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Bikram Yoga

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Bikram Yoga

Bikram Yoga
Founder Bikram Choudhury
Established late 20th century
Practice emphases
Unchanging sequence of postures in a heated room, designed as a rejuvenating exercise to strengthen the entire body, from head to toe.

Bikram Yoga is a system of yoga that Bikram Choudhury synthesized from traditional hatha yoga techniques[1] and popularized beginning in the early 1970s.[2][3] All Bikram Yoga classes run for 90 minutes and consist of the same series of 26 postures, including two breathing exercises.[4] Bikram Yoga is ideally practiced in a room heated to 40 °C (104 °F) with a humidity of 40%.[5] All official Bikram classes are taught by Bikram certified teachers, who have completed nine weeks of training endorsed by Bikram.[6] Bikram certified teachers are taught a standardized dialogue to run the class, but are encouraged to develop their teaching skills the longer they teach. This results in varying deliveries and distinct teaching styles.[5]

Bikram Choudhury

Bikram Choudhury, founder of the Bikram Yoga system, is also the founder of the Yoga College of India. Born in Calcutta in 1946, Bikram began practicing yoga at age four. He practiced yoga 4–6 hours every day. At the age of thirteen, he won the National India Yoga Championship. He was undefeated for the following three years and retired as the undisputed All-India National Yoga Champion. Bikram later devised the 26 postures sequence and founded Bikram’s Yoga College of India. He has also written books and sings.[7]

As of 2006, he had 1,650 yoga studios around the world.[8]

Health Benefits

The health benefits of the additional heat are "largely perceptual".[9] A small study by the American Council of Exercise found no difference between a hot yoga session and a regular yoga session.[9]

After practicing Bikram yoga three times per week for eight weeks, a 2013 study of healthy adults found that deadlift strength and flexibility improved, and participants lost a small amount of body fat. However, they found no improvements on cardiovascular measures.[10]

Other commonly suggested benefits include enhanced strength, increased flexibility, improved posture, mental clarity, a balanced blood pressure and improved ability to concentrate, fewer toxins and impurities,[11] and Bikram claims specific poses can help clean out the veins and arteries.[12]

Releasing Toxins Through Sweat

A study published in 2012 found that certain toxins are released through sweat.[13] The study concluded that "induced perspiration may be useful to facilitate elimination of some potentially toxic phthalate compounds including DEHP and MEHP. Sweat analysis may be helpful in establishing the existence of accrued DEHP in the human body."

Another study was released in 2012 regarding Bisphenol A (BPA) - an ubiquitous chemical contaminant that has recently been associated with adverse effects on human health. The study[14] found that "BPA was identified in sweat, even in some individuals with no BPA detected in their serum or urine samples."

Another study released in 2012 found that "Some parent phthalates as well as their metabolites were excreted into sweat."[15]



Excessive sweating caused by the hot temperature conditions can result in dehydration. The intense heat can also pose a risk of hyperthermia, which occurs when the human body overheats. Symptoms include nausea, dizziness, or fainting, which can lead to a heat stroke. Regular hydration and resting during class reduces these safety risks.

Various conditions such as multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, and some cardiac complications can cause unique sensitivities to heat. Those struggling with these conditions are encouraged to check with their doctor before beginning hot yoga.[16] Additionally, those who take medications for depression, nervousness, or insomnia may also wish to check with a doctor to determine if the heat will feel exacerbated by their medication.

Starting Poses

Each Bikram hot yoga session is started with standing postures, followed by forward and backward bending, then twists follow thereafter. In each pose, the breathing technique of Kapalabhati (to blow in firm) is done.[17]


Another controversial component of Bikram Yoga pertains to the prevalence of Yoga Asana Championships, regionally and nationally. While practitioners of other forms of yoga maintain that competition contradicts the idea of peace and unity, Bikram contends, "Competition is the foundation for all democratic societies. For without 'Competition', there is no democracy."[18]

In India, where yoga originated, yoga competitions have been around for over a century.[19] Yoga Sports Federation which hosted The 9th Annual Bishnu Charan Ghosh Cup in June 2012 says that yoga competitions inspire both practicing yogis and newcomers to sharpen their skills. Another aim of the Federation is to turn Yoga Asana into a recognized Olympic sport.[20]

Legal issues

In the United States, Choudhury has claimed, and been aggressive in enforcing, broad copyrights in most aspects of the practice, teaching, and business of the system. While these claims are not definitively resolved (i.e., by any judicial ruling on the merits), Choudhury has extracted legal settlements from a number of yoga teachers and studios.[3][21] However, in a recently issued official statement, the US Copyright Office concluded that copyright for Bikram's sequence of 26 postures had been issued in error.[22]

On December 17, 2012, U.S. District Court Judge Otis Wright ruled that Bikram Choudhury does not have copyright protection for the sequence of 26 yoga postures and two breathing exercises commonly known as “Bikram Yoga.” The ruling, in favor of Evolation Yoga LLC and its founders Mark Drost and Zefea Samson, meant that non-Bikram studios are allowed to offer hot yoga classes utilizing that same 26-posture sequence—a legal right Choudhury actively and vigorously contested for several years.[23][24]

In Bikram's Beginning Yoga Class (First Edition), Choudhury claims he conducted medical studies at the Tokyo University Medical School validating the medical benefits of his 26 postures. During one of the lawsuits, defendants demanded copies of the "medical" studies and Choudhury claimed he could not find them. In Bikram's Beginning Yoga Class (Second Edition), Choudhury removed all references to medical studies.[25]

Two lawsuits accusing Bikram Choudhury of rape were filed in May 2013, in which a Jane Doe alleges sexual battery, false imprisonment, discrimination, harassment, and other counts in addition to the rape allegation. It describes a cult-like atmosphere where Bikram’s followers help him find young women to assault. “Other persons in defendant Bikram Choudhury’s inner circle, were aware of defendant Bikram Choudhury’s pattern and practice of causing, inducing or persuading young women to enroll in teacher training classes to become yoga instructors only so he can sexually assault and/or rape them,” the lawsuit claims.[26]

The suits paint a cult-like atmosphere at the training camps. Trainees were allegedly told that Choudhury is on the same level as Jesus Christ or the Buddha, that Bikram yoga can cure cancer and that practitioners will be able to live to 100 years old. Trainees were bullied and humiliated as well as praised, the suits say, and Choudhury allegedly gave lectures in which he disparaged gays, Americans and made ethnic slurs. Jane Doe 2 claims that Choudhury recruits volunteers from overseas who are “so in fear of defendant Bikram Choudhury’s wrath that they will travel to the US and risk violating immigration laws in order to serve him. Once in the US these volunteers work for little or zero pay. “Their duties include grooming him, massaging him, making his tea, bring[ing] him food and being forced to submit to sexual assaults and rapes against their will,” the suit alleges.[27]

Minakshi “Micki”Jafa-Bodden served as Head of Legal and International Affairs from Spring 2011 to March 13, 2013 when she claims she was “abruptly and unlawfully terminated” according to the court documents filed on July 12, 2013 in the Superior Court of California, Los Angeles. But perhaps the more serious matters lie within the 2 years that Jafa-Bodden worked closely with Bikram, during which she claims she was victim and witness to Bikram’s “severe, ongoing, pervasive and offensive conduct” especially to women, as well as homosexuals, African Americans and basically every other minority. The complaint is the fourth sex-based discrimination/sexual harassment/rape related suit filed this year against Bikram Choudhury. Bikram teacher Sarah Baughn filed a sexual harassment suit in March (just before Jafa-Bodden was fired), and two other unnamed women filed similar suits accusing Bikram of sexual harassment, intimidation and rape in May.[28]

The 26 Asanas (postures)

The following are the 26 postures of Bikram Yoga. These are taught in the Beginning Bikram Yoga Class. The sequence is taught by people who have been trained and certified by Bikram Choudhury.[29][30]
# Sanskrit English
1 प्राणायाम


Standing Deep Breathing (lit. Breath Extension)
2 अर्धचन्द्रासन with पादहस्तासन

Ardhacandrāsana with Pādahastāsana

Half Moon Pose with Hands To Feet Pose
3 उत्कटासन


Awkward Pose
4 गरुडासन


Eagle Pose
5 दण्डायमन जानुशीर्षासन

Daṇḍāyamana Jānuśīrṣāsana

Standing Head To Knee Pose
6 दण्डायमन धनुरासन

Daṇḍāyamana Dhanurāsana

Standing Bow Pose
7 तुलादण्डासन


Balancing Stick Pose
8 दण्डायमन विभक्तपाद पश्चिमोत्तानासन

Daṇḍāyamana Vibhaktapāda Paścimottānāsana

Standing Separate Leg Stretching Pose
9 त्रिकोणासन


Triangle Pose
10 दण्डायमन विभक्तपाद जानुशीर्षासन

Daṇḍāyamana Vibhaktapāda Jānuśīrṣāsana

Standing Separate Leg Head To Knee Pose
11 ताडासन

Tāḍāsana - This is the Sanskrit for first posture Mountain pose. The Sanskrit for Tree pose is Vriksasana

Tree Pose
12 पादाङ्गुष्ठासन


Toe Stand Pose
13 शवासन


Corpse Pose
14 पवनमुक्तासन


Wind Removing Pose
15 पादहस्तासन


Hands To Feet Pose
16 भुजङ्गासन


Cobra Pose
17 शलभासन


Locust Pose
18 पूर्णशलभासन


Full Locust Pose
19 धनुरासन


Bow Pose
20 सुप्तवज्रासन


Fixed Firm Pose (lit. Reclining Thunderbolt Pose)
21 अर्धकूर्मासन


Half Tortoise Pose
22 उष्ट्रासन


Camel Pose
23 शसांगासना


Rabbit Pose
24 जानुशीर्षासन with पश्चिमोत्तानासन

Jānuśīrṣāsana with Paścimottānāsana

Head To Knee Pose with Back Stretching Pose
25 अर्धमत्स्येन्द्रासन


Spine Twisting Pose (lit. Half Lord of the Fishes Pose)
26 कपालभाति


Blowing In Firm Pose (lit. Skull Illuminating)


  1. ^ "Bikram's Yoga College of India". Retrieved 2011-12-28. 
  2. ^ Corporate registration for "Bikram Choudhury Yoga, Inc." Number: C2288343
  3. ^ a b Farrell, Maureen (September 3, 2009). "Bikram Yoga's New Twists". 
  4. ^ Wilson, Cynthia. "Different types of yoga and their benefits". Womenio. Retrieved 26 September 2012. 
  5. ^ a b "Bikram Yoga Basic". 
  6. ^ "Yoga teacher training programs". Retrieved 2013-10-21. 
  7. ^ “Bikram Choudhury,” last modified 2010, accessed April 4, 2012,
  8. ^ Shakespeare, Jocasta (10 June 2006). "Bend it like Bikram". The Guardian. Retrieved 4 April 2012. 
  9. ^ a b Internicola, Dorene (8/05/2013). "Hot Yoga: Experts Say It's Safe, But Does It Really Have Added Benefits?". Huffington Post (Reuters). Retrieved 31 July 2014. 
  10. ^ Tracy, Brian L.; Cady E.F. Hart (2013). "Bikram Yoga Training and Physical Fitness in Healthy Young Adults". Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 27 (3): 822–830.  
  11. ^ "About Bikram Yoga", Bikram Yoga. Retrieved on 21 October 2013.
  12. ^ "Tuladandasana", Bikram Yoga. Retrieved on 21 October 2013.
  13. ^ Pub Med Central Canada. "Human Elimination of Phthalate Compounds: Blood, Urine, and Sweat (BUS) Study". 
  14. ^ Genuis, S. J.; Beesoon, S; Birkholz, D; Lobo, R. A. (2012). "Human excretion of bisphenol A: Blood, urine, and sweat (BUS) study". Journal of Environmental and Public Health 2012: 185731.  
  15. ^ Genuis, S. J.; Beesoon, S; Lobo, R. A.; Birkholz, D (2012). "Human elimination of phthalate compounds: Blood, urine, and sweat (BUS) study". The Scientific World Journal 2012: 615068.  
  16. ^ "Bikram 101". 
  17. ^
  18. ^ Official website
  19. ^ Beck, Sara (11 June 2012). "Yoga Is Not Just Posing as Sport at World Event". The New York Times. 
  20. ^ "The 9th Annual Bishnu Charan Ghosh Cup". Bishnu Charan Ghosh Cup. 
  21. ^ "Yoga, Inc.". Bad Dog Tales, Inc. 
  22. ^ "Federal Register / Vol. 77, No. 121 / Friday, June 22, 2012 / Rules and Regulations" (PDF). U. S. Government Printing Office. Retrieved 9 February 2013. 
  23. ^ Bloomberg "Yoga, AstraZeneca, Intel, UN: Intellectual Property"
  25. ^ Bikram's Beginning Yoga Class (Second Edition)
  26. ^ Yoga Journal "Rape Accusations Against Bikram Choudury"
  27. ^ The Raw Story "Millionaire Yoga Guru Bikram Choudhury Accused of Rape and Human Trafficking"
  28. ^ Yoga Dork "Former Bikram Legal Advisor Files Extremely Disturbing Lawsuit over Sexual Harassment, Discrimination, Assault"
  29. ^ "Bikram yoga 26 postures". 
  30. ^ "26 Bikram Yoga Poses". 
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