Bikram Yoga is the name of the original format of yoga practice that popularized “hot” yoga. Bikram Choudhury is a man from Kolkata who was a student of Bishnu Ghosh at the Ghosh College of Physical Culture. He learned Olympic style weight lifting, asana and it’s therapeutic application (in a one on one model) and other performance acts centered around breath control and feats of strength.
Bikram came to the US in the early seventies and opened a school in San Francisco. It was here that he started using small space heaters on one end of the room to help the stiffer and injured students find more ease in movement while they were learning. Bikram taught a set sequence of poses often called the “26 and 2”, referring to 26 postures and 2 breathing exercises. The sequence was done in strict order, most of everything repeated twice. Bikram moved to Los Angeles around 1974-75 and opened a school there. He attracted lots of attention in the celebrity crowd and quickly became a well known teacher with a loyal following.
The temperature in the practice room was consistently mild (85-90 degrees) until he started holding large group trainings in the late ’90’s. At this point his classes and trainings started to become more widespread. As he trained more teachers, more studios opened and the cylced repeated until it became one of the most prevelant and common styles of yoga practiced in the US and even around the world.
Around 2003, Bikram started to have professional issues with senior teachers and other styles of “hot” yoga began to emerge as alternatives to teaching the strict sequence and not following the rigid rules set in place to have an affiliated “Bikram” studio. At this point, in 2017, hot yoga can mean many different things.
Bikram Choudhury still runs teacher trainings and claims to be leader of the original hot yoga, but is currently being sued in civil court by 5 different women for charges that range from sexual assault to rape. He is technically a fugitive as he refuses to cooperate with the legal process. There are many teacher trainings and teachers attempting to move in to the hole created by his legal issues. At this point almost half of all the former “bikram” studios are closed or have changed their names. As well as many that are offering teacher trainings as alternatives to sending potential students to Bikram’s training.