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2002-11-10 23:58:51+00 by Dan Lyke 25 comments

This one's for Eric: McYoga for the masses is a quick blurb on the current yoga craze, focusing on the Bikram's Yoga College of India plan to create yoga studio franchises.

[ related topics: Education ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment made: 2002-11-11 02:38:46+00 by: Diane Reese

Yeah, OK, so people will make fun of some of the weird aspects of it, and I'm not sure about the franchise aspect of it all... but Bikram's Yoga got me back into yoga and into shape and connecting with my life force and feeling good about myself again for the first time in over 15 years. I am grateful for it, it is a fantastic workout, it feels great, it provides me with inner peace, and I would not go a week without it at least once, unless I were away from a studio that offers it. I've tried other yoga styles in the past (I suppose there is some official name for "styles": sorry, I don't know what it is), but none of them grabbed me by the gut and said, "Here. This is where you belong. You thrive on this, and improve through it, and want to continue it," the way Bikram's has.

For me, it has been a major life change, and I have no hesitation in recommending it. Doesn't matter to me what kind of oddball Bikram Choudhury is (and from what I've read and heard, he's pretty strange). All I know is that his yoga is essential to my well being these days, and I'm thankful I found it. I hope you're all able to find something that is equally positive for you.

#Comment made: 2002-11-11 06:16:20+00 by: Shawn

I've tried various forms of martial arts, having stayed the longest - because I enjoyed it the most - in a very Americanized school, but what I've wanted to get into for the past several years is Tai Chi. Unfortunately, I've never had the money when I've had the time, and visa versa. (Books and tapes don't do it for me. As with most things, I need to have a scheduled class/session that I attend regularly.)

I'm not much for spiritualness (at least not as expressed by others that I've come in contact with) or life essence-type stuff, and that's kept me from being comfortable in a few dojos. I enjoy focusing on bodily movement (much like dance) as an alternative to my standard routine.

I don't know much about Yoga, but I've always gotten the impression that it's more about quiet contemplation and meditation. Is that a fair assessment?

#Comment made: 2002-11-11 12:33:54+00 by: meuon

Shawn, I think it's more of concentrating on what you are doing, posture, breathing, muscle control. I got interested in Yoga this summer and have picked it for a 'winter activity'. So I bought a book and have been reading it and some on the web. I've tried the basics, they LOOK easy. Eric and a little experimentation has convinced me to find a class first.

#Comment made: 2002-11-11 13:25:15+00 by: ebradway

Diane, I practice Ashtanga. Like Bikram, we do the same series of asanas each practice (but a different series from the Bikram (tm) Series). Ashtanga generally involves some heat, but not to the same degree (grin) as Bikram. We try to generate most of the heat internally through Ujayyi Panayama and maintaining Bandhas throughout the practice (I've learned to generate enough heat to start sweating even when sitting still in a cold room). Bikram's concept of a heated practice is great but I despise the degree he takes his capitalism to. A recent Business 2.0 article detailed alot of his practices including some rather interesting quotes from Sri Bikram concerning his sex live:

"Because I have balls like atom bombs, two of them, 100 megatons each. Nobody fucks with me."

#Comment made: 2002-11-11 15:28:42+00 by: Diane Reese

Sigh. Thanks for the pointer, Eric, it just confirms other things I've read. It's too bad Bikram is such a capitalist jerk, since I've gotten so much out of the practice with his name attached. I've thought of trying other schools of yoga, but I was kind of superstitious, y'know? Like, if it ain't broke, don't fix it? Perhaps if Bikram succeeds in messing up something good, I'll try a different practice. Thanks for the overview of Ashtanga, it's best to hear these things from those who practice, rather than reading a generic description somewhere.

#Comment made: 2002-11-11 18:22:58+00 by: Larry Burton

Folks, I know nothing about yoga but I fail to see how someone doing something that helps people and getting rich from doing so is bad. What am I missing?

#Comment made: 2002-11-11 18:54:42+00 by: Diane Reese

My worry, Larry, would be that if Bikram gets overly bureaucratic about who can teach using his methods and in what studios, some studios may be forced to stop offering their Bikram classes, and teachers like mine, who studied under Bikram but did not complete formal certification, may be forced to stop teaching. I have no problem with him getting rich; I am concerned that in his effort to do so, he may remove my opportunity to continue my practice.

#Comment made: 2002-11-12 00:01:42+00 by: phoffman

Diane, if that happened, your teacher could call it "heat yoga" or "sweat yoga" or some such thing. This same "issue" has come up around ayurveda (ancient Indian medical practice), and after a year or two of puffery, settled down and the good stuff is spreading just fine.

#Comment made: 2002-11-12 05:05:35+00 by: Shawn

meuon; But my confusion comes from the fact that I don't understand what the doing is.

#Comment made: 2002-11-12 12:27:17+00 by: meuon

Until I do more.. It's up for Eric or Diane to answer the about the "doing"

#Comment made: 2002-11-12 18:23:30+00 by: Dan Lyke

Is anyone else having the "huh, in italics 'doing' looks a lot like 'boing', as in the sound something makes when it bounces" problem?

#Comment made: 2002-11-12 18:43:16+00 by: ebradway

The issues with Bikram is that he is registering trademarks (and probably pursuing patents) surrounding his style of yoga. Already, he chrages money for 'franchising' the Birkam name. Whereas other styles, Ashtanga, Iyengar, Kripalu, etc. don't charge for use of the name - it's more a matter of ethics - you don't call your studio an Ashtanga studio unless you are really doing Ashtanga. Iyengar, because it's tied to B.K.S. Iyengar's name, has the tightest restrictions and requirements.

Bikram's style is also very specific. The room is heated to a specific temperature (I believe 106 degrees) and you are guided through a series of asanas (26? postures) in a very specific order - usually by a recording of Bikram himself. Class prices, I believe, are also fixed by Bikram.

One of the 'issues' with Bikram being a profit-monger is that yoga comes from a tradition of asceticism. As a yoga practitioner, you aren't necessarily expected to denounce materialism, but there is an expectation that advanced levels of practice tend to coincide with less material desire. Significant material desire brings into question the sincerity and validity of the yogi's practice.

Diane: I highly suggest trying other styles. I haven't had a chance to try Bikram yet, but I've tried most other styles. I'd suggest either Ashtanga or Anusura. Asthanga can be very intense because of the potential effort involved but becomes very addictive. Another reason to try other styles is that Bikram's style is almost impossible to practice on your own.

#Comment made: 2002-11-12 19:45:52+00 by: Larry Burton

I can see Bikram stopping a studio from using his name but I don't think it is possible to prevent someone from keeping their studio at a specific temperature or tell people they can't pose a specific way. The marketing aspect is the only thing I can see Bikram controlling with his franchise.

#Comment made: 2002-11-12 20:20:12+00 by: Diane Reese

Eric, some facts on Bikram's yoga: There is a recommended temperature for the room (105 degrees, 60% humidity), but most studios don't come anywhere near it. (Ours is usually in the low 90s, for instance. Not ideal.) There are indeed 26 asanas, in the same order, each done twice in the sequence before moving to the next. The class fees at all the studios around here are whatever each studio charges for drop-in classes: there is no specific fee required. I have never heard Bikram's voice: my instructor leads the group, and is a fantastic guide. She also leads (by example) a "silent Bikram" class on Fri. nights; after I finish my novel this month, I'm going to go try that one. Should be conducive to inner focus. (OH no wait, I DID hear his voice, on the "pregnancy series" video that I borrowed to practice some substitute asanas for the belly-down poses during the first few weeks my navel piercing was healing! Sorry.) I have practiced the Bikram series on my own at home and with my younger son, but we don't heat the room first, so it's not quite the same. And the energy created by a room full of practitioners gives the practice a different quality altogether.

meuon, do you still want to know what "boing" involves? (Damn, Dan, now I can't write "doing" without pronouncing it wrong! :-)

#Comment made: 2002-11-12 22:05:56+00 by: ebradway

Only in the 90s? In a good Ashtanga studio the temperature gets above 90 from body heat alone! I guess Bikram doesn't have controls as tight as he has seemed to imply - with unled classes (what is commonly referred to as 'Mysore' in Ashtanga) and substitutions of asanas.

Larry: Bikram can stop you from using specific temperatures and asana sequences in the same way a song writer can stop you from playing his music. But it goes much farther than just marketting a name. Implicit in Bikram's statements is that his style is 'right' and the other styles are 'wrong'.

#Comment made: 2002-11-12 22:24:47+00 by: Dan Lyke

Larry, depending on how Bikram manages to manipulate the patent system, there's all sorts of hell he could play. Prior art hasn't stopped people from patenting the same thing three times, and if you're looking at a well funded franchise operation versus one ascetic yoga teacher at a time, nobody's ever going to come up with the million or million and a half bucks it takes to overturn a USPTO mistake.

#Comment made: 2002-11-13 02:21:24+00 by: Larry Burton

I don't see how that can work when one is teaching something as subjective as yoga as long as there is no claim that "Bikram"® yoga is being taught. Also, on the website a sort of permission is given. From http://www.bikramyoga.com/sqa/certified.htm :

Anyone can claim they teach "Bikram Yoga," but unless there is a Certified Instructor supervising how and what is taught at that studio, you are not getting true Bikram Method Yoga.

At least that's my take on it. :-) Seriously, though, is there any precident of anything like this being patented before? Someone being prevented from teaching a folk art because of a patent? To me this would be akin to trying to patent a smile. Hmmmm...

#Comment made: 2002-11-13 17:20:05+00 by: Shawn

meuon, do you still want to know what "boing" involves?

I don't think meuon was so much concerned with the answer, but I was. You guys are talking about posture and such - which matches my mental image of Yoga - and why I don't think it would be my thing. I need to be moving - doing something. Staying in one position only serves to frustrate and bore me.

#Comment made: 2002-11-14 00:21:23+00 by: meuon

Shawn , Yes, and it's on this weeks list to check into one of the Yoga schools. As for moving and doing something: Crank the music and dance. That's fun as well.

#Comment made: 2002-11-14 15:03:43+00 by: ebradway

Shawn, check out an Ashtanga class or if you're really into moving, look for a Viniyoga class. In Ashtanga, we hold postures for five breaths - barely enough time to get into the posture and find the depth. We do vinyasas between each posture. It's also surprising how quickly your body starts changing - unlike other activities where the changes are either too subtle or even negative (in the case of Ultimate Frisbee, I was always terribly sore after playing).

And another side note, Yoga actually refers to a system of eight types of practice. What we tend to think of as yoga is actually called asana practice. There's also chanting, breathing (pranayama), meditation, and four others that are much more subtle.

#Comment made: 2002-11-14 17:01:11+00 by: Shawn

Shawn, check out an Ashtanga class or if you're really into moving

I'm not sure that I'm into yoga (of any kind) at all. But this would be one of the big issues if I was considering it. I was just curious. There are lots of other things I already enjoy doing that involve moving; biking, dancing, martial arts - heck I've even been finding simply walking from class to class at school to be envigorating. And I kinda like the soreness that comes from physical exertion ;-)

#Comment made: 2002-11-14 17:25:13+00 by: Diane Reese

Shawn, it was surprising to me that even doing 52 asanas over the course of 90 minutes could result in the same kind of soreness that comes from physical exertion, but it can. For me anyway. As we used to say on misc.kids, YMMV.

#Comment made: 2003-06-15 19:03:11.521047+00 by: Tom Thumb [edit history]

I'm hoping to open a Bikram studio in the near future. Does anyone know how restrictive and expensive Bikram Yoga's upcoming franchise agreement is going to be? E.g. will he be: a) determining what prices studio owners can set? b) restrictive in our ability to market our own schools? c) greedy in setting the franchise and upfront fees? d) doing anything that is not standard in typical franchise agreements? d) heavy handed in any other way?


#Comment made: 2003-06-15 19:03:55.676673+00 by: Tom Thumb [edit history]

Regarding my previous comment, any general input regarding how you as a studio owner find the experience of dealing with the Bikram organization would also be welcome. Thanks.

#Comment made: 2003-06-16 03:17:22.063872+00 by: ebradway

Hey Tom,

This isn't the best forum for your questions - and I'm not sure what would be. I know plenty of folks who own yoga studios, but no Bikram. Good luck!