By Ed Staskus
There are 26 poses in the yoga practice as developed by the Lord of the Flies. There are 26 problems with the practice, notwithstanding Bikram Choudhury still looking super in a Speedo in his 60s.
1) Bikram Teacher Training Guide: “Do not wear green.”
According to Bikram Choudhury green is an unlucky color and is banned from all his studios. “Please try to avoid the color green. Don’t ask, just try.”
Problem: Green signifies rebirth and growth. The “Green Man” of pre-Christianity was a symbol of fertility. Among Muslims it is a holy color. In Ireland it is a lucky color. However, circus and traveling showmen in Australia do consider green to be bad luck.
2) “How many Rolls-Royce do I own? I don’t know. 35?” said Bikram Choudhury.
Bikram Choudhury owns many Rolls-Royces, Bentleys, and Howard Hughes’s Royal Daimler, as well, with a toilet in the back.
Problem: Non-indulgence and non-acquisitiveness, or Aparigraha.
3) Bikram Yoga classes are taught in Hot Rooms heated to 105 degrees and 40% humidity, reaching a heat index greater than 120.
Problem: The risk factor of moderate activity in a heat index in excess of 115 is considered by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to be “very high to extreme.”
A common reaction to one’s first Bikram Yoga class is, “Man, this might be a mistake, I don’t think I’m going to make it.”
4) “I am a product of Beverly Hills,” said Bikram Choudhury.
Problem: Bikram Choudhury is a product of Beverly Hills.
5) Bikram Choudhury often refers to his studios as “torture chambers.”
Problem: Torture is inflicting severe pain on someone as punishment or to force someone to do or say something. That has nothing to do with yoga. Neither does chewing glass, lying on nails, nor being buried alive, performances often given by 19th century yogi fakirs.
However, this does not obviate the torture many have felt in a Bikram Yoga class.
6) “They are all a bunch of clowns,” Bikram Choudhury told Yoga Journal, referring to other forms of yoga exercise, such as Kundalini and Ashtanga. “Nobody knows what the hell they are doing.” He claims to teach the only true and pure hatha yoga.
Everything else is “shit,” he explained on another occasion.
Problem: Honesty and truthfulness, or Satya, as well as non-harming in deed and word, or Ahimsa.
7) In a sworn legal deposition Bikram Choudhury claimed that Harvard University was constructing a “Bikram building in their campus.”
Problem: “We checked with our capital-projects group and can confirm no new building in the usual sense of the term is under construction funded by Mr. Choudhury or by a donation in his name,” said Kevin Galvin, spokesperson for Harvard University.
8) Bikram Choudhury professes that Eagle Pose is rejuvenating. “It is good for sex. Cootchi, cootchi. You can make love for hours and have seven orgasms when you are ninety.”
Problem: According to the Journal of Sexual Medicine yoga can improve some aspects of sexual function. Wide-angle seated forward bend and other hip-openers are cited; the Eagle Pose is not mentioned.
9) “I’m not dressed like a guru, am I? I dress like a gangster!” said Bikram Choudhury.
When he is wearing clothes Mr. Choudhury flashes in shiny white suits, diamond-studded wristwatches, crocodile shoes, gangster fedoras, and designer accessories.
Problem: Restraint, or Brachmacharya.
10) Bikram Choudhury has claimed that he and his yoga regimen are able to cure cancer and multiple sclerosis, among other serious medical conditions.
Problem: There are treatments for cancer and multiple sclerosis. There are no cures, yogic or otherwise.
11) For more than 10 years of contentious lawsuits Bikram Choudhury claimed copyright protection for his 26 yoga poses.
Problem: Bikram Yoga’s claims were overruled in 2012. The U. S Copyright Office said that sequences of yoga exercise are not the equivalent of a choreographed work.
Bikram Yoga is protected by trademark, not copyright.
Yogis worldwide were relieved to learn they could again touch their toes without fear of subpoena.
12) “I’m in show biz,” said Bikram Choudhury. “I entertain people.”
Problem: When did yoga become a Lady Gaga song and dance?
13) “A warm body is a flexible body,” says Bikram Yoga, explaining that heat softens muscle tissue. “Then you can reshape the body any way you want.”
Problem: About 5 minutes of cardiovascular work is sufficient to warm up muscles, according to Ben Ballinger of Athletic Performance. “The claim that Bikram Yoga allows for deeper stretching due to the heat is untrue.” Overstretching can even compromise joints and ligaments, causing instability and hypermobility.
14) “Did you pay to come here and listen to me?” said Bikram Choudhury “Wow! I am lucky. I go shopping tomorrow!”
Problem: Paying good money to listen to Bikram Choudhury so he can buy more Rolls-Royces.
15) Bikram Yoga offers up many testimonials of metabolisms made new and excess pounds shed. Warm muscles are said to burn fat more easily as the heat flushes and detoxifies the body. Fat will turn into muscle is the mantra.
Problem: According to the Health Status Calorie Counter power yoga burns 594 calories an hour. Bikram Yoga burns 477 calories an hour. Ballroom dancing burns about 250 calories an hour, while running a 10K in under an hour burns about 1000 calories.
“The benefits are largely perceptual,” said Dr. Cedric Bryant, chief science officer of the American Council on Exercise. “People think the degree of sweat is the quality of the workout, but that’s not reality. It doesn’t correlate to burning more calories.”
16) Bikram Choudhury’s home in Beverly Hills is an 8,000-square-foot mansion seemingly built entirely of marble, gold, and mirrors.
Problem: Non-indulgence and non-acquisitiveness, or Aparigraha
17) Bikram Yoga argues that exercising in a heated and humidified room strengthens the body, resulting in greater endurance, internal organ conditioning, and a stronger heart.
Problem: “The human body is designed to tolerate temperatures between 97 and 100 degrees,” said Fabio Comana, exercise physiologist with the American Council on Exercise. “It is not designed to go outside those numbers. Core temperatures can go up very quickly. Over 105 degrees you will start to damage protein.”
18) “An Iyengar class looks like a Santa Monica sex shop with all those props,” said Bikram Choudhury.
Problem: What was Bikram Choudhury doing in a Santa Monica sex shop sizing up the props?
19) Bikram Yoga proclaims itself the detox practice extraordinaire because it induces profuse sweating. “When you sweat, impurities are flushed out of the body through the skin.” Detoxification may be the most touted benefit of the practice, said to “cleanse and purify the system.”
Problem: “That’s silliness,” said Craig Crandall, director of the Thermoregulation Laboratory at the University of Texas Medical Center at Dallas. “I don’t know of any toxins that are released through sweat.”
The liver and kidneys filter toxins from the blood. Sweating too much and becoming dehydrated could stress the kidneys and actually keep them from doing their job.
20) “I should be the most honored man in your country,” said Bikram Choudhury.
Problem: Ahead of Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Helen Keller, Thomas Edison, Eleanor Roosevelt, Martin Luther King, Jr., William Sloane Coffin, and Edward Snowden, among many others, both men and women?
21) The heat and humidity of Bikram Yoga are often explained as replicating the heat and humidity of India, where Bikram Choudhury learned yoga.
Problem: In India yoga was and is traditionally practiced in the early morning to avoid the heat of the day.
22) Bikram Yoga says its practitioners derive aerobic benefits from the practice. “You can derive these benefits [i.e. aerobic] from practicing Bikram Yoga.”
Problem: In a study published in 2013 in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research one group of young adults practiced Bikram Yoga three times a week for eight weeks while another group did nothing. By the end of the study researchers found no differences in either group in terms of maximal aerobic fitness or cardiovascular measures.
23) Bikram Yoga studios are required to outfit their Hot Rooms with carpet flooring.
“Don’t throw up on the carpet,” said Bikram Choudhury. “It’s new.”
Problem: Carpets are nearly impossible to clean thoroughly, much less sanitize. Allergens are particularly adept at hiding among carpet fibers. Sweat-soaked carpets are breeding grounds for bacteria, fungus, and pathogens.
Vomit may be the least of anybody’s concerns in a Bikram Hot Room.
24) “Oxygen deprivation is a major cause of sciatica,” says Bikram Yoga, encouraging the use of breath to “break through the fear of pain.”
Problem: The causes of sciatica are varied, including degenerative disc disease, isthmic spondylolisthesis, lumbar spinal stenosis, piriformis syndrome, and sacroiliac joint dysfunction.
Oxygen deprivation is not one of the causes of sciatica, although it can be a cause of death.
25) “Because I have balls like atom bombs, two of them, 100 megatons each. Nobody fucks with me,” said Bikram Choudhury.
Problem: All eight limbs, or aspects, of yoga from the Yamas & Niyamas to Samadhi.
The yoga master confessed he only has two bomb balls, which is fortunate for everyone, not just the girls. The world’s nuclear arsenal is big enough.
26) “The whole Bikram class is one big brainwashing session,” said Bikram Choudhury.
Problem: No problem, as long as you believe applying systematic and forcible indoctrination is the best way to advance yoga.
Ed Staskus posts stories on 147 Stanley Street http://www.147stanleystreet.com and Cleveland Ohio Daybook http://www.clevelandohiodaybook.com. To get the site’s monthly feature in your in-box click on “Follow.”