.  He certainly didn’t make our job easier 🙂 , the backlash sometimes hard to deal with.  Lately some of his statements became so preposterous every time he opened his mouth he put another nail in the coffin of the ‘celebration of Bikram the founder’ by his teachers/students.  We do feel he has had bad case of ‘bad mouth’ and nothing useful was coming out of his to the world at large anymore.

Let us not forget, however, that it is other people who put Bikram on the proverbial pedestal (forget the Podium 😉 ), not Bikram himself, other people that hailed him as something special.  It is truly the saddest thing that he may not match up to everybody else’s idea of Yoga ‘Star’.  EVERYbody knew the stories about Bikram’s ‘views’; there was nothing covert about them!  We’ve seen the groupies and the sycophants preening about him, we’ve heard him speak and in that seeing and hearing and witnessing we know it was so easy to find fuel to feed the flaming frenzy that is the BC hate club. It is so easy now to ‘spin’ all this old stuff to support the ‘demon’ theory.  How hard they fall from such a lofty height. Ha!

The fact that the story is covered so enormously in the media and social networks is testimony to the numbers of people who are ‘INTERESTED’ parties, whether practitioners of this or a ‘different’ method.  Those on the different method camp or ‘moved on’ from Bikram camp professing to want to protect prospective students from the ‘man’ and so EVERY time Bikram hit the headlines for the latest lawsuit those with an agenda were emboldened to spread their dislike of Bikram ‘Yoga’.  In this way Bikram the man and his actions or inactions have directly affected Bikram teachers world wide.

Aside from his bad mouth, having read some of the stuff lately I can’t help but wonder about the intention of many of the writers; whatever the ‘truths’ there does seem to be another dimension to the writings and I’d hazard a guess many of the cheap stabs are ill intentioned beyond a mere wanting to see justice done; some stuff clearly written in the hopes of somehow diminishing this marvellous sequence that is so powerful and does so much good.

Tear down the house of Bikram.  It is always the same ‘ol, same ‘ol, trawled out again and again… the heat, the competitive nature of Bikram Yoga, teachers reciting a script, yada yada yada… His story is high profile enough that we would not be surprised if a ‘shockumentary’ popped up at some point to stimulate those craving more of same (can you imagine the effect HD will have on this story).

MAYBE HE SHOULD HAVE RESIGNED

This scandal broke years ago and he never did enough or said the right things to protect ‘his teachers’ from the vitriol that got flung at the whole community because of the accusations against him personally. Aside from whether allegations are true or not, I do believe he had a responsibility to us.  Perhaps, his hands (and tongue) were tied, probably for legal reasons but possibly he could have resigned, simply kept his mouth shut and/or stepped back from the helm for the duration at least.

We were all left to fend for ourselves in that world that just seemed to love to muddle the man, the Yoga and to pedal ‘hate Bikram and all he stands for’… It was so easy for the media to choose people to interview who accord with a view they want to portray.   The accusations just kept coming and BC did very little to assuage as blow up on blow hit the Bikram community because of him.  As Bikram teachers we have had to become ‘gossip column proof’ in order to get on with our jobs.

TEACHING COMMUNITY

The Bikram teaching community has had to endure more than most (or maybe not! Please read The Three Gunas ). Whilst for some students this blog might be ‘new’ news to them; others may have had an inkling, but the Bikram ‘teachers’ have been put through this for years.  During one period a few years back some teachers were being accused of ‘drinking the Kool-Aid’ {ref Jim Jones for those too young to remember} and more besides… because we dare to continue to propagate this method.  Darren and I can confirm the only thing we have ‘consumed’ is the ‘healing’ ‘health’ ‘wellbeing’ ‘bliss’ that comes with practicing this method.  The idea that the Bikram teachers have drunk kool aid is preposterous and deeply insulting.  IF WE CHOOSE we could be as close as we want to man (the world is smaller these days; just hop on a plane and fly) but reality is we couldn’t be more far removed both geographically and in our day to day lives (and that is a conscious choice).

I gather that in America in particular, sadly, prospective students are likely to dismiss out of hand, without doing proper research, the Bikram Yoga option because the ‘negative’ Bikram (the man) story is so prominent over there.  Modern busy people in their fast moving world do not necessarily consult multiple news sources to get a balanced view of a topic.  Therefore they tend to perceive events through a filter created by the first report they have read. I think this is called the primacy effect.  Oh the power of media to influence the way in which people view world events; who knew? 🙂 Lord help us if they are ever biased 🙂 . tut tut Why would media be biased? Surely not because people tend to want to read the sensational story over the bland non-event story (i.e. no story here).  Overcoming negative primacy is difficult although with passage of time perhaps not impossible.

Dismissing Bikram Yoga out of hand as an option to try doesn’t affect Bikram Choudhury in the slightest. It does affect the thousands of Bikram teachers worldwide ‘tho who have made sacrifices and commitments to train in and propagate this particular method.  Why have they done that? BECAUSE IT WORKS.

WE LET GO

So Daz and I went through the ‘mourning’ period a few years back for what we lost.  We lost a ‘certainty’ about the man at the helm. So we lost the helm.  At that point we felt the heart of the Bikram community had been ripped out.  Then we had to get on with it, as you do.  We made our own helm.  Sometimes we have a moment when we want to quote him and feel unable in that moment because of conflicted feelings that may arise whilst we are processing the latest piece of ‘news’, other times we quote him freely.  It would be sad to hold back on the quotes because there is a rich catalogue of wonderful Bikram sayings;  but sometimes we may set them aside OR the act of attributing them aside as a luxury the sequence can actually survive without.

AND SEPARATE THE MESSAGE FROM THE MESSENGER

Did you know that the name ‘Bikram Yoga’ was actually coined by a student of Bikram? Not Bikram himself.  The students and the teachers have more impact on Bikram Yoga. The teachers have more influence over the students worldwide than Bikram has.  So we separate the man’s personal life trauma from the Yoga.

After the fact it is the teachers who have had to pick up the pieces. It is the teachers who ‘own’ (for want of a better word) the name if you like (well those teachers who choose to use the name because it is imprinted on their hearts).

BIKRAM -V- HE WHO SHALL NOT BE NAMED  🙂  … Always use the proper name for things…” 🙂 Dumbledore  (OH IT IS FUN TO TAKE A PHRASE OUT OF ITS CONTEXT AND USE IT FOR YOUR OWN END 🙂 )

WHY USE THE NAME? WHY NOT CHANGE?

There are two camps: As I write there are many studios around the world busy rebranding; dropping the name Bikram. Changing the sequence name to ‘Hot 26/2’ or similar. For them I imagine that it all got too much, or they wholeheartedly believe that the man did all he was accused of OR they bent to marketing rules which say ‘internet all powerful and the word Bikram conjures up wrong images for prospective clients on initial googling’.  Some again are actively demanding that studios who use Bikram in their name to drop it.  As many others again defiantly ‘KEEPING’ the name… the slanging matches continue.  {I have even heard that some studios have done a 360, dropped the name years ago and are NOW re-introducing it!}

IF WE ARE SO FOND OF THE ‘WORD’ WHY ISN’T OUR YOGA STUDIO CALLED ‘BIKRAM MATTERS’ THEN?

Well, funny story that 🙂 … It was not by original intention believe me.  I qualified back in 2001 (years before this sad tale started to unfold) with the intention of eventually working for myself (not others – not wishing to give ‘others/employers’ who did not understand this method, opportunity to dictate/water it down to their own ‘marketing’ ends).  On return from training I immediately reserved the Bikram name ‘provisionally’ at the local registry. At that point provisional names were held for one year and then released back into public domain.  I re-reserved in this way for about five years. However, somewhere along the line, they changed the duration a provisional name could be held to ‘six months’; I did not know that the name I reserved had lapsed and lo and behold in the meantime someone else had hopped in there and secured the name as a business name for themselves.  Silly me I should have gone ‘business name’ route as opposed to provisional cn.  Momentary shock! What to do I don’t ‘own the name’ locally!  How am I going tell people when we set up our dream studio what it is we do. This may seem contradictory to what we are saying about the ‘name’ in this post but in this instance this was a lesson in sometimes ‘name doesn’t matter’. YOGA MATTERS (see where I’m going with this 😉 ) .  As far as our school goes, the school name is only a name. IT IS MORE IMPORTANT WHAT WE DO. We are just so happy to be Bikram method teachers at Yoga Matters. We have no plans to change the name of the sequence. Why? Read on…

WHAT DO THE WORDS ‘BIKRAM TEACHER’ MEAN?

It means that the teacher of this method made time (9 weeks), energy (12-14 hours intensive a day) and financial ($10k plus) sacrifice. Why? Because they sincerely wanted to learn to teach this method. Why? Because it WORKS! I say this not to make Bikram Yoga teachers martyrs but to demonstrate that they are very serious about what they do and are trained in a practical way to a minimum standard before they are released on the world; the rest is up to them.  The certification is only the beginning of their life long learning journey. At the beginning of that journey they made one of the biggest choices of their life; they choose to walk into a Bikram class. Then they made one of the biggest commitments of their life. They choose to learn to teach Bikram. Why? BECAUSE THEY WANTED EVERYBODY ELSE IN THE WORLD TO FEEL AS GOOD AS THEM.  The reality is vast majority of students of this Yoga don’t know or care that there is a ‘person’ at the root of the name. I don’t know how long it was before I gleaned there was a ‘Bikram man’ and it is the same for our practitioners. They just know this stuff is a tool that works for them.    We would advise all around the world reading this to choose their Bikram Yoga teacher wisely and we have drawn up two little guides to help you make your decision see THE THREE GUNAS and ‘choosing your Yoga instructor’. Happily over the years Jersey has been blessed with some great instructors and we have ever had the pleasure of being present in their class (we can say this because we have been in many classes around the world).

WHY WE ARE KEEPING THE ‘BIKRAM YOGA’ ‘NAME’ FOR THE SEQUENCE?

At YM we interchangeably use the following names for the sequence that we teach at our school: Classic Hot Yoga, 26&2Bikram method, The Original Hot Yoga and Core 26/2 (we have saved at the local registry so that people don’t get confused about what we are offering at YM).

but. ‘Bikram’. IT IS JUST A WORD NOW.  Once upon a time Hoover was a name. Now it is a word synonymous with a common every day household task. ‘Ford’ motors. Well. what can I say. (if you know your Henry Ford history well you know that hasn’t stopped people buying Ford cars; I have owned 2 Fords in my life; they are just cars. Ford is just a word/brand. The car/brand is not the man).

The term ‘Bikram Yoga’ conjures up a complete picture of what this school of Yoga is that you are attending; as well as the sequence the man organised, all the tenets that distinguish Bikram Yoga flood to mind together.  Bikram Yoga taught by a Bikram qualified teacher; you are in no doubt about what you are getting.  When I hear the ‘word’ Bikram I never immediately think of the man for whom the Yoga was named.  I think “oooo, when am I getting my next practice in?

I saw/heard somewhere someone suggesting it should be re-named “Hot” Yoga.  Well, it’s true, Bikram is ‘The Original Hot Yoga’ (and we do continue to use that as one of our business names as well as Classic Hot Yoga, 26&2) but for me, a Bikramite, the coined name/two words ‘Hot Yoga’ is too generic and  conjures up an image of an imitation a dilution, replica, facsimile where something gets lost in the duplication, it becomes more faint, it loses its distinctness, its essential character, its particular standard so we don’t use the expression very often. ‘BIKRAM YOGA THE METHOD’ BECOMES MORE OPEN TO RUINING UNDER SUCH A GENERIC NAME AND THEN I FEAR VERY QUICKLY I WOULD NOT BE PRACTICING ‘BIKRAM’ ANYMORE.

It has always been that way; in the past if something was really good and worked you very quickly saw the reproductions coming in from China/Taiwan.  You CANNOT ‘reinvent’ The Original Hot Yoga/Classic Hot/26/2/26&2: These are all just alternative names for Bikram Yoga and all that goes along with that. They have been for the longest time. You cannot reinvent Yoga full stop.  You could try to put a ‘spin’ on your other Yoga styles perhaps, say, apply heat to Iyengar or Sivananda? If one did this they couldn’t say they were ‘reinventing hot yoga’ as nobody would know what they are getting or coming to and ‘reinventing hot yoga’ also implies you are reinventing Bikram Yoga; and that would not be a very Yogic thing to do if you are not actually teaching Bikram method as it is a clear flag trying to draw the ‘interested in Bikram method’ potential practitioner base. Yogis just don’t do that. Do they. Not if they are practicing Asteya. You would have to say in this instance you were ‘reinventing Sivananda Yoga’; that would be a more accurate description in the marketing. But then I don’t think Sivananda Yogis would EVER do such a thing to their method; theirs is a wonderful/life transforming method too and I imagine the Sivananda Yogis feel as strongly and passionately about their method as we do about ours; they wouldn’t dream of altering/interfering with something that is already perfectly powerful and pristine, just to hoodwink potential practitioners into thinking they are getting something ‘new’/better and I imagine their traditional colleagues would be non-too impressed. It simply would not be Sivananda anymore.  (I am a Sivananda qualified instructor myself and I absolutely love it so feel quite ok with using this one as an example).  What I am saying is you could apply the word “Hot” to any Hatha Yoga but if you don’t distinguish it with language that denotes your lineage or your Yoga’s unique feature, people will understandably think it is Bikram {which is possibly what some intend in order to ‘misdirect’ potential practitioners}/opposite of Asteya}, turn up thinking its Bikram and they find they are practicing Schmoga, Boga or Rogue’a with added heat.

THE WORD ‘BIKRAM’ has LONG been bigger than the man.

It took on a life of its own, grew legs and ran a decade ago.  Many practitioners unaware or uninterested that all this has even occurred or that there is actually a man called Bikram.  For most people already ‘Bikram’ is synonymous with: a Yogasana sequence (not a ‘man’) and a certain standard and a formula for profound transformation, an invitation to health and wellbeing.

What does that mean to the hundreds of thousands of practitioners?  The teachers and practitioners of this Yoga will survive the scandal. They won’t “even blink their eyes” 😉 at it and will continue on their path.

WHERE IS YM AT?

We choose not to focus on this Bikram debacle anymore, not blaming, accusing or even mourning.   We will not acquire a ‘chip on our shoulder’ because of all that has gone before.  We rock and roll along and TRY to walk the walk and practice straight talk. We get it right. We get it wrong. We continue to rock and roll along 🙂 .  We hope Bikram Choudhury evolves. WE HOPE ALL WOMEN AND ANY VICTIMS INVOLVED IN THE CASES HEAL AND EVOLVE.  We hope all Bikram Yoga Teachers grow. We hope all Yoga teachers worldwide grow. We hope all Bikram Yoga Students grow. We hope we all find peace. We hope Bikram Yoga remains pristine.

It is our job now to present the Yoga as positively as we are able.  Happily people always seem willing to give this Yoga a try-out and in our world our beloved Bikram Yoga practice remains untarnished.  We are sincere and we remain committed to:

  • Learning from our mistakes and working on our flaws
  • Providing a SAFE place for practitioners to come and heal and grow.
  • Ongoing TRAINING for ourselves so that we provide you with the best possible attention and care.
  • YOU so that you may reap and live the benefits of this yoga. We see its transformative powers reflected in you every day.

We will continue teaching the ‘Suitable for All ~ 90 Minute ~ Classic ~ 26/2 ~ Original ~ Hot ~ Bikram Yoga ~ Method’ that we have taught with integrity since we opened our doors 2011. THIS IS OUR PRIVILEGE AND PRIORITY.

We are eternally grateful to YOU ~ OUR REAL TEACHERS.

We are privileged to Serve, Love, Give, Purify, Meditate, Realise and PRACTICE.

Namaste

Trisha & Darren

5 March 2017

Want more reading in this vein? click: http://yogamattersjersey.uk/problem-bikram-yoga/