BIKRAM CHOUDHURY BIO
Yoga is the only exercise in the world you can do at any age. There is always some posture that will improve your health, mind, and soul. While it energizes 100% of the body, it strengthens and develops the mind as well.
— Bikram Choudhury
Bikram Choudhury learned fifty years ago that the wrong way of doing any posture would not help you. Bikram says, “If you follow my instruction and do my yoga postures Sequence to the best ability, you will live a better, healthier and more peaceful life.”
Bikram Choudhury, the founder of Bikram Yoga, is one of the most popular fitness gurus in Hollywood. He is also the founder of the worldwide Yoga College of India.
Born in Calcutta in 1946, Bikram began Yoga at the age of four with India’s most-renowned physical culturist at that time, Bishnu Ghosh, the younger brother of Paramahansa Yogananda (Author of the most popular book on Yoga, The Autobiography of a Yogi, and a founder of the Self-Realization Fellowship in Los Angeles). Ghosh was one of the first modern yoga gurus to scientifically document yoga's ability to cure chronic physical ailments and heal the body from the inside out.
Bikram devoted four to six hours every day practicing yoga, and at age thirteen was the youngest contestant to ever win the National India Yoga Contest, and remained undefeated for three years until he retired as the undisputed “All-India National Champion.” Swami Shivananda declared him "Yogi Raj" (King of the Yogis). Bikram went on to pursue an athletic career as a marathon runner and a champion weightlifter.
At age seventeen, Bikram badly injured his knee in a weight-lifting accident. Leading European doctors told him he would never walk again. Not accepting their pronouncement, he had himself carried back to Bishnu Ghosh’s school, for he knew that if anyone could help to heal his knee, it was his teacher. Six months later, his knee had totally recovered.
Ghosh recognized Bikram’s infectious enthusiasm for the discipline they shared as well as his magnetic ability to engage students and asked Bikram to open several schools in Bombay and other parts of India. The success was so immediate, Ghosh shipped his young disciple to Japan to open two more schools. It was in Japan at the Tokyo University Hospital that Bikram began to combine western medical science with traditional eastern doctrine, perfecting his 26-posture sequence, which is suitable for all ages and levels of fitness. In a United Nations sponsored research project at Tokyo University, Bikram helped doctors prove that yoga regenerates tissues and cures chronic ailments.
Celebrities discovered Bikram, and in 1973 he arrived in the United States at the invitation of President Nixon and the urging of Shirley MacLaine. He quickly became the foremost yoga teacher in the West, as celebrities, athletes and others began to flock to him. In 1974 he founded the Yoga College of India in Beverly Hills.
Americans were fascinated with the fail-safe benefits of Bikram’s system. It worked. Proof was in before and after photographs. And, it helped that his earliest students were famous: Raquel Welch, Quincy Jones, Michael Jackson, and Tom Smothers. Word quickly spread in the entertainment and sports world. Other Bikram Yoga students have included: Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Dan Marino, Al Leiter, John McEnroe, Taylor Knox, Candace Bergen, Martin Sheen , Roberta Flack, Ricardo Montalban, Charlie Sheen, David Carradine, Tatum O'Neal, Jamie Lee Curtis, Jeff Bridges, Emillo Estevez, Barbra Streisand, Herb Albert, Olivia Newton-John, the Manly (Australia) Rugby Team, George Clooney, Jessica Simpson, Beyonce, Jim Carrey, Goldie Hawn, Brooke Shields, Diana Ross, Lady Gaga, Madonna, and David Beckham.
Today, Bikram has shown the light of a healthy life to millions of people around the world and is the most respected living Yoga Guru in the world. He has written books on Bikram Yoga. He is also a singer, with songs that have refreshing and soothing effects on the mind. Bikram conducts workshops, lectures and seminars throughout the world. It’s a wonder and lifetime experience to do his class.
Bikram freely admits that yogis from other hatha traditions know the same poses he teaches. What makes his system unique, he says, is the sequence in which the poses are done. According to Bikram, each posture in his series forms the perfect basis for the next, warming and stretching the appropriate muscles, ligaments, and tendons. He compares creating his series to creating a song. Everyone knows the same notes, but putting them together in a melodic way is what distinguishes a great composer.
Bikram’s beautiful wife, Rajashree, also a world champion yogini, brings years of experience and a feminine perspective to her teaching of Bikram Yoga, specializing in yoga therapy for people with chronic diseases and disorders. She also teaches her highly-acclaimed Pregnancy Yoga Classes. Together they created the very successful teacher training program. Their two active teenagers, daughter, Laju, and athletic son, Anurag, who plays soccer are already practicing advance yoga postures.
In his eminently readable and beautifully illustrated Bikram's Beginning Yoga Class he writes:
Unfortunately, Hatha Yoga has been badly abused in the West. A number of yogis came to the West to teach Hatha Yoga…These yogis and their disciples failed to recognize that because of the cultural differences between the East and the West, teaching methods that worked in the East could not work in the West. Rather than change the method by which they taught, they changed what they knew to be true into something that merely resembles Hatha Yoga, but does not deliver the goods.
Americans are very inventive, even if what they invent is wrong. They are inventing posture after posture, making up names for them. Then they sell their wares to innocent, uninitiated people who do not know that they are getting ripped off, even getting hurt.
There are more flavors of Hatha Yoga in the West than ice cream. Americans think that's wonderful. I tell you it is a disaster. Most of these so-called Yoga systems are not Yoga at all. Giving them a Sanskrit or Bengali name doesn't make them Yoga. And using props to help you do the postures only makes matters worse and not better.
There are no alternatives. There can be no substitute for true Hatha Yoga.
When it comes to personally integrating the benefits of a two thousand year-old system of mental, physical, and spiritual heath, there can be no substitute for daily practice under the guidance of a qualified teacher.