Ashtanga vs. Bikram yoga: Which is Elitist?

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Why do Ashtangis depict Bikram/Hot Yoga as a practice limited to super-fit athletic bodies?

In Dan Pitko’s blog on “Excess Heat and Hot Air” he writes in a comment:

“Are you suggesting that yoga classes be limited to only well conditioned young athletes?”

Dan’s implication is that Bikram and other Hot Yoga styles are limited to elite athletes. Look, it’s Ashtanga that’s limited to naturally supple athletes! Not Bikram! Go to hundreds of Bikram & other Hot Yoga studios & you’ll find round plum-shaped bodies galore. Practically every morning in my HotCore Yoga classes I am privileged to guide men and women in his mid-50s or older who could easily lose 25 pounds.

Do this asana look something you can do every day? If yes, you possess an elite body. Especially if you’re older than 35. Goddess Bless you!

After class the other day a studio member and I talked about this very issue of Ashtanga vs. Hot Yoga.

After sampling many styles of yoga including Ashtanga, this man knew he could never make Ashtanga a regular practice without serious injury. All the Sun Salutations & Chaturangas would strain the shit out of his wrists, shoulders, neck, low back, etc.  And yet he gets tremendous benefits practicing Bikram and/or HotCore Yoga. With his humpty dumpty body! For instance this morning he arrived on his Manduka mat with a jammed-up low back after playing 27 holes of golf & hours of pulling weeds over the weekend. But he knew he needed the heat and the low-impact nature of the HotCore flow to get back his mojo. He left Yoga Passion feeling awesome!

Don’t fret if you didn’t drink coffee with your toes this morning. Hot Yoga will give you a place to get supple and strong today.

Are thousands of people leaving Ashtanga classes this morning also feeling awesome? Sure! I hope so! But I swear there’s way more genetic sorting going on with Ashtangis than Bikram yogis. Because the Bikram practice is designed for anyone who can manage to walk, limp or crawl into the studio. This is part of the legacy Bikram initiated he decided to pump heat into his yoga studio.

Now I’m not saying Bikram Yoga is for everyone. But almost everyone can do Bikram or other variations of Hot Yoga. With Bikram you can lean against the back wall if you’re unable to balance on one foot in the Standing Series. If you need more rest during the active asanas, take it. Yoga sadhana is not a competition. And in a good Bikram or Hot Yoga class, no one is looking at you but the teacher. Cuz everyone else is focusing on their practice. This morning the studio member who overextended himself on the golf course & in the garden took extra Savasana (corpse pose) during both the Standing & Floor portions of the class.

Ashtangis have some misinformed notions about Hot Yoga because extra heat in the room is outside their field of reference. But what they don’t know is that the heat is a great equalizer! For some of us! Which you can’t know unless you give it a fair chance by practicing at least 3 or 4 classes in 10-day period. A few years ago I practiced Ashtanga 2 or 3 times a week for 2 months. A girlfriend and one of my staff were both avid Ashtangis. They loved it!  And it worked well for their naturally limber bodies. But for my relatively stiff dude gym-rat body, Primary Series (which is their bread & butter practice) has way too many forward bends. To me, it’s NOT a balanced practice. When I actually tried to do all the pretzel-ie forward bending Marichyasanas, my low back always felt worse for it. Look, Primary Series asanas are beautiful. But Ashtanga did NOT work for my body.

So when it comes whose yoga is Elitist, Ashtanga has much higher hurtles to scale than Bikram or HotCore. Plain & simple. I don’t practice yoga to look pretty or impress anyone. I step on my mat to heal/strengthen/lengthen my body … release fear/stress …and awaken my consciousness. And in my universe HotCore Yoga does it! If Ashtanga does it for you, then either you possess an amazing body or you are modifying the Ashtanga form in ways beyond my experience.

PS: To Ashtangis who say, “Okay, primary series does tilt way more to forward bends. But in Second Series Pattabhi Jois put in lots of backbends.” I reply, “Look, I don’t have 3.5 hours to practice yoga. And my body can’t wait hours for those backbends. I need to juxtapose forward & back bends in close proximity. To me, this is common sense. For any Ashtangis working to contort their bodies into amazing pretzel shapes, I ask: “Is your practice strengthen/lengthening your spine? Or is it contributing to collapse along spine & overall bone structure?” And I don’t presume to know what the answer is for you. Please chime in with your vote. Which is Elitist?  Ashtanga or Bikram?

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anonymous Oct 9, 2013 3:06am

I don’t do either type of yoga (I mostly practice sivananda) but I think it’s funny that he says ashtanga is focused on how you look. And Bikram isn’t? I was under the impression that Bikram was all about looks.

anonymous Jun 2, 2013 2:07pm

What a title? Which yoga is elitist? Hmmm I believe none.. I have been practicing ashtanga and vinyasa for about 7 years and I am aware of the fact that the ashtanga primary series is not a balanced sequence, it didn't work for my perfectly either, but it was not really because the sequence is wrong, but because I was too competitive with myself and others, too. I have learnt to back off and listen to my body. Injuries are not necessarily bad! Some people like me need to learn how to respect the body and how to find real yoga. I have just done my first bikram class, this is how I began to read about it and came accross with this blog. I was shocked by the army style of the instructor and all the mirrors around… But I didn't judge, I was open for something new. I feel great after the class, I found the practice logically built and balanced. But which one is elitest??? Come on. Yoga is yoga. Not about the sequence, but about turning inward and get a stronger connection with our body, understand more how our mind works.. Not sure I managed to turn inward that much during bikram, however I notice every tiny change in my practice during ashtanga. I believe none is worse than the other. I believe everyone should try out different styles of yoga and then stick to the one that works best for them and this is what all yogis should recommend everyone rather saying my yoga is better than yours. That's not yogic to say.

anonymous Dec 11, 2012 4:33am

please don’t do Ashtanga! i could care less but you have no idea what your taking about i teach everyone Ashtanga…EVERYBODY!!!!

anonymous Dec 10, 2012 6:34pm

One word: Modifications

anonymous Dec 10, 2012 10:07am

I am sure if Peter is totally right from his knowledge on this article.

I do both practices, Ashtanga and Bikram for over 5 years. I used to do a lot of hot yoga and Bikram before I started Ashtanga 2 years ago. One thing Peter is right about body types of yogis between these two. My body changed after I switched to Ashtanga after 2 years. It is more firm and strong.

I am not totally ignore hot yoga or Bikram. I do sneak in to do hot yoga during the cold weather. I do Bikram a few times a month on moon days and Sat that Ashtangis need to take days off. OK, I got back from Bikram this weekend, my experience is the heat…heat…heat….. yes, I sweat from outside heat. Even, I did Ujai breathing to keep myself calm and try to combat with the temperature outside in Bikram room. After the class, If you asked, what do I feel inside my muscles? No, i don't feel anything that stretch too much or clean after like what I feel after doing Ashtanga. When I do Ashtanga correcty, all Banda engaged and breathing, my sweat pouring like crazy. I feel balance from inside out. Not pushing the heat to my body like in hot yoga.

Backbending… Peter's knowleage is not correct at this point… it is ashamed that he wrote this article that give wrong information to the public. He did not count how many Ashtangi doing upward dog during Sun Salutation A and B, and between seated poses switching between left and right., then back bend 3 times. To be honest, I never count how many updog I do…plush chaturanga… I just keep going between seated poses but I knew it is a lots….

It is your choice what you want. If you want deep connection to your body and your soul — Calming, cleaning from inside out Ashtanga is the choice. If you want heat push from outside in, go to hot yoga…..

Compare these two…. I love benefit of Ashtanga after exploring between these two.

anonymous Dec 10, 2012 5:41am

With your immature attempt to portray yoga as a battle for bragging rights, it sounds more like you have a chip on your shoulder about Ashtanga. It is not a competition.

Let your tantrum run its course, then perhaps you could learn something about Ashtanga before you blog about it. Otherwise, put a sock in it and grow up.

Have a great day.

anonymous Dec 10, 2012 5:40am

Well, i find so interesting to see a tendency to attack (always in a subtle, would even say hipocrite way) ashtanga from the hot-yoga comunity… i wonder why….. You google ashtanga and the Bikram advertise show up: "ashtanga? Try Bikram yoga! You see the oppening of a Bikram Shalla and the teachers goes "I tried Ashtanga but didn´t work, didn´t heal me the way Bikram does….." I would recomend you to make sure your sistem is good enougth and work on your insecurities…. because is really so obvious what this is all about. And writing an article about "My yoga is better than yours" Is about everthing… except yoga

anonymous Dec 10, 2012 3:32am

Peter should have studied yoga the proper way before he decided to write this misleading article.

anonymous Dec 10, 2012 2:42am

I disagree from sentence one and ran far away from this article and the elephant journal.

anonymous Dec 10, 2012 2:11am

you re a cunt

anonymous Dec 10, 2012 2:03am

Hey Peter,
Just read your article from Elephant Jounal and comment about Ashtanga at the end. Do you even know anything about the Ashtanga practice? You’re obviously a novice so I would stick to writing about Bikram Yoga or your canned “hot core yoga”! Primary series of Ashtanga Yoga has more backbends than any other practice out there. Do you realize that it has Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (upward dog) throughout the whole practice? Granted some students and teachers don’t have a clue how to teach or practice this method correctly but to say we don’t have any backbends is ridiculous. Along with your comment about does Ashtanga lengthen or strengthen your spine. Of course it does! Just like you said about Bikram you can’t get in there 2-3 times a week and get the benefits of Ashtanga. You never gave it a true test. Again maybe you had the misfortune of going to a class where the teacher is inexperienced with how to modify the method to suit the individual. I’m taking the time to write you because some students of mine asked me my opinion about your article. I’ve been practicing and teaching Ashtanga since 1978. I know this practice inside and out. So please don’t boast about something you know nothing about! I know you’r trying to promote yourself and your “new” form of “Hot Core Yoga”. You’re not inventing anything! It’s not yours to market since you’re simple taking bits and pieces of many different styles without really knowing what your talking about. I thought Elephant Journal was more reputable but I guess they’ll let just about anybody write whatever they want!

anonymous Dec 9, 2012 2:51pm

Neither is elitist. People on the other hand can be elitist. I practice Ashtanga. It works for me, both physically and mentally. My brother is an avid Bikram practitioner. It works for him. We have each gone to the others respective studios. I enjoyed Bikram but found discomfort with the mirrored room. I understood it was there for self correcting and alignment but it was distracting from the meditative state that I can easily get into in Ashtanga. The asana sequencing of a set series and structure of each are similarities, but the heat coming from the external versus internal lost me. I enjoy building my own heat, but I certainly respect that Bikram works for many other yogis. There is no one particular journey for for everybody, different on every body.

anonymous Dec 9, 2012 1:53pm

I'm a 40 plus wee sturdy lass who started Ashtanga a few years ago; I'm not super anything, don't possess an elite body of any description and had bad back pain when I began. I respect your opinion on how you found Ashtanga for you but since I neither possess an amazing body or am modifying the Ashtanga form (unless you mean learning it) I'd wholeheartedly disagree with you on who Ashtanga is for, how they are doing it or what they are getting out of it; that's a private journey we all hopefully get to take, no matter how we may seem to the outside world.

I agree of course that Ashtanga isn't for everyone, each person has to find their own style.

Ashtanga is wonderful, the people I've met from all over the world encouraging, loving, funny and kind. I'm pretty positive people who practice Bikram will be the same because it isn't about the style, it's about the purpose behind it all. I can only tell you how lovely the girl next to me is by how she chats to me before practice, I wouldn't be able to tell you if she is super elite fit bendy or otherwise because I'm too busy soaking up the yoga and focussing inwardly. It is a huge assumption to make that all those Ashtanga folk you've (never) met are trying to "look pretty" or "impress". If that had been my goal, I'd have looked for a dark yoga class….. ;O) And for me, Ashtanga yoga found me, awakening my unconsciousness and working it's magic.

I will say, I need to go find me a Bikram class now, it sounds great. I'd love to give it a go, any suggestions on classes in Glasgow, Scotland much appreciated. xx

anonymous Jul 30, 2012 4:01pm

It is interesting that Ashtanga (Mysore) tends to want you to leave before getting to the end of the primary (if you are not that good) whereas Bikram wants you to stay until the very end…

Also, I just watched a video about Yoga called "Enlighten Up" and in the special features there is an interview with Iyengar where he is asked about Ashtanga. He says that he was at the Mysore palace, but he really can't say much about it. However, he does infer that the Mysore palace was very martial (as in martial arts) oriented and as such he believes that his guru made up Ashtanga with all its jumps and such to go along with the tone of the palace. So, it looks like Ashtanga does not have the 5000 year lineage that it claims, but is instead a made up yoga for war like people. Iyengar then says that this Yoga may be okay for people under 40, but after that the body just doesn't want to do it.

    anonymous Sep 6, 2012 8:04pm

    I have just practiced Ashtanga for 3 weeks and I have a new appreciation for it now. I found that if I focus mainly on my breath, a sort of magic takes place in that my body starts feeling really great. Frankly, I'm not sure if I want to go back to Bikram now. As well, by breathing fulling and moving slowly, I am frankly enjoying Sun Salutations. They are my favourite poses. It is strange … but magical.

      anonymous Sep 26, 2012 9:17pm

      I don't know what to say… I have switched back to Bikram — though I practice it at home. My first practice was a bit rough after doing Ashtanga and no Bikram for so long. However, with my second practice I was hooked again. The thing is that Bikram feels so good and I still have my lingering doubts as to whether Ashtanga is a made-up practice or if it a real ancient yoga. When I read the ancient Yoga books, they mention the 84 asanas that Bikram mentions. Even when I read the book "Be here now, be now here" it mentions that there are 84 asanas. As well, I just love the liberal use of Savasana in Bikram and I notice that they do this in Sivananda as well. I still like Ashtanga, I just can't see to get myself to practice it again … for now.

anonymous Jun 23, 2012 3:03am

There is obviously a bundle to identify about this. I suppose you made certain good points in features also.

anonymous Jun 3, 2012 10:11am

Which "brand" of yoga is BEST…..LOL

anonymous Apr 1, 2012 9:57pm

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anonymous Feb 9, 2012 2:22pm

I have to admit I was a little taken aback by the…fierceness of this article, and the condemnation from a lover of – any form of yoga – of another form of yoga. I have tried lots of different kinds of yoga, and my two true yoga-loves are Bikram and Ashtanga. However, I find that they all feed my body and soul something different, but equally nourishing. (Also, let me interject that while I am very flexible, I also suffer from fibromyalgia, so I'm not coming from the perspective of one of these "perfect" bodies.)

I have read through some of the comments, and your responses to them. I applaud your openness and willingness to learn, and view things from different perspectives. I also appreciate your thoughtful, polite responses to some pretty harsh criticism. That, to me, is waaay much more in the spirit of yoga than this divisive article. Congratulations, you've won yourself a fan.

anonymous Feb 8, 2012 2:27am

lol. " Yoga sadhana is not a competition. And in a good Bikram or Hot Yoga class, no one is looking at you but the teacher. Cuz everyone else is focusing on their practice." Ok, I guess that's why Bikram yoga has a competition!

I don't have a super amazing body……but because I practice Ashtanga…but thanks for the compliment!

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anonymous Oct 22, 2011 12:11pm

[…] Are you clinically insane? Or at least all-the-way Type A? Do Bikram yoga. It’s a hot mess. When you’re done with class you’ll be clad shorts so soaked with sweat that when you wring them out in your bathtub you’ll release two and half cups of perspiration (all yours!). What with every Bikram, class being the same hell—90 minutes, 105 degrees, humidity enough to swim in, fluorescent lights, mirrors and a teacher that barks at you for every single one of those 90 minutes—every time you exit the studio you’ll be astonished that you’re still alive. And then (this here’s the crazy part) you’ll straightaway be itching to go back tomorrow. At the beginning of each class, Bikram teachers command you to try to kill yourself. And you do as you’re told. Masochistic nutjobs unite! […]

anonymous Sep 8, 2011 5:35pm

Ashtanga Yoga or any Yoga for that matter does not have anything to do with elitist, athletic, super fit, young and bendy bodies, or does it have anything to do with standing in extreme heat sweating excessively whilst your muscles dilate giving you a false sense of how flexible you are not!! surely we all know by now that yoga is about the union of the body mind and spirit carried out through the 8 limbs of yoga. Ashtanga Yoga is a moving meditation and with the use of Ujjayi pranayama creating the vinyasa flow, movement of body with the flow of breath, meditating on the impermanence of the body being as most asanas are transitional and those that are not are 5 breaths. Ujjayi pranyama creates internal heat which will create heat in the body and a big sweat, be it in the cold with the windows open. anyone who stands in a sauna long enough is obviously going to sweat, its just the bodies defences trying to cool the body down, it doesnt mean to say that you are detoxing, excessive sweating just depletes all the vital minerals, yoga is about balance and union, not the excesses! it has nothing to do with how strong you are or whether you can touch your toes or stand on your head. Please forget comparisons and elitists, yoga doesnt belong to either.

anonymous Aug 24, 2011 2:34pm

A Sri K. Pattabhi Jois has said, “old man, weak man, sick man, they can all take practice but only a lazy man can’t take practice.”

anonymous Aug 24, 2011 8:23am

I love Ashtanga Mysore-style. There are many different types of people in the room with me: young, old, modifying, not modifying. People are moving at their own pace with their breath. I've heard plusses and minuses about all types of yoga and everyone thinks theirs is the best. And it is the best, for them.

anonymous Aug 23, 2011 8:22am

Not one single word of this shameful article or any of the comments are yogic. I'm going to practice on my mat now. Namaste all.

    anonymous Aug 23, 2011 1:43pm

    Thank you for sharing. Enjoy the bliss!

anonymous Aug 23, 2011 7:12am

who would actually seek this writer out as a teacher? after overhearing the conversation he had with a patron at his studio, i would walk out and never return. elitist, humpty dumpty, these words are insulting and crude and should not be used in a studio space where people are coming in for healing and positivity

    anonymous Aug 23, 2011 1:45pm

    Guess you won't be taking my class any time soon. No worries. There are lots of great yoga teachers out there. Maybe you are one of them. But take a chill pill, Shanti!

      anonymous Aug 24, 2011 12:10am

      don't worry i am very relaxed while i say that your usage of crude language is strong and intense, it kinda harshes my mallow if you know what i mean. why are you suggesting i take a pill? i don't think any pill can match what a pose like uttana padasana can do for me.

anonymous Aug 23, 2011 7:06am

words like "elitist" and crass language like "strain the shit out of my wrists" and discussing other people's physical body type? i think this writer is missing something here. and then it says the writer has 30+ years of yoga experience. how can someone with 30+ years not know how to protect their wrists in a vinyasa class? how can someone with this many hours of yoga experience and advanced trainings miss the point that it is not about body type, or what is better or what is elitist or whose body shapes are doing what? this article doesn't seem to be worthy of elephant in my opinion. it is just a strange rant of some kind.

anonymous Aug 23, 2011 6:27am

I have tried Hot Yoga and the heat and the extreme sweating are good for the muscles. I get the feeling that little by little my stiffness is diminishing. Without the heat it would not have been possible; the muscles would create tension and soreness.

anonymous Aug 20, 2011 10:02am

PS Bikram has lived this way from the to time he was born, he is a Yogi, not some self professed ‘Yogi’. You may not like the man but you cannot question that fact. What makes the class or style “eliteist” is the attitude of the instructor, not the practice itself. Unfortunately for many students, some instructors try too hard to be Bikram, or they get caught up in the heat or whatever unimportant nuance they.feel is important. Bottom line is you should find for you and stop throwing stones at what you don’t understand or if you don’t like Bikram, stop teaching/taking/ripping off his yoga. Any of you born in India? Anyone here grow up that way? … didn’t think so. PPS Bikram is not trying to make yoga competative, the practice is and has always been a competition with yourself, to go beyond what you ‘think’ your capable of and challenge yourself to go beyond! The main purpose behind him attempting to bring yoga into the olympics is bringing more awareness to the practice and its benefits. … with what’s going on with ‘yoga’ nowadays since people like scary mary have twisted own warped philosophy, then your right, maybe he.shouldn’t.

    anonymous Aug 20, 2011 12:09pm

    BTW: Bruno, it is the sort of rigid orthodoxy that I hear in your words that gives Bikram Yoga a bad name. Back in the day Bikram allowed all kinds of modifications for injured individuals. Stuff you can't teach from a script. Stuff that requires actually creating authentic rapport with individual people within a group setting. Bikram had a ballet bar along his back wall for those folks who needed to something to hold onto for balance. He probably inherited the bar from the previous tenant & was smart enough to let balance-challenged studio members use it.
    So whatever you think this form of Bikram Yoga is … it has evolved over the years … or de-evolved … there are hundreds of yogis (women & men who practice on their mats regularly … not just teach) who have left Bikram over the years & continued their practices. Yoga will always seeks evolution. If you find in the form of Bikram Yoga as you know it, I'm happy for you. Can you be happy for me to discover the form of hot yoga that works?

anonymous Aug 20, 2011 9:35am

Mary Grace or Mary Blaise whatever you want to call yourself, you should stay out of any conversation to do with yoga! You rip off Bikram and talk down about his class!?!? You steal from your students by certifying them to teach that class as well as all other forms of yoga and continue your shameless self promotion. WOW! Get over yourself you sick narcissistic crazy woman. Your actions alone speak volumes to your hybris. Your an insult to the art of yoga. And Peter, while your very articulate and wise, your another self promoter of your Bikram spin off class. At least Bikram and Ashtanga are real classes, not a style devised off another in the interest of feeding your ego or making money.

anonymous Aug 19, 2011 4:33pm

Also, Peter, I’ve never been to an Ashtanga class where the teacher knew modifications or a Bikram class that wasn’t extremely strict. I am going to go to a well known Ashtanga teacher in the near future to see if she offers modifications and ask what she thinks about the stress Ashtanga puts on people’s joints.

    anonymous Aug 20, 2011 7:39pm

    Yogis cannot be manufactured to meet a burgeoning public demand. To improve the teaching of yoga … i.e. having teachers who understand body mechanics for all different sorts of body shapes & levels of flexibility & strength requires an intense yearning to grow in observation skills, knowledge & insatiable curiosity. It's sad that you haven't found teachers in either style who understand how to guide people into modifications. For example in Bikram many people cannot get anywhere near the proper hand grip. Bodies too stiff or arms too short. What to do? Well, if a teacher is observant enough to notice & nimble enough to show the studio member who to grab one end of a hand towel or double-knotted strap & grab the other end, the studio member can then do Eagle & get really get the benefits of the posture. It's so simple. Within the Bikram form there are many other opportunities for teachers to assist people who need the modification. If teachers would care more about helping people than their fears about crossing the line of conformity within the Bikram orthodoxy, they could improve their service. How bright is the fire to serve & rediscover the meaning of yoga?

anonymous Aug 19, 2011 4:27pm

I choose both as elitist. Have you ever read what Bikram has said about his own students or even about himself? Horrendous. And coming from a yogi.
I’ve tried it but I’d rather not practice while feeling naseous just so I can pretend that outside of the heat I can touch my nose to my toes.

As for Ashtanga, it makes yoga students think that there’s some mystical practice passed down for centuries and that we have to do it that way. All of that wrenching of your joints can only lead to pain and injury in old age.

So, I guess I choose to do a practice that honestly let’s me connect with my body while challenging it in a loving way. Not force myself to withstand heat or dislocate a hip over it. It’s just asanas- theres so much more to yoga!

anonymous Aug 19, 2011 9:22am

Not to be elitist, but transcending judgment is part of my yoga practice. If I were on the name-calling level, I'd say this article was ______. But I prefer simply to disagree and hold my own space (practice and otherwise).

    anonymous Jul 30, 2012 4:10pm

    Hmmm… I think discourse is good to get at the truth of the situation. To not comment is I believe part of the wimpy and false yoga that is more and more prevalent everywhere.

    With regard to Ashtanga, it is fun to do it once you are actually doing it, but it gives me great dread to think of doing it 6 days a week with all the vinyasas. My body just resists it.

    Bikram on the other hand (at least when I practice at home) seems to entice my body to do it.

    So, I would have to say my body likes Bikram better. As well, when I wake up in the morning, I feel better after having done Bikram the night before as compared to Ashtanga.

anonymous Aug 18, 2011 6:48pm

Off topic, but are you Greek?

    anonymous Aug 19, 2011 10:51am

    My dad is in Greece right now probably swimming in Med. I was born in Lynn, MA. But, yes, my family blood line is 100% greek. As far as anyone will admit.

anonymous Aug 18, 2011 2:13pm

[…] can check it out via this link. The bottom-line, according to the author, is that it is Astanga that’s elitist and too […]

anonymous Aug 18, 2011 8:38am

Just posted to "Popular Lately" on the Elephant Yoga homepage.

anonymous Aug 17, 2011 8:58pm

Hi Peter! Thanks for the article. I'm a bit puzzled by your intro, however, as I made clear in my reply to you that my article had nothing to do with Hot or Bikram yoga. The article is informative about how the body cools itself. Humidity is the main factor in closed rooms, because the body cannot cool itself in high humidity environments. As I said in my reply, some Bikram / Hot yoga rooms pump in fresh air and have lower humidity than ashtanga or vinyasa flow classes. Over 40 people died in our recent heat wave, including a handful of kids in high school.

    anonymous Aug 23, 2011 7:55am

    You can't write a blog post about the effects of heat on the body in a yoga community and then pretend it has "nothing to do with" Bikram or hot yoga. Seriously. I read your article and it was very clear what your opinion is of heated yoga classes.

      anonymous Aug 23, 2011 10:45am

      I encourage you to re-read it carefully. HUMIDITY, not heat, is the key factor in thermoregulation. I sweat more in 82 degrees with high humidity than in 110 degrees with low humidity. The title says "excess heat and humidity" not "Bikram" or "Hot Yoga." Excess heat and humidity are relative – that is why there is a heat index. Heat and humidity are also relative to a person's genetics, body type and athletic (or not) history, as we have different heat reactions. As such, we should avoid dogmatic and blanket statements: what works for one person, does not mean that it is objectively "Right" for everyone else. My goal is to educate people so that people can practice smartly instead of blindly following someone else's dogma under the guise of conclusory statements regarding "benefits."

anonymous Aug 17, 2011 1:34pm

Just posted to "Featured Today" on the Elephant Yoga homepage.

anonymous Aug 17, 2011 1:02pm

This is certainly driving discussion!

Posting to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

Tanya Lee Markul, Yoga Editor
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anonymous Aug 17, 2011 8:16am

Wow, I can't believe this is even being discussed. Fanatical yogis! Om Shanti x

anonymous Aug 17, 2011 6:42am

Full throttle Bikramites are like the annoying 'look at me' kids that I told my sons to ignore and hopefully they go away.

    anonymous Aug 27, 2011 5:03am

    Touche! Back in the early 90's Kripalu Yoga was the center of my universe. It's true. That what works for me can cloud my ability to see what works for the broad spectrum of individuals within the larger field. These days I see hot yoga moving away from Bikram. Certainly I have. While the heat works for my body, I need a practice with more asana variations especially on the floor & greater expression of the big yoga (spiritual elements) which Bikram shuns.

anonymous Aug 17, 2011 6:38am

Strange text but I am too much of a novice to judge whether there is any truth to this or just your personal perception, Peter. I guess the main reason why more "beginners" are attracted to Bikram instead of Ashtanga is due to the spiritual overhead you get with Ashtanga. Anyways, this was the reason for me to chose Ashtanga over Bikram but I am definitely not limber and only stumble through my Primary but I love the overall concept. I do not expect to be able to do all Asanas today – heck maybe even never in my lifetime – but I know practicing it will already do good to my body and soul.

    anonymous Aug 17, 2011 9:02am

    There's spiritual overhead in many vinyasa styles—sometimes in many different flavors, Ashtanga's not the only one.

anonymous Aug 16, 2011 10:57pm

ahhhhhh Peter, all i can say, is different strokes for different folks. Ive been practicing Boring Bikram for 11 years now along with my Ashtanga. I studied in India with Pattabhi Jois & I trained in LA with the author of this article. I love ashtanga. I love it all. Its all good. Why are you creating waves? Why judge any bodies yoga? I did my primary series of ashtanga today & then flowed into my Maui Hot Yoga practice. I think its all good. Lets allow the yogis to GET A LITTLE MORE FLEXIBLE, HUH???
check me out at see videos of the new hot yoga system that is going to spread all over the world, its not Bikram, its not Ashtanga, its simply a fun, playful, adaptable system for every BODY. Hey Peter, ITS ALL GOOD!!!

anonymous Aug 16, 2011 9:52pm

I am a dedicated Ashtanga practitioner and I can't really compare it to Bikram, but I agree in a sense it is elitist because it is so challenging…traditionally, in order for one to progress (a hierarchical idea even there) through the series, one must be proficient in each preceding asana, including such difficult postures as supta kurmasana which appears in the latter half of the Primary Series. Many practitioners who respect the tradition work hard to be able to attain the ability to get themselves into these asanas, in a desire to go further…it's a lot of pushing and challenging oneself physically, but still there is an element of luck involved, because some people will never be able to do it. The thought is, they could if they kept at it with enough practice and discipline, including losing any extra weight and developing enough strength. This does not in anyway diminish the spiritual aspects of Ashtanga; to the contrary, discipline, devotion, and a spirited practice over a long time are crucial to true yoga sadhana.

    anonymous Aug 16, 2011 10:41pm

    Thank You, Love! Your words speak to my point. It's not that I believe Ashtanga is inferior to any other style. Or that it's superior. Just that on a physical level … most of us will never get there … but I guess there are yogis modifying the form so they can do it. But I thought Ashtanga was a fairly orthodox rigid form. Guess Ashtanga comes in different flavors. RE: the spiritual aspects, well, I have some much respect for anyone brings devotion into their sadhana. Thanks again!

      anonymous Aug 17, 2011 8:54am

      I guess as with regular food, I need to try Ashtanga Lite …
      Not that I am doing yoga to lose weight.
      For that, I mind my calories …
      But when I am thin, I get weak wrists.
      I never get that flexible. I never get that strong.

anonymous Aug 16, 2011 7:16pm

I am overweight and have a weak core. I have been practicing Mysore Ashtanga for a year. My shala has students of all shapes and sizes practicing at all levels side by side and with a welcoming attitude. I love to practice Bikram occasionally, I find it helps me to lengthen more in my Ashtanga practice ( and vice versa).
Ashtanga is more than a physical yoga practice, you learn to respect the earth and its rhythm by practicing with the moon. You learn about the roots of yoga and are able to express yourself in mantra through chanting and counting. You learn to marry your breath and posture. You learn to focus mind and connect it with your bandha.
And I am saying this as an overweight, weak, erratic minded individual- not in the LEAST bit athletic- who has embarked on a yoga journey which has brought so much joy to my life as it has to others.
There is no need for discrimination or finger pointing when we are all just people with similar strengths and weaknesses trying to find our way with yoga.
If you find a loving teacher you have found a beneficial practice regardless of the style.

anonymous Aug 16, 2011 5:54pm

hot yoga makes me barf…literally…all yoga COULD be elitist if we focus on "doing" rather than being. Listen to your body, do your practice…that is all.

anonymous Aug 16, 2011 5:41pm

Misspelling & improper grammar made me stop reading this article halfway through. It is also ridiculous to argue or even care which school is more elitist than the other. If your practice moves you & makes you a better person, then it is the best practice…FOR YOU. I have seen the same super-bendy students at both bikram & ashtanga classes. Being of one school or the other does not make them better students, better wives or husbands, better old people or young people, better humans. Nor does this article uplift anyone or further the spirit of yoga. End this needless arguing & proselytizing …especially you, elephantjournal.

anonymous Aug 16, 2011 5:21pm

Looks like I need to open my heart & mind to dimensions of Ashtanga beyond my personal experience. So this blog is helpful for me. Cuz at the moment I feel a little silly. But I'm learning things I didn't know before I wrote it. Thanx anniegirl!

    anonymous Aug 16, 2011 5:37pm

    I would like to commend you on your openness, honesty and humility. While I agree that the above contribution, as you have repeatedly conceded, misses the mark, you stand heads and shoulders above many in this forum who refuse to acknowledge the insight of commentators especially when it relates to potential "shortcomings." It is very inspiring to witness your process of self-reflection. Thank you for providing an insight, albeit not the one you perhaps intended in the first place. Blessings.

    anonymous Aug 16, 2011 5:50pm

    I would highly recommend that Peter !!! I am a 57 year old woman, with some major damage to my body, due to other sports, and to my spirit , due to some very difficult things in my life. Ashtanga, has given me a place to heal my body, and my broken spirit and heart. I take my practice to where my body tells me it is ready to go each day. Modifying, even sometimes shortening it if necessary. One of the most important things Ashtanga teaches is non-attachment. You step on your mat, you begin to breathe, and you let the practice teach you, heal you, and give you the peace it offers to those who are open. So, if you love your heated room, and your bikram practice….enjoy…but please don't bash a tradition that is a beautiful and pure path, to those who have the open hearts to allow it.

      anonymous Aug 16, 2011 8:52pm

      coni, I'm all ears! Like I've written above … I got lots to learn. Thanks. Your message is inspirational.

anonymous Aug 16, 2011 5:14pm

Kundalini as taught by Yogi Bhajan. That is all.

    anonymous Aug 17, 2011 8:49am

    Kundalini is not particularly elitist. It rocks.

anonymous Aug 16, 2011 5:06pm

Being a very firey person (pitta) I can't take the heat of Bikram/hot yoga. However, I can take it in an ashtanga practice (mysore) where I build internal heat. Granted, I love vinyasa flow as well. But, ashtanga stole my heart long ago. Let me also say I am NOT in any way shape or form athletic…seriously. Never played sports, not limber in a natural state, seriously everything ashtanga is about, my body worked against. However, the primary series is the only pre-set series practice that truthfully makes me feel like a million bucks after practice. I had a 5 class card pkg for hot yoga/bikram and for me it was the external heat that worked against my natural rhythm and prevented me from truly diving into the practice. My body does not do well in that type of circumstance.
Just my 2 cents…but everyone has their own "core" practice. Regardless of what that is…I will not judge. Because to me a yoga practice is a very personal and spiritual decision to be made on the practitioners part. Who am I to say that a hot yoga class is better suited for other vs. a led primary series class. It is not for me to discuss nor decide nor cast judgement. I think you are overlooking how personal the decision is for an individual to choose a practice/spiritual path. And may I add…in mysore there are all shapes, sizes, ages and the list goes on. We are all heading in the same direction (I hope) towards liberation from closed minded ways of living and an open and compassionate heart. Right? If it is Bikram, Ashtanga, Dharma Yoga, Vinyasa flow, Yin Yoga, Iyengar, etc… who cares? If it makes you a better person off the mat…well I truly don't care what you choose to do on the mat then. Even if it is pranayama & meditation. Whatever it takes to make us wake up and grow and help others. I do not care what you do on your mat. You could practice alongside me any day. Regardless of what style you choose. As long as you choose to be a kinder person in the world. Which path you choose is your choice. Why label such things?

    anonymous Aug 16, 2011 8:07pm

    Flosh-as a fellow Pitta body I have got to agree. Bikram makes me crabby. My favorite style of yoga is Budokon; which some purists may argue is not yoga at all due to it's strong martial arts elements. My first yoga teacher many years ago told me all yoga is Hatha yoga-and I have a tendency to agree.

    I find the different styles exciting to try. When I moved to NYC I did what I call my "taster tour". Antigravity yoga, Vinyasa, Anusara. Call me a dilettante but I have not felt compelled to "chose" a style. Yoga is like a 12 step program: it's adherents are drawn to different teachers due to attraction not promotion.

anonymous Aug 16, 2011 4:56pm

Ashtanga is perfectly fine for anyone as long as the teacher understands how to modify and stresses that students listen to their bodies. I've taught the standing and seated series to kids as young as 9 and women as old as 75. We modified and they were fine.

The real issue is the whole "purity" thing. If something has to be modified people are horrified. But is it yoga to force the body or to listen and work with it?

I prefer Ashtanga and variations on it to anything hot. I get warm enough on my own. But if you prefer hot, so what. You are listening to what your body needs. This territorial sniping is not necessary, imo. As a teacher, you should guide ppl to where they need to be.

anonymous Aug 16, 2011 4:52pm

I loved this post! For Bikram is a stepping stone to Ashtanga, in a perfect world I would rotate my practice between these 2 every other day. Just as soon as I move closer to an Ashtanga studio! Thanks for the post.

    anonymous Aug 16, 2011 5:19pm

    thanx 4 yr comment. My goal in blogging to raise questions that deepen our personal understanding of yoga & how it relates to experience on the mat for ourselves & other people.

anonymous Aug 16, 2011 4:32pm

I'd prefer to read about why Bikram and/or hot yoga works for those who love it than this ad hoc Ashtanga-bashing. Plus, asking "which is elitist" is not a useful question. Better to ask why people with different constitutions (including but not limited to the physical) gravitate toward different methods.

anonymous Aug 16, 2011 4:24pm

it's funny. i was just commenting today on the fact that elephant journal is driving me nuts by posting these articles that in a nice passive aggressive way pit two things against each other. i'm kinda over it. does it really matter? god.

    anonymous Aug 16, 2011 5:14pm

    By elitist I mean: a yoga practice which filters out the vast majority of people due to the steep physical difficulty. I don't mean that one practice is superior by any intrinsic yardstick. Sorry if the blog falls short. Thanx for ur comment. Looks like I need to grow up.

      anonymous Aug 26, 2011 9:26pm

      yeah and by growing don't use "humpty dumpty" and name calling. momma always says be careful what you write people might just read it.

anonymous Aug 16, 2011 1:20pm

Silly question. By the way "I step on my mat to heal/strengthen/lengthen my body … release fear/stress … & awaken my consciousness." ….Me too. But I have a different practice than you – Ashtanga actually 🙂 What's your point?

    anonymous Aug 16, 2011 5:18pm

    By elitist I mean: a yoga practice which filters out the vast majority of people due to the steep physical difficulty. Looks like I whiffed. Thanks 4 ur comment. I don't mean to disparage Ashtanga. But I guess I did. I'll try to raise my game next time I blog.

anonymous Aug 16, 2011 11:57am

What. What?? Why did you write this? If something is elitist it might not even be yoga.

    anonymous Aug 16, 2011 5:12pm

    By elitist I mean: a yoga practice which filters out the vast majority of people due to the steep physical difficulty. I don't mean that one practice is superior by any intrinsic yardstick. Stepping on a yoga mat to practice asana opens a tangible physical dimension of challenge. So I was simply comparing them. Sorry if the blog falls short.

      anonymous Aug 26, 2011 9:24pm

      but you called someone's body shape humpty dumpty. that's just not nice. some may even call that elitist

anonymous Aug 16, 2011 10:19am

"My yoga is awesome. Your yoga sucks."

    anonymous Aug 16, 2011 1:28pm

    Love it, Bryan! Thanx for the comment!

    anonymous Aug 23, 2011 8:01am

    I agree with your reduction of the article to this phrase! isn't the point of the practice to awaken to our unity no matter what expression/style we follow? creating unnecessary hierarchy and divisions just further illustrates why the practice of yoga is so necessary – to reach the boundlessness of acceptance and ease. let us speak in as many languages as their are tongues!

    anonymous Oct 23, 2012 10:01pm

    Bryan… sage words of advice. My yoga makes your yoga look like Pilates.

    anonymous Dec 10, 2012 5:26am

    Yes, that´s what this is all about… boring

    anonymous Jan 12, 2013 1:17am

    You summed it up. Elephant journal is getting too ridiculous due to articles such as this. Making generalizations about Ashtangis is even more ridiculous.

anonymous Aug 16, 2011 1:46pm

Balance btwn: 1. listening to our bodies & 2. being skillfully challenged beyond comfort zones … has been key to discovering my way on the mat. Thanks for sharing yr story. I love reading yoga miracles.

anonymous Aug 18, 2011 12:51pm

1 STYLE does NOT Fit ALL. Our bodies are amazingly unique. Sacred space comes in many forms. While I lived in Las Cruces, NM, the bikram studio had great difficulty getting the humidity up making it much harder to generate a good sweat. And I confess to cherishing a good sweat when I practice. But I adapted. If I never stepped into a hot yoga studio again, I'm sure I'd rediscover yoga as a room-temp sadhana. Sounds like you regularly rediscover your center w/ ashtanga. Thanks 4 ur comment.

anonymous Aug 19, 2011 10:36am

Where does Tim teach? Is he out in Santa Monica? Love to take his class & broaden my exposure. I've heard great things about him. Thanx for ur comment

anonymous Aug 19, 2011 10:49am

My ignorance is/was in thinking of Ashtanga as a rigid form w/o variations. I'm learning here. Thanx for yr comment

anonymous Aug 19, 2011 7:43pm

He's down in Encinitas (well, now, Carlsbad). Or… better yet: Sign up for the Ashtanga Yoga Confluence. That should do the trick. 🙂

anonymous Aug 20, 2011 6:44am

Discussion was stimulated. But the question seems inherently divisive. Yoga is union, right?

anonymous Aug 20, 2011 11:46am

The balance btwn form & freedom is a necessary conundrum of unfoldment in my sadhana. That's what I hear you elaborating on. Thanks 4 expanding my knowledge!

anonymous Aug 20, 2011 12:36pm

Ashtanga as presented here, seems more sincere of a practice than power vinyasa is … sincere in the sense that all are welcome to an All Level class … there is that traditional, inclusive take on yoga–that seems to be missing from the modernized forms. To feel that you can be in a class and not be goaded or feel forced to keep up with the pace of the class. And, likewise, there don't seem to be "empty promises" of achieving an exact pose that may be beyond your reach for a very long time, perhaps even forever, like there is in vinyasa.

anonymous Aug 21, 2011 11:30am

As a teacher, it took me a few years to respect studio members who choose to move at their own pace. At 1st I was wondering: 1. if I was failing to articulate the instructions clearly enough, 2. whether other studio members would all start doing their own thing resulting in complete anarchy 3. how will help this person while maintaining the flow for the rest of the class. When everyone is practicing asanas together, there is a beauty & grace that can emerge. And that's a seductive expectation. It takes some maturity/self-confidence to recognize that reality might NOT be interested in my expectations. And then be poised as a teacher to serve people where they are. Of course it helps when teachers have a strong itch to become extraordinary in their service. Not settle the ho-hum in themselves. Thanks 4 ur comment.

anonymous Aug 23, 2011 7:54am

So you base the entirety of your opinion on one class and one teacher? Try it again, or don't, but please don't act as if you know something about a practice based on this single experience. I have known some crappy Bikram teachers and some great Bikram teachers and I am certain the same is true in the Ashtanga world.

anonymous Oct 25, 2011 7:41am

Yeah but there are commonalities found in every Bikram class, from the metaphors they use, to their insistance you don't leave the room. There really isn't that much of a difference. You can tell they were all trained the same way and tend to stick to that way.

anonymous Nov 11, 2011 1:06pm

michelle thanks for the book recommendation. where do you teach? i am feeling overwhelmed with primary series and i long for an empowering teacher- i like your style 🙂 thanks for posting