I have been to 5 advanced seminars and 18 teacher trainings all over the world since I graduated from my own training in the spring of 2003. I have loved my Bikram yoga community and have loved teaching, mentoring and practicing with new trainees, hundreds of teachers and first time students alike in the “yoga bubble”. Yoga has been my life and love for 20 years, more specifically Bikram yoga, since my first class in June 2000.
I long to be part of the nostalgia and excitement of practicing with hundreds of other passionate yogis. I miss the days of eating sleeping and dreaming yoga for days on end. Over the past few years of watching the behaviour and actions of Bikram, the lawsuits against him pile up, the complete lack of integrity and accountability he has displayed, my interest in him and his legacy has diminished. This morning I read the latest news about his arrest warrant, and I’m out. I will never go to another Bikram training with Bikram again.
For years I was a true believer in the Bikram method teacher training. Go to the source, learn from the top, don’t play broken telephone and be trained through other people’s interpretation of Bikram’s yoga. He is still alive, why not get the training right from the creator? I know now that Bikram is only a passageway, a stepping stone, a messenger, and his way is not the only way or perhaps even the truthful way.
A couple months ago I read an article on a Bikram yoga studio website about Bikram’s involvement in a study in Japan on yoga. I found myself looking for information, documentation of some kind, to prove his accounts and claims. Turns out there aren’t any. His involvement and account was a story, an embellishment of an event that occurred in the world by people, and adopted by him as his own. Turns out there are many of these same cases of embellishments and enhancing events, some his own and some other peoples’, to make these stories and events suit him. Well, thanks to explorers and historians, we now know more information than the stories that Bikram has been spouting for years. We now have proof through a myriad of peoples’ accounts, stacks of historical documentation and pages of uncovered details of people and places of the actual history and lineage of “bikram’s” yoga.
I love this yoga system. I have loved the path I have travelled to get here. I am even grateful for the time I have spent with Bikram and the things I have learned from him over the years. But that is all different now. Bikram has proven himself to be ruled by his ego, the opposite of everything I have learned and believed in about yoga. I feel equally excited and repulsed when I see my friends posting at the current BYTT in Acapulco. Regardless of my own personal experience with Bikram over the years and the opportunities I have received through my relationship with him, his actions show who he is. The berating language and abusive behaviours toward so many people that he has displayed on so many occasions are who he is.
If Oprah Winfrey or Albert Einstein were a fugitive, had an arrest warrant, had been accused of the very things Bikram is accused of, would you still believe in their power to teach you? If you love the lessons you learn, you can still live the lessons without following the person. If you learned that your pastor was abusing your church members for years and years, would you still blindly follow his or her words as your gospel, or would you separate yourself from the person even if you still believed the lessons you learned?
We have power through our choices. Our choices of how we spend our time and money has an impact on the people and companies around us. I won’t go to a specific car repair shop because there are several large game that were hunted and killed by the owner stuffed and on display in the head office. At least once a month I find myself saying to my husband, “ops, guess we can’t go there” when I find out about the associations and behaviours of certain establishments. We speak loudly through our actions and where we put our money and time. Studio owners educate their students to understand that the money they spend on yoga does not go to Bikram. But does it? By sending people to Bikram’s teacher training you are directly supporting Bikram himself. There are hundreds of people who have gone through Bikram’s training in the world. We were part of something as it was developing. A part of something unlike any other yoga system. But we have evolved now. Just like at one time we thought the earth was flat, at one time Bikram’s training was the only way to become a Bikram yoga teacher. We understand the cosmos now, we have the scientific proof of our existence in the universe, we know the earth isn’t flat. We have scientific proof of the benefits of Bikram’s yoga system. We have the proof to continue to share and spread this yoga worldwide. We have seen the truth. We’ve seen the truth about Bikram, the man, as well.
As Bikram yogis we want to preserve this yoga, right? We have always been at the center of criticism about whether Bikram yoga is “real” yoga. Regardless of what people say, this is our yoga. The teachers and studio owners all over the world know the truth. The students who practice this system know the truth. It is the YOGA, not the man.
This is our yoga.
Teaching yoga is something to be learned and developed. We have many choices, do your homework. Find a training that will teach you to be a good teacher. To teach with humility, truth and integrity. To teach with knowledge, compassion and connection. Find a training to teach you to teach yoga.
Sometimes learning the truth can be hard. Stepping away from something you believed in so absolutely can be confusing. With the passion and experience of so many amazing teachers in the community, we now have many choices for a teacher training all the way from months away from home to in house options. Just like in life, so is true for any (hot yoga) training…the best (teachers) are the ones who put in the work and effort to become the best.
Love you, yogis. Keep it real. Thanks for reading.
(I did not site the research results here. If you are interested in knowing more about the scientific research and studies going on of Bikram yoga, please visit Pure Action. For more information on Bikram, the lawsuits against him and his standing in the United States, please refer to an internet search engine, it’s easy to find.)
For more information on the trainings and workshops Aaron and I offer, please visit our website RipT Workshops.