Bikram Yoga

A controversial yoga style combining rigorous poses with intense heat

Religion: Hinduism
Founder: Bikram Choudhury
Founded: 1970s
Location: United States

Bikram Yoga, a unique form of hot yoga invented by Bikram Choudhury, has been a subject of both acclaim for its health benefits and controversy due to its founder’s legal and ethical issues. Originating in the early 1970s, Bikram Yoga is characterized by a series of 26 postures and two breathing techniques, performed over 90 minutes in a room heated to approximately 105°F with a humidity of 40%. This specific environment is believed to facilitate deeper stretching, detoxification through sweating, enhance flexibility, and improve circulation.

Bikram Yoga emphasizes the importance of performing the poses in a heated and humid environment, which is claimed to increase heart rate and provide a cardiovascular workout, akin to cardio exercises. This environment is also said to help in detoxifying the body and enhancing mental focus through the challenging conditions of heat and humidity​​​​.

Studies have highlighted potential benefits of Bikram Yoga, including improved lower body strength, range of joint motion, and balance, as well as possible improvements in glucose tolerance, bone density, and stress reduction. However, the intense conditions of Bikram Yoga can also pose risks, particularly for individuals with heart disease, dehydration issues, or heat intolerance. It’s essential for practitioners to stay hydrated and listen to their bodies, taking breaks when necessary to avoid overheating or dehydration. Pregnant individuals are also advised to avoid this type of hot yoga​​.

The practice has faced significant criticisms due to accusations against Bikram Choudhury of sexual harassment, assault, racism, and homophobia, leading to multiple lawsuits and his eventual departure from the United States. These accusations were detailed in a 2019 Netflix documentary, “Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator,” which explored both his rise to fame and the subsequent allegations against him​​.

In addition, this movement has also faced legal challenges, particularly regarding the copyright claims by its founder, Bikram Choudhury. Choudhury’s attempts to copyright the yoga sequence were eventually dismissed, clarifying that yoga poses could not be copyrighted in this manner. This decision allowed other studios to continue teaching the poses without facing legal action from Choudhury​​.

Despite the controversies surrounding its founder, Bikram Yoga continues to be practiced worldwide, with many adherents attesting to its physical and mental benefits.

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