Those who are familiar with the practice know what Bikram Yoga is, but might not know who he is. Here’s a fun fact: Yes, there is an actual man behind the “Bikram” name. Bikram Choudhury is the man who developed the Bikram Yoga Sequence, a form of hot yoga consisting of 26 Hatha Yoga postures and two breathing exercises performed in a studio heated to 105 degrees with 40% humidity.
Bikram Choudhury was born in Kolkata, India’s second-biggest city on February 10, 1946. At age 6, Bikram began practicing Hatha Yoga and weight lifting under the guidance of Bishnu Ghosh, a great and influential yoga master. Bikram won the All-India Yoga Asana Championship at age 13 and was undefeated for two years. At the age of 18, Bikram had an unfortunate accident while weightlifting and shattered his knee. Even though doctors told him he’d never walk again, Bikram managed to totally recover from his knee injury six months later, with the help of Bishnu Ghosh. It was the miraculous recovery from Bikram’s knee injury that inspired him to become a yoga teacher.
In India, people could not afford to go to the hospital so yoga was used as a means of curing the sick, as well as preventing illness. Instead of going to the hospital and being prescribed medication, patients would visit a guru such as Bishnu Ghosh where they’d be prescribed specific yoga postures designed to treat their current condition. Patients would then be taught, individually, how to do the postures correctly by a yoga teacher. While working under the guidance of Ghosh, Bikram believed in coming up with one yoga prescription (a sequence of set postures) that could be prescribed to multiple patients in a group instead of giving one-on-one instruction, making it possible to treat more people in less time. This belief inspired Bikram to begin developing his Sequence of 26 postures, designed to treat any patient, despite their disease or condition, in a class-like setting. Bikram’s belief also helped him realize his Karma Yoga was to share his Indian heritage and teach yoga to as many people in the world as possible.
In February 1970, Bikram left India and began teaching yoga in Japan where he quickly developed a large following. A couple years later, Bikram began teaching yoga in Hawaii and then in San Francisco. In 1973, Bikram established his first yoga studio in the United States, Bikram Yoga College of India, located in a tiny studio in the North Beach area of San Francisco. Bikram’s Sequence, a form of hot yoga consisting of 26 Hatha Yoga postures and two breathing exercises was performed in 90 minute classes in a studio heated to 105 degrees with 40% humidity. The purpose of the heat and humidity was to mimic the climate of India. By the end of 1973, Bikram brought his Sequence to Los Angeles where he has been living and teaching the Bikram Yoga Sequence ever since.
In addition to teaching his Bikram Yoga Sequence, Bikram has grown his empire over the last thirty years to include hundreds of studios in both the United States and throughout the world. In the 1990’s Bikram began offering a nine-week teacher certification course twice a year to those wanting to teach the Sequence at any affiliated Bikram Yoga studio.
Image Source: BikramYoga.com