Bikram Choudhury is no stranger to controversy. Founder of Bikram Yoga, the 26-posture sequence that is performed in an environment of at least 105 degrees, Choudhury has been involved in several copyright infringement lawsuits and sexual harassment complaints. In a discipline that for thousands of years has embraced the wide sharing of knowledge, Choudhury’s attempt to claim ownership over yoga poses has been controversial even in the world of American yoga which is admittedly more material in nature than in its native India. Choudhury first came to the US at the request of President Nixon in 1973, a very auspicious beginning to his career here. The fact that so many adherents have achieved positive results is an admirable thing. But over the past years his behavior has become more and more bizarre. Developing a healthy ego is an important aspect to personal development. However, Bikram Choudhury, comparing himself to Jesus Christ and the Buddha, shamelessly exhibit the ego identification in a field that is designed to help its students transcend the shackles of ego identification. Asmita is the Sanskrit word that translates as “I-amness” and is said to be one of the five kleshas, or hindrances, to a practice of yoga (defined by Patanjali as the “stilling of the changing states of the mind.” I report these things to illustrate how far Choudhury has strayed from the principles of true yoga, using these examples:
- He owns a fleet of more than 40 Rolls Royces and Bentleys and a million dollar watch.
- He violates most ethical standards by admitting to sex with his students.
- He claims to dominate 98% of yoga in the world.
- He is prone to statements like “Every top doctor […]