Bikram Yoga Cult – Yoga Nazi

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A buddy calls me up and tells me that he’s been doing “Bikram Yoga” as of late.  He raves about what a great workout it is and that I ought to try it.  Now, you have to understand that I am up for any sort of physical fitness.  I’ll pretty much try any physical activity or sport even if I am a complete beginner at it, and Bikram was on the list of things to try.  I’d done Yoga before here and there in normal commercial gyms, but never this “Bikram” thing.  What’s the difference? Bikram Yoga is done in a room that’s heated to 105 degrees Fahrenheit [40 Celsius] with 40% humidity.  This was to be done at the International Headquarters here in Los Angeles.

  • Enter the Yoga-Nazi.  (Insert cheesy old Kung Fu movie soundtrack right here, including cow bell.)

Skinny Asian dude who probably weighed 140 pounds soaking wet, who couldn’t seem to stop condescending and berating people in the class.  He seems to actually enjoy putting the students down, most likely, because it gave him the illusion of power.  What he does not seem to enjoy is actually helping anybody become any better at what they’re doing. (And yes, Yoga-Nazi is a Seinfeld inspired reference.)

Forget walking over to someone to show how a particular pose is to be performed correctly!  This guy does not even strike a pose himself.  He talks a mile a minute but he refuses to show how anything is done. It becomes a case of the blind leading the blind.  We’re left to look at our neighbors to see what we are supposed to be doing.

You figure the dude is lazy and doesn’t really want to do the work himself, but it doesn’t stop there.  He goes on tirades of condescension and ridicule. In his thick accents, he starts yelling at various people, “You’re not listening to me! Your problem is you don’t listen! I know you have nice muscles but you need to listen to what I say…… You did the first part right, but the second part is completely wrong.  You are not here to do your own thing.  You need to listen better.”

He targets me a couple of times with his rants, and it takes every bit of restraint I have to not yell back at him, “Stop yelling you condescending little prick.”  I decide to be tactful, and go the “Borat” route, by saying in a very thick accent, “Don’t speak English!” He assures me that it’s OK and that we are here to speak the “Language of The human body.”   That, and I still need to listen better.  Of course!  Let’s not forget our listening skills.  I think about giving him the one-finger salute to show language of the human body, but at that particular moment, I’m having enough trouble holding back my laughter.

So I stick the whole 90 Minutes out. I don’t have to leave the room, nor I do feel like I’ve had the workout of my life.  I do the program that’s sold as the holy grail of Yoga, and spoken by such fondness by its performers that you’d think it’d be equal to Edison’s discovery of Electricity.

As far as the Fitness/Health aspect of the workout is concerned, it wasn’t anything to write home about.  It’s fucking hot man.  ANYTHING you do in 105 degrees Fahrenheit (40 Celsius) is going to make you start sweating like a whore in church.  Blowing a heavy fart may be taxing in such heat and humidity.  Now, imagine jogging, or playing a any sport in that heat.  Hence, doing an activity in such a heat is going to be tough but it doesn’t quite live up to expectations.

I definitely did not receive as good of a stretch with “Bikram Yoga” as I had with the “Normal Yoga.”  Flexibility is my main concern, and in normal Yoga, there are more in depth poses held for longer periods of time.  Bikram’s Sauna-Yoga rushes you through everything in order to get your heart rate up in that heated furnace of a room.

I think my disappointment came from the fact that it didn’t come close to the expectations people put on it.  “Amazing” and “Incredible” were words people throw out upon describing Bikram’s Sauan-yoga.  It’s another workout and you sweat your ass off, because it’s friggin’ hot! When you’re on the verge of heat exhaustion, you’re going to feel slightly drained, it’s safe to say.

I am sure someday someone is going to read this post and say, “Hey, I’ve been doing this Hot Yoga, and I’ve received good benefits from it.”  Any form of Yoga is going to have benefits to it.  I’d challenge that had you been doing the normal Yoga, you’d have received EVEN MORE benefits.  Nevertheless, the people who do this are fanatical sometimes.  Telling them that their precious Bikram version of Yoga is more of a gimmick than a scientific invention is tantamount to telling a fanatical Christian or Muslim you don’t believe in their God/religion.

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Now, I am fascinated by this Bikram Yoga and where it came from.  Why do people rave about and how was the cult created?  Yoga  has been done for reportedly 1000s of years, in order to promote health and longevity.  It’s supposed to be about creating inner-peace, tranquility of the mind, and freedom of movement in the human body.

How did that become a fascist activity that creates a cult following in America in the past 15 years?  One that people treat like a religion of sorts and become defensive about?  What sort of a moron comes back to the fascist training at this facility?  Being fascinated with SOCIAL Psychology of human beings, I decide to start reading more about Bikram Yoga online. The story seems familiar from various account.

Bikram Choudhury, born in Calcutta India comes to the United States and decides to make lots of money off of Yoga.  Can’t fault anyone for wanting to make money through their trade.  However, this guy seemingly starts going the sleazy route trying to aggressively copyright and trademark his Sauna-Yoga.    While there are 100s (or 1000s) of various Yoga poses that have been around for millennia, Bikram Chode arbitrarily takes 26 particular poses and labels those as part of his specific regimen.  He wants to patent the idea of doing those 26 poses of Yoga in a 105 degree heat as something that can exclusively be done under his umbrella.

Egomaniac Posing as Jesus

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Those of you who live in Arizona during the summer are all fucked!  Doing Yoga in a park will probably land you a fine from Bikram Chode. I realize Wikipedia is not the best source of info, but apparently the excerpt below is common knowledge:

Bikram has aggressively enforced claims of copyright and trademark protection, most notably claiming that the sequence of asanas in Bikram’s Beginning Yoga Class falls under his copyright. His cease-and-desist letters and lawsuits (see the U.S. case Open Source Yoga Unity v. Bikram Choudhury, for example) have drawn protest from some North American yoga practitioners. In addition, his claims have incited numerous Indian historians and scientists to catalogue various yoga poses documented in ancient texts, with the intention of demonstrating that yoga poses vastly predate new copyrights.

It’s one of those moments that makes you wonder, why didn’t I think of that? I am going to have a new jogging method where you jog in 110 degree heat.  I’ll call it the Cameron Jog.” In fact, I am going to invent the Cameron-Squats and Deadlifts.  How is it done?  You guessed it: 110 degree heat.

Why not even take this one step further. I am going to patent and copyright sex in heat!  (No pun intended.)   From now on, if you engage in sexual activity when it’s over a 100 degrees, you’re engaging in Cameron-sex. All you fuckers owe me money if you ever have sex in hot temperatures.

All quips aside, I am intrigued by the level of the consumer’s dim and robotic behavior.  Correct me if it sounds familiar:  A guy comes up with a new revolutionary idea in fitness  (get 6pack abs in 5 minutes a day, lose 30 pounds of fat in 30 days, do Yoga in a Sauna) and people flock because it sounds like it’s cutting edge.   And let’s be honest: We Americans are the worst at this.  We are the biggest consumer nation and the most susceptible people to charlatanism and approaches that use gimmicks based on faulty information and assumptions.

It never ceases to amaze me how people can fall for certain gimmicks and keep coming back for more.  I suppose it’s no different that trying to use NLP, memorizing a bunch of patterns in order to attract girls to you, or try to use some super routine stack that’s going to solve all of your issues.  Yet, it’s still shocks me.   I shall do Bikram Yoga 1 more time at this facility with a civil teacher just to get the idea for both sides, but paying $20 to do Yoga in a Sauna while someone berates you smells more of a cult than it does of a peaceful activity designed to induce inner harmony and better health.  Not to mention that this guy has made McDonald’s out of Yoga, and to stay true, he’s made sure his quality of service is on par with the nutrition of the food at McDonald’s.

If you enjoy doing Yoga in a 105 degree heat, go for it.  Try to do it in a manner that doesn’t put money in the pockets of a charlatan.  As for me, I am giving it one more try with a more pleasant teacher to give it a balance perspective.  It’s hard to justify paying $20 for a class of Yoga when I can get a BETTER normal version for free at the local gym, or perhaps pay that money to a local small time teacher who teaches people at the local park.

I’d feel much better supporting a local teacher who does it out of passion instead of a jerkoff who claims to promote supreme spirituality while showing off his 20,000 dollar Rolexes.  And I don’t have issues with the Rolex.  If you’re a prick, be a prick, but then don’t site Spirituality as the source of your drive.  That’s just fodder for comedy.  Yet, the comedy aside, it’s devout religious fanatical following speaks sadly about our society.  If you have never done Yoga, it’s probably a good idea to try it but make sure the Sauna-Yoga isn’t your first experience.

I found a fantastic article by a report on Bikram Yoga and his schemes if this story has somewhat peaked your curiosity.

http://featuresblogs.chicagotribune.com/features_julieshealthclub/2008/08/bikram-the-mcdo.html