Bikram Founder Back in Hot Seat.

Via Jennifer S. White
on Mar 23, 2013
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Bikram Choudhury (
Bikram Choudhury

The first piece of news I happened upon this morning was about the founder of “hot yoga,” Bikram Choudhury.

According to ABC news, Choudhury is being sued by a former student for “sex-based discrimination and sexual harassment.”

Choudhury is known by yoga enthusiasts, regardless of their yogic style preferences, for saying outrageously arrogant things, especially regarding his self-proclaimed magnetic sexuality.

“In an interview with ABC’s David Wright last fall, Choudhury said, ‘Women in the world love me, because I take care of women…But yogi is supposed to be yogi. They cannot involve with women.””

In an article for Yoga Journal, Choudhury calls all other yoga instructors of non-Bikram styles “clowns.” He goes on to say that “No one knows what the hell they are doing. There is no such thing as Kundalini Yoga. No such thing as Power Yoga. No such thing as Ashtanga Yoga.” He then claims that he alone teaches true Hatha Yoga and is the sole follower of Patanjali.

Just Google his name. The internet is filled with a plethora of examples of his douchebaggery. This guy couldn’t be more absurd, and while I have absolutely no idea if there’s anything real or criminal behind this recent lawsuit, it also doesn’t come as a shock—which I think says a lot.

Regardless of Choudhury’s controversial nature, people love when heroes are taken off their pedestals by the media. John Friend’s scandal rocked the yoga community because it made yogis own up to the reality that there can be—gasp!—human flaws that exist in yoga’s top authorities.

At the same time, Choudhury’s potential upcoming legal battle is even more ideal for us to grab onto and enjoy (watching) the ride, because he’s a rather unlikable character anyway, but while he might be personally difficult to stomach, his professional success is easily measured.

The above-mentioned Yoga Journal article begins by noting that Choudhury “makes no secret of his stable of Rolls Royces, his mansion and swimming pool, and his vaunted friendships with Hollywood stars.”

In short, he doesn’t try to hide the fact that he has no plans to not fully enjoy his monetary and name-branded success.

I guess some yogis could see this as admirable. (I’m looking at the Bikram yogis in the audience with questioning eyes, because I honestly can’t see many other takers.) Possibly it’s admirable to own up to luxurious enjoyment instead of being dishonest and pretending to be humble and practical only on the surface.

Still, to most serious practitioners, this goes against our yogic teachings. I don’t pretend here that I want to get heavily into this moral and ethical argument or discussion, but it is unavoidable when you merely mention the name “Bikram Choudhury” to a room of in-the-know yogis.

I think the bottom line is that, as I’ve mentioned before in my Pistorious article and now here in this one, the media promotes fallen hero stories for a reason: people like them, and this fallen (self-proclaimed) hero is not only no exception, he’s the golden (yoga media) ticket.

Why? Because the guy’s a douchebag. Sorry (Bikram lovers), but he is.

So there you have it. The latest breaking yoga news. Talk amongst yourselves, and think about keeping in mind that when you call yourself things like the “most respected living yoga guru in the world,” society is going to love to see that pillar topple.


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Ed: Brianna Bemel


About Jennifer S. White

Jennifer S. White is a voracious reader, obsessive writer, passionate yoga instructor and drinker of hoppy ales. She’s also a devoted mama and wife (a stay-at-home yogi). She considers herself to be one of the funniest people who ever lived and she’s also an identical twin. In addition to her work on elephant journal, Jennifer has over 40 articles published on the wellness website MindBodyGreen and her yoga-themed column Your Personal Yogi ran in the newspaper Toledo Free Press. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in geology, absolutely no degrees in anything related to literature, and she currently owns a wheel of cheese. If you want to learn more about Jennifer, make sure to check out her writing, as she’s finally put her tendencies to over-think and over-share to good use. Jennifer is the author of The Best Day of Your Life, available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. She's also as excited as a five year old to announce the release of her second book, The Art of Parenting: Love Letters from a Mother, available on Amazon.


59 Responses to “Bikram Founder Back in Hot Seat.”

  1. RAS says:

    Jared, if you have an "established practice" all you ever do is "start over from the beginning."

    If your practice is not established, deeply and firmly established, you find yourself following someone else's set pattern and not listening to your own body.

    Meditating on "power," being "beautiful, sexy even", and observing "the hard won results in the mirror" is only meditation if it leads you to insight that all of that is transitory, impermanent and not to be clung.

    Putting it another way, if your meditation on and around the body does not lead you to the insight that the body is not self, it isn't meditation.

    Best wishes for your practice. May it develop along all the eight limbs of yoga and not get get stuck at #3.

  2. RAS says:

    "not to be clung TO."

  3. Mr.Science says:

    I have no real quibble with you or your article. I was just pointing out an inconsistency in the editorial policies. This man may be worthy of disrespect, it seems so. Then I suppose it is fine to speak disrespectfully about that man, no problem there for me either.
    The problem is that the editorial policy clearly calls for ‘respect’ then applies that policy in a whimsical way.
    You as a writer can call people whatever you want to, I am not easily offended. My issue is with Elephant, since they will delete comments that call gun control people douchebags and ban the commenter immediately.
    I actually found your article interesting and informative, so to be clear, my beef(yum) is not with you.

  4. allison says:

    Why? Because the guy’s a douchebag. Sorry (Bikram lovers), but he is.

    thank you

  5. Jennifer White says:

    These are just a couple links to inappropriate examples of his behavior. You can easily do your own search if you want more or different sources.

  6. Jennifer White says:

    Thank you 🙂

  7. Natalie Baginski says:

    I appreciate this response. Going back to the yoga sutras or the Gita is a good way to regain focus during these kinds of discussions and debates. The core teachings of the Gita, are a great place to look when evaluating whether or not something is "yoga" in the original use of the term:

    -Yoga is establishing oneself in the Self (i.e, not small Self) and although one's level of consciousness is dependent upon the functioning of the physiology, any yoga that is focused on the body body body and not consciousness and level of awareness might be on a path not necessarily leading toward enlightenment, which is the goal of Yoga
    -Yoga is union, between silence and activity. How is one cultivating silence during "yoga" if one is hot, sweaty, out of breath and in a loud room while being yelled at? Subtle levels of awareness lead to the Self, not gasping for breath while being overstimulated. At least in the beginning…
    -"Knowledge is the greatest purifier" – Krishna wanted Arjuna to have knowledge of the Self, and one gains that by going inward. It seems Bikram yoga is a style that actually might pull the awareness outward rather than inward. Enlightenment is a dual functioning of the nervous system whereby the Self (silence) maintains its presence during activity (non-Self). I've done a lot of different types of yoga over the years and I've only gone inward to my Self during settling yoga classes. But that's just me…can't speak for anyone else.
    -"Be without the three Guna, Oh Arjuna!" – the body, senses, thoughts, intellect and ego are all a part of the world of the "three gunas" and so it's only when we leave that all behind, or transcend, or go within, that we are truly practicing yoga.

    So, for a person who teaches yoga to leave out these hugely important components of yoga taught in the Gita from the practice he is teaching, it leaves a big ole' gap. I am not personally invested or involed in any way because I practice at home and like I said, never done Bikram yoga, but it is kind of sad that people throw around the word yoga in a way that leaves out the most subtle and profound aspects of the original teachings from the vedic literature. My opinion is if Bikram yoga doesn't involve the knowledge of the vedas, at all, it's just an exercise class. And one that could aggravate certain ayurvedic imbalances and cause a lot of suffering. His personality aside, even if he was a nice guy, he's still leaving out a lot of knowledge in his system. It starts and ends with Samadhi.

  8. drlaurel says:

    I don't know, and I hate to judge, but I haven't seen many real yogis with cheesy "Vegas" portraits like that shown above and I find myself wondering how many people his car collection could feed. I, myself, feel guilty about my one car even when I have the funds to buy five. Sometimes we start out with good intentions and get sucked in to culture and sucked out of our true consciousness…

  9. @AhimsaYogi says:

    With every step we take, with every thing that we say, with every thought we give extra energy to, we walk either towards greater love, or greater hate. Towards greater connection or increased disconnection.
    Choose mindfully, and actively engage in the co-creation of your reality, and the shaping of your future.
    Regardless of what others are doing, what version of yourself are you building?