Bikram Yoga

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Bikram Yoga
FounderBikram Choudhury
Establishedlate 20th century
Practice emphases
Unchanging sequence of postures in a heated room, designed as a rejuvenating exercise to strengthen the entire body, from head to toe.

Bikram Yoga is a proprietary hot system of yoga as exercise that Bikram Choudhury synthesized from traditional hatha yoga techniques.[2] It became popular in the early 1970s.[3] All Bikram Yoga Beginning Series classes run for 90 minutes and consist of the same series of 26 postures, including two breathing exercises.[4]

Bikram Yoga is a hot yoga style, and is ideally practiced in a room heated to 35–42 °C (95–108 °F) with a humidity of 40%.[5] All official Bikram classes are taught by Bikram-certified teachers, who have completed nine weeks of training endorsed by Choudhury.[6] Bikram-certified teachers are taught a standardized dialogue to run the class, but are encouraged to develop their teaching skills the longer they teach. This results in varying deliveries and distinct teaching styles.[5]


Bikram Choudhury was born in Calcutta in 1944, Choudhury began practicing yoga at age four. He stated that he practiced yoga 4–6 hours every day. He asserts that at the age of thirteen he won the National India Yoga Championship and was undefeated for the following three years and retired as the undisputed All-India National Yoga Champion.[7]

Choudhury later devised the 26 postures sequence of Bikram Yoga and founded the Yoga College of India. He has also written books and sings.[8]

As of 2006, he had 1,650 yoga studios around the world.[9] In 2012, there were 330 studios in the United States and 600 worldwide.[10]

The 26 Asanas[edit]

The following are the 26 postures of Bikram Yoga, as it names them; some of the Sanskrit names differ from those used for the same or closely related poses in other schools of yoga.[11][12][13]

# Sanskrit English Image
1 प्राणायाम


Standing Deep Breathing (lit. Breath Extension)
2 अर्धचन्द्रासन with पादहस्तासन

Ardhacandrāsana with Pādahastāsana

Half Moon Pose with Hands To Feet Pose
3 उत्कटासन


Awkward Pose
4 गरुडासन


Eagle Pose
5 दण्डायमन जानुशीर्षासन

Daṇḍāyamana Jānuśīrṣāsana

Standing Head To Knee Pose
6 दण्डायमन धनुरासन

Daṇḍāyamana Dhanurāsana

Standing Bow Pose
7 तुलादण्डासन


Balancing Stick Pose
8 दण्डायमन विभक्तपाद पश्चिमोत्तानासन

Daṇḍāyamana Vibhaktapāda Paścimottānāsana

Standing Separate Leg Stretching Pose
9 त्रिकोणासन


Triangle Pose
10 दण्डायमन विभक्तपाद जानुशीर्षासन

Daṇḍāyamana Vibhaktapāda Jānuśīrṣāsana

Standing Separate Leg Head To Knee Pose
11 ताडासन


Tree Pose
12 पादाङ्गुष्ठासन


Toe Stand Pose
13 शवासन


Corpse Pose
14 पवनमुक्तासन


Wind Relieving Pose
15 पादहस्तासन


16 भुजङ्गासन


Cobra Pose
17 शलभासन


Locust Pose
18 पूर्णशलभासन


Full Locust Pose
19 धनुरासन


Bow Pose
20 सुप्तवज्रासन


Reclining Thunderbolt Pose
21 अर्धकूर्मासन


Half Tortoise Pose
22 उष्ट्रासन


Camel Pose
23 शसांगासना


Rabbit Pose
24 जानुशीर्षासन with पश्चिमोत्तानासन

Jānuśīrṣāsana with Paścimottānāsana

Head To Knee Pose with Back Stretching Pose
25 अर्धमत्स्येन्द्रासन

Ardha Matsyendrāsana

Half Lord of the Fishes Pose
26 कपालभाति


A shatkarma in Hatha yoga, its name meaning "Skull polishing"

Health effects[edit]

A 2013 review of yoga-related adverse events included Bikram Yoga. Of 76 previously reported adverse events, Pranayama (yoga breathing) was the most commonly cited yoga style (4 cases), followed by "Hatha" (3 cases) and Bikram (3 cases). The most common posture which led to adverse events was headstand (Sirsasana), which is not practiced in Bikram Yoga. The three case reports involving Bikram yoga included one case of Rosacea, one psychotic episode, and one case of hyponatremia (low salt levels).[14]



One controversial component of Bikram Yoga is its involvement in Yoga Asana Championships.[15] There are second-hand reports that yoga competitions have been around for over a century in India, where yoga originated.[16] Yoga Sports Federation (founded by Bikrams ex-wife Rajashree Choudhury) which hosted The 9th Annual Bishnu Charan Ghosh Cup in June 2012 says that yoga competitions inspire both practicing yogis and newcomers to sharpen their skills. Another aim of the Federation is to turn Yoga Asana into a recognized Olympic sport.[17]

Copyright claims on Bikram Yoga[edit]

Choudhury claimed, starting in 2011, that Bikram Yoga was under copyright and that it could not be taught or presented by anyone whom he had not authorized. In that year, Choudhury started a lawsuit against Yoga to the People, a competing yoga studio founded by a former student of Choudhury's and with a location near one of the Bikram Yoga studios in New York, and later started another against the Florida-based Evolation Yoga. Choudhury lost at first instance in both cases and appealed the decision, but the Court of Appeal ultimately dismissed his copyright claim over yoga poses in Bikram Yoga.[18][19]

As a result of that lawsuit, the United States Copyright Office issued a clarification that yoga postures (asanas) could not be copyrighted in the way claimed by Choudhury, and that Yoga to the People and others could continue to freely teach these exercises.[20][21]

Sexual assault[edit]

Two lawsuits accusing Choudhury of rape were filed in May 2013, in which a Jane Doe also alleges sexual battery, false imprisonment, discrimination, harassment, and other counts in a cult-like atmosphere.[22][23] In other lawsuits, Minakshi "Micki"Jafa-Bodden, Head of Legal and International Affairs from Spring 2011 to March 13, 2013 when she claims she was "abruptly and unlawfully terminated", claims she was victim and witness to Choudhury's "severe, ongoing, pervasive and offensive conduct" to women and minorities.[24] Bikram teacher Sarah Baughn and two unnamed women filed sexual harassment suits accusing Choudhury of sexual harassment, intimidation and rape in 2013.[25] In a 2015 CNN interview with Baughn, Bikram spoke out for the first time denying the allegations. Bikram stated "I have no intention to have sex with any of my students or any women... Sometimes students, they commit suicide. Lots of students of mine, they commit suicide because I will not have sex with them".[26] In 2015, the accusations raised larger questions in the yoga community, including an article by the Washington Post "asking whether it's wise to put so much faith in a guru".[27] In 2016 HBO's Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel aired an interview with Choudhury and three women who accused him of raping them.[28][29] In 2017, the Los Angeles County Court awarded $7 million to Choudhury's former lawyer, Minakshi Jafa-Bodden. Subsequently Bikram fled to India without paying this judgement, and gave control of his yoga business to Jafa-Bodden.[30][31]

In 2019, Netflix released a documentary film, directed by Eva Orner, called Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator on Choudhury's life, work, and behaviour. Film critic Adrian Horton writes that it "visually synthesizes decades of archival footage with first-person testimony and filmed court depositions into a devastating portrait of an abusive narcissist protected from consequences by his own inflated cult of personality, wealth and professional power within the niche world of hot yoga."[32]


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  2. ^ "Bikram's Yoga College of India". Retrieved 2011-12-28.
  3. ^ Farrell, Maureen (September 3, 2009). "Bikram Yoga's New Twists".
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  5. ^ a b "Bikram Yoga Basic".
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  14. ^ Cramer, H.; Krucoff, C.; Dobos, G. (16 October 2013). "Adverse events associated with yoga: a systematic review of published case reports and case series". PLoS ONE. 8 (10): e75515. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0075515. PMC 3797727. PMID 24146758.
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  16. ^ Beck, Sara (11 June 2012). "Yoga Is Not Just Posing as Sport at World Event". The New York Times.
  17. ^ "The 9th Annual Bishnu Charan Ghosh Cup". Bishnu Charan Ghosh Cup.
  18. ^ Dolan, Maura. "Downward dog duplication? Relax, yoga poses can't be copyrighted, court rules". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2018-10-11.
  19. ^ "Court Says Bikram Choudhury Can't Copyright His Yoga Poses". Time. Retrieved 2018-10-11.
  20. ^ Copyright Registration of Choreography and Pantomime (Circular 52) (PDF). United States Copyright Office. September 2017.
  21. ^ Friedman, Jennifer D'Angelo (5 April 2017) [16 October 2015]. "What the Bikram Copyright Rejection Means for Yoga". Yoga Journal.
  22. ^ Yoga Journal "Rape Accusations Against Bikram Choudury" Archived 2013-06-08 at the Wayback Machine
  23. ^ The Raw Story "Millionaire Yoga Guru Bikram Choudhury Accused of Rape and Human Trafficking"
  24. ^ Yoga Dork "Former Bikram Legal Advisor Files Extremely Disturbing Lawsuit over Sexual Harassment, Discrimination, Assault"
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  32. ^ Horton, Adrian (20 November 2019). "'He got away with it': how the founder of Bikram yoga built an empire on abuse". The Guardian.