Bikram Chowdhury, who is popularly known as the McYoga guy, is the creator of Hot Bikram Yoga which has come under the scrutiny and the criticism of many due to his aggressive steps taken to protect this routine that he has been responsible for putting together.
Like most Bengalis, from the State of West Bengal in India, he comes across as an opinionated, strong-willed, forceful and ego-maniacal personality that you’ll find when you watch or read his interviews with various publications and TV channels off late, thanks to the controversy that has been stirred.
But that is just one part of the story, where people try to judge another’s desire to deal with and protect his life’s work realistically, rather than from a super-spiritual and idealistic point-of-view.
And this is in regards to his 26 asanas that he has copyrighted (while suing people who have used his work illegally to make profits) as a part of his teaching of ‘hatha yoga’, which is just one element of the Yoga Sutras as written by Patanjali around 2nd Century BCE. Incidentally, people don’t like this approach of his because they believe that yoga is free, has existed and been taught that way down through the ages.
Now almost any jackass you meet on the street will also tell you that yoga is good for you, and helps stay in good health through the rigor that is involved in practicing such a discipline.
But there’s more than meets the eye here. Here’s why:
If you have studied esoteric philosophy (Hinduism), you’ll know that there is a distinct connection between one’s mind and the body, and in attaining equilibrium between the two through Yoga, one can attain ‘Moksha’ which is known as ‘liberation’ from the suffering and limitation of worldly existence. And this is where Raja Yoga (what is plainly known as ‘Yoga’ today) has achieved prominence in society today.
Although Bikram Yoga (in terms of the ‘asanas’) is very similar to, and is derived from Raja Yoga, yet to the yoga purists in its present-form, it only serves as a basic function of promoting good health, and does necessarily achieve the final objective of Raja Yoga, that is to achieve perfection in concentration of the mind or otherwise known as ‘dhyana’.
Why Bikram Chowdhury has insisted on copyrighting his life’s work is because the order of these asanas have been arranged in a particular sequence that have a unique positive impact on one’s health which isn’t the case if they are practiced in a different order.
Another important difference is that, this form of yoga is performed in a room with a temperature at 105 degrees Fahrenheit which helps one’s muscles to loosen up, especially for those with arthritis or experiencing stiffness.
Here’s an interesting interview with Bikram Chowdhury taken by CBS News in June 2005, which will give you the entire picture.
Ironically, this aggressive marketing and copyrighting stance wasn’t a part of his strategy when he came to the U.S at first. One of his students (Shirley Maclaine) insisted that he should take money or else people will not value what he teaches. And since then, he has not looked back in terms of franchising his form of yoga.
Judging from the popularity of his franchise which has expanded to about 600-700 centers in all parts of the world, it looks like the people have embraced his form of yoga as it delivers results. Bikram Chowdhury (love him or hate him) is at the forefront of yoga, and will be known as ‘Yoga’s bad boy’ for years to come.