Bikram Yoga

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Bikram Yoga

Photo Courtesy of Bikram Yoga of Santa Rosa

Photo Courtesy of Bikram Yoga of Santa Rosa

Photo Courtesy of Bikram Yoga of Santa Rosa

Students at Bikram Yoga of Santa Rosa practice "Awkward Pose" in over 100 degree heat.

Houston Smothermon, Co-Editor-in-Chief

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Bikram Choudhury is the yoga guru from India who famously started Bikram Yoga, a series of 26 postures and two breathing exercises practiced in 105-degree heat.

Born in Calcutta, India, Choudhury started practicing yoga at age 3. In his teens, he won the National India Yoga Championship three years in a row, but a weight lifting accident crippled Choudhury at age 20. Doctors told him that he would never walk again, but with the help of his guru, Bishnu Ghosh, he claims to have made a full recovery in 6 months.

In the 1970s, Choudhury migrated to the United States and started opening yoga studios in California and Hawaii.

Now a multi-millionaire, Choudhury has a reputation for using the proceeds from his yoga business to fuel his flagrant materialism. “We were talking about yoga, and he started telling us how he has the biggest pool in LA,” said Don Santana, a student at Santa Rosa Bikram Yoga in the locker room after class. “That’s just his style.”

By the 1990s he was offering a nine-week teacher training course and now the number of certified instructors is in the thousands.

Choudhury’s teacher training course has a reputation for being physically, mentally and emotionally challenging. Students take two 90-minute classes each day as well as many hours of lecture on physiology, body mechanics and philosophy.

“It was definitely challenging at a level I didn’t expect,” said Rebecca Pennington, former SRJC student and owner of Bikram Yoga of Santa Rosa. “They do certain things like sleep deprivation, and never giving you free time or time to yourself that really break you down.”

Bikram’s wife, Rajashree tells students at the beginning of the course that everyone gets to a point in their flexibility that triggers an emotional release. Pennington says she was skeptical at first, but about half way through she hit that point. “It released something emotional for me that had been tucked away in my body somewhere. It was a good thing,” Pennington said.

Despite his controversial style, Choudhury is considered to be one of the great contemporary yoga gurus. “He definitely knows how to push people,” Pennington said. “He can spot a slacker in a group of 400 people.”

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