By Allison Ashley
Bikram Choudhury once said, “If you follow my instruction and do my yoga postures sequence to the best of your ability, you will live a better, healthier and more peaceful life.” However, yoga instructors and students around the world are discovering that this quote is far from the truth.
Commonly known as “The Yoga From Hell,” Bikram yoga is spreading across the country, gaining millions of followers. This yoga is taught in a room kept at 105 degrees with 38 percent humidity and is said to strengthen both mind and body. The mystery surrounding the 26-posture series intrigues and draws people in until they are hooked.
Sonoma Academy Humanities teacher Marco Morrone can attest to this. “I go three times a week. It’s my religion,” he said.
Senior Sophie Zagerman attends classes for very different reasons. It is “good cross training for ballet, I like the way that it makes my body feel afterward,” she said. She believes that it has increased both her flexibility and strength, stating that “it pushes [you] past your limits and doing things that you didn’t know you could physically do.”
Choudhury, born in Calcutta, India, began training in yoga at the age of four and practiced for at least six hours every day. At the age of thirteen, he won the National India Yoga Championship. Choudhury opened his first yoga studio in Beverly Hills, Calif. in the early 1970s, and thus, the Bikram Yoga empire was born.
However, the Speedo-wearing, 67-year-old founder and multi-millionaire Bikram Choudhury is being accused of much more than creating an emotionally healing and relaxing type of exercise.
All of the claims were similar. Young female teachers paid thousands of dollars to attend one of Choudhury’s exclusive bi-yearly teacher trainings in Los Angeles in order to get their Bikram Yoga teaching licenses. Some considered Choudhury their “god” or “hero” and worshiped him and his teachings, making them feel a spiritual connection to him. He would use this to his advantage, proceeding to get them alone, leading to inappropriate conduct. In fear of losing their teacher certificates or wasting $11,000 on teacher trainings, many women did not step forward for years to tell their stories of being raped, sexually harassed or discriminated against by their so-called “hero.”
Senior Jenna Powell said, “I don’t like yoga being called ‘Yoga Hell’ because it’s really the opposite of everything that yoga stands for.”
But, his former female students filing the rape and sexual harassment lawsuits might beg to differ.