Bikram Choudhury, The Man vs. The Monster


image from Bikram Yoga College of India

There is no doubt that Bikram Choudhury has had an impact on yoga in The Western World. If you are unfamiliar with Bikram, let me tell you more about him.

Mr. Choudhury came to The United States, as he claims, to heal President Nixon who suffered from phlebitis. Phlebitis is an inflammation of the veins, which can be deadly depending on which vein is inflamed. Instead of having surgery performed on his veins, President Nixon had Bikram come to The U.S.A. to treat his chronic illness. And, it worked. Within two weeks, he was almost completely healed- according to Bikram.

Once other famous people began to see the effects of Mr. Choudhury’s ability to heal using yoga, they became fans of him and would heal their chronic diseases too. Sportsmen like Kobe Bryant and singers like Madonna flocked to Bikram when they were physically or emotionally hurt.

Because of his success with celebrities, he decided to come up with a sequence that would heal most people of chronic diseases and ailments. He worked with Indian and Western doctors to record the scientific benefits of the different postures and, he ended up 2 breathing postures and 26 postures in-between the breath-work.

Thousands, of not millions, benefited from this sequence that was previously copyrighted so that no one else could financially benefit from teaching this sequence.

For almost thirty years, Bikram was thriving. Over 200 Bikram studios were opened across the world. He boasted that he was the richest yogi in the world. Which, was probably true. Bikram famously quoted, ‘I sell the truth’.

Then, in 2014, Vanity Fair wrote an article claiming that Mr. Choudhury was abusing his power to sexually manipulate and rape women. 3 years following that, Bikram was sentenced to imprisonment due to allegedly raping 6 women- including his former attorney, Ms. Jaffa-Bodden.

Suddenly, Bikram’s empire collapsed with him claiming bankruptcy and many studios changing their names from Bikram Studios to another name. Thus, studios no longer needing to pay him a monthly fee for franchise.

A former Bikram Studio owner in NYC says, ‘I don’t want to be associated with a man who has done such horrific things to women’.

Which, is completely valid. As Bikram Yoga practitioners, where is the line between appreciating him for what he brought to The Western World and recognizing what he has done to different women in The World?

What approach do we take towards people who have positively influenced us but committed crimes? Do we still value what they have brought to us? Or, do we shun them and hope that they find their way to a healthier mind by themselves?