Bikram "Yoga" Choudhury accused of rape, sexual harassment, racism, homophobia, and unsafe practices related to the color green


#1

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#2

Yoga has always seemed interesting, however, I've also noticed that some practitioners seem to get maybe -too- in touch with their bodies, to the detriment of their morality and decency. I know there's a spiritual practice in there, its just... is there anything Americans can't corrupt?


#3

Personally I found Bikram Yoga to be very manipulative in the same sense as an EST type class, in that right at your weakest point, after the class they hit you up to take more classes as a package, and it seems to me that you've been broken down as an individual the rebounded with the group dynamic. That's how I saw it, did anyone else get that feeling.

That said, there are lots of people who really have gotten a lot out of their Bikram practice. Can we fault the system (not the bit about the package buying), even thought the founder is a top notch douche?


#4

Bikram is a well-known crank. I don't play too much into the spiritual aspects of yoga, but as a low-impact (but intense) exercise I enjoy it and find a lot of value in it.

A friend of mine once paid quite a bit to attend a "personal session" with Bikram. She said that in addition to being overcrowded, they did almost no yoga. Mostly they just stood there while Bikram talked about how he could convince any woman to have sex with him, while drinking a Coke. When he finished his Coke, he crumpled the can, hurled it into the corner of the room, grabbed his crotch and shouted, "I AM A BENGAL TIGER". No actual yoga was performed.

I suppose there are a few lessons here.

  1. Spiritual health costs nothing, if someone is selling it to you, they are surely a crank.
  2. One benefit of yoga is that it can be performed with only a human body, a little education about a practices that have existed in the public domain for generations, and a few square feet of ground. If someone is overcharging for that because their square feet of ground is somehow inherently better, they are a crank.
  3. Teachers who expect to be treated in a very different way than they treat others are not worthy of respect.

#5

We work hard to make up for lost time; but corruption of ‘spiritual practice’ (and just about any other activity with potential for group identification to kick in) for the benefit of kings and con-men was already as old as recorded history, probably older, before we’d even started extirpating the locals so that we could bring civilization to the wilderness…


#6

No surprises here. The trouble always seems to start when people, as they almost always seem to do, equate a proficiency with some technology or art - especially those outside the hard sciences - with some moral stature.

When I was doing anti-cult work we never got into the question of whether or not the Swami could foretell the future: or even if that was possible. That's a losing argument on an issue of faith. The actual question is why you think that the Swami is going to tell you the truth about what he sees in the crystal ball or why you figure he's going to use his powers for your benefit. A psychopath with precognition is still a psychopath.

People seem to have cottoned on to this duality w.r.t. their IT staff but sports and exercise people still seem to get a free pass on ethical scrutiny as does anyone dealing with anything vaguely mystic.


#7

Out of curiosity, what kind of anti-cult work did you do? I'm imagining something like Men in Black...


#8

Wait, who corrupted what now? Did America corrupt Bikram Choudhury? Are you declaring Bikram Choudhury himself to be an American, in some kind of Reverse-No-True-Scotsman maneuver?


#9

Sleazy dudes involved in the whole yoga/new agey/self help racket? Never woulda guessed.....


#10

He's not American? Hell, I just sort of assumed he was.

My Hindu friends say that in India, Yoga is not an exercise regime; and that Patanjali said the purpose of Yoga is to achieve a certain permanent mental state. It's an American thing to stop at Hatha Yoga and ignore the stuff that comes after the most basic of physical preparations.


#11

Hah! We'd have killed for a M.I.B. budget instead of the one we really had which required us to pick other people's copier cartridges out of the trash to scrape the toner out of them for our own copier. This was way back in the essentially pre-internet days so a lot of what we did was be a newspaper clipping bureau so you could look up the history of group "X". There was a hot-line for people to inquire about the whole issue and a Wednesday night drop-in event for people to talk out their experiences with deceptive, serially abusive, multiple-perpetrator organisations (known to the tabloid press as "Cults"). The only time it got pulpish was when the one or two occasions when the inquiry on the hot-line was from the cops w.r.t. some bloody incident they'd come across.

To my mind the most useful part was the drop-in thing as some, but hardly all, of the groups had a religious aspect and it was the only forum where you could suggest that all small religions weren't perfect in all ways without people screaming "NAZI" at you. A lot of these people had been clammed up for decades about their abuse.


#12

This is why I love the generic "hot yoga" classes I've taken at the Y and other venues. All the good stuff that I like about Bikram Yoga, none of the crazy town or marketing horrors.


#13

What makes you think this is America's fault? We do not corrupt everything we touch. Many scammers learn their trade elsewhere then come here because the American people are extremely easy to fleece when it comes to "religious" and "spiritual" matters.

There are far more fraudsters on the religious front in India, they just don't have a relatively wealthy audience to work over. The clever ones go where the money flows.


#14

Yeah. Indian (and other Eastern) philosophies seem to oppose a subjective-objective view of the world to a subjective view on the one hand and an objective view on the other which is the creation of the mind. Viz Newtonian and quantum mechanics. By analogy the ideal state would be one in which you perceive the world of quantum mechanics as real and that of Newtonian mechanics as a necessary illusion.

Any physical exercise can be a means to an end in this respect.


#15

No. Not what I meant.

Yoga, packaged for sale. American style.


#16

Sure, but there's room for my point within your counterpoint. I was speaking to the mass market aspect. Surely yoga did not have its own cable channel before it came to the west.


#17

Hrmh, interesting analogy. Metaphor? Whatever, I like it!


#18

I did see some of the upselling crap with the "10 day challenge" printed everywhere but have not been accosted at all by the teachers (in Sydney)

My bigger worry about Bikram "Yoga" is that it really sold fairly incorrectly, it does not feel much like Yoga to me when I am doing it, its more like a gym class. Also I find that if you don't know your limits well you can get pretty damaged by it, I feel close to fainting quite a few times during a class, also the heat can make you over flexible and you may push yourself too much and overstretch easily. Teacher are constantly "pushing you" to stretch just a bit more.

Overall I like it despite it not being Yoga and despite Bikram being a total douche. It helps me get into shape and does have a certain rigour and discipline that is useful.


#19

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