Bikram seems to polarise people. I am often asked about my opinion of Bikram, and often I give my opinion even when I am not asked. Perhaps that is a characteristic of everyone with their own blog.
I generally try to follow the rule of reserving judgement for the sake of kindness, unless expressing your opinion can help others. And in this case, I think I can help protect others from injury/discomfort/inhaling other people’s B.O. for 90 minutes at a time.
I did a 10 day trial of Bikram in 2011. I did not like it for a number of reasons:
There was a colour-stained yoga mat that the staff had hung behind the reception desk, with a note that said something like: To whoever RUINED this mat: THANKS! Let this be a lesson to the rest of you to bring a towel to put on your mat! What a warm welcome to the dictatorship.
It was overly expensive.
Imagine the smell of a gym. Now imagine that, but carpeted, and heated to 40 degrees celsius, 3 or 4 times a day for 90 minutes, every day….I wonder when, if ever, these places are cleaned. It smelled like a hundred crotches. It took a good 60 minutes to get used to the stench each time I attended a class.
The cliquey vibe of the in-crowd that attends religiously.
The air of competitiveness.
They teach the exact same sequence, every single time.
The teacher stands on the stage and barks instructions at you, without performing the poses, or looking around the room or adjusting students to ensure safe alignment.
The teachers follow a script and must not deviate from the script, even to crack a smile for a moment.
They say things like “stretch further, further, until it hurts, you will get more benefit that way.” This is such dangerous and incorrect advice to give your Yoga students! If you overstretch, particularly in such a hot atmosphere where the synovial fluid of your joints is likely to thin and provide an exaggerated version of your own flexibility, you can easily cause injury to muscles/joints/nerves. And impatiently overstretching will not lengthen your muscles and help with long-term flexibility. It might instead loosen your joints, which may appear like you have improved your flexibility, but will only lead to injury and muscles that actually stiffen to overcompensate. If your body is sending you the message that you are in pain, then that is happening for a reason; and yoga is all about learning to listen to and heed the messages of your body, and not to ignore them.
I felt like vomiting or fainting most of the time.
You are required to stay inside the room the whole time, so you cannot leave to go to the toilet or quietly die outside the room.
Bikram Choudhury (pictured above), the elderly creator of Bikram, has been the defendant in a ridiculous number of sexual assault cases involving his female students. I don’t want to give my money to a sexist creep who owns some big soulless business masquerading as Yoga.
I don’t believe that you should practise Yoga in unnatural temperatures. Particularly if you are practising Pranayama (Yogic breathing techniques) where you inhale deeply into your diaphragm, you should not be inhaling stale, artificially heated air.
I think some twists on traditional Yoga can be interesting, such as Yoga with a ballet barre or Anti-Gravity Yoga in a hammock. However, many of the twists are unnecessary gimmicks. Why go to a “Dance-Yoga” class? I’d rather go to a dance class, or a Yoga class. Similarly, I’d rather go to mutually exclusive saunas and Yoga classes, rather than a marriage of the two. Yoga has been successfully practised for thousands of years. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!
To be fair, I did experience some moments of sheer, bewildering bliss that I attribute to endorphins and a quick change in blood pressure once the Bikram classes had finished, and I can understand why some people want to continue attending to keep experiencing this feeling. But for me, the one benefit is severely outweighed by Bikram’s many flaws.
N.B.: Bikram is different to other types of hot yoga, which can be safer and more similar to traditional Yoga.