33: The Bikram Documentary And The Real Problem With “Spiritual” Gurus.

 How yogis should really behave and conduct themselves

What Is This Episode About…

In this episode, John and Chris will discuss the documentary about Bikram Choudhury, an Indian-born-American yoga teacher, and the founder of Bikram Yoga, a form of hot yoga consisting of a fixed series of 26 postures practiced in a hot environment of 40 °C (104 °F). Bikram Yoga became a success in the United States and then across the Western world, with a variety of celebrity students.

The documentary details allegations of rape, sexual assault, and discrimination against racial and sexual minorities against Bikram. By January 2014, five women were suing Bikram Choudhury with allegations including sexual harassment and sexual assault. Two lawsuits accusing him of rape were filed in May 2013, with other counts of sexual battery, false imprisonment, discrimination, and harassment. 

One suit describes a cult-like atmosphere where members of Choudhury’s inner circle help him find young women to assault. Another suit claims that Choudhury recruits volunteers from overseas who were so in fear of his wrath that they would travel to the US and risk violating immigration laws in order to serve him. In 2017, a court awarded $7 million to his former lawyer, who gained control of his yoga business when Choudhury fled to India without paying her. Since then, he has continued to train yoga teachers outside the United States in countries including Spain and Mexico.

John and Chris will share their thoughts on all that, and talk about how yogis should really behave and conduct themselves among their students and the society in general. Yoga is meant to help us connect with a deeper part of ourselves and the yogis that we follow should not be viewed as the ones who can fulfill that for us because they only serve as a channel to help us see what is already inside us. Stay tuned to learn more.

Key Points Discussed:

  • The documentary about one of the originators of hot yoga (01:03)
  • The reason why some yoga teachers yell at their students (03:05)
  • Yogis are not the way, the way is the message (08:06)
  • How a sexual predator is still doing teacher trainings (09:58)
  • Waking and living a better life by knowing that we have what we need (11:54)

Learn More About The Content Discussed…

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When Was It Released…

This episode was released February 5, 2020

Episode Transcript…

Disclaimer:‌ ‌The‌ ‌Transcript‌ ‌Is‌ ‌Auto-Generated‌ ‌And‌ ‌May‌ ‌Contain‌ ‌Spelling‌ ‌And‌ ‌Grammar‌ ‌Errors‌ ‌


00:00          The guru, the teacher, whoever that is, is simply a signpost, simply a channel. They are simply helping you to see what’s already inside you. Right? They are not the way. You have the way inside you, and that is the key. And so, whatever path you’re taking that helps you wake up, that helps you live a better life, know that it’s already inside you. You may need to hear that message. You need to follow those teachings. You need to do the practice. Do whatever it is that you do to get that, but it is not the person that’s giving that to you.


00:32          What’s up everyone? You are listening to Yoga Entrepreneur Secrets. I am Chris Yax, and I’m John Yax. We are part of a small group of yoga entrepreneurs who are committed to making a living, doing what we love, without feeling guilty about making money, or ashamed of being successful, because we know the real value of yoga and how the world needs it now more than ever. This podcast is here to teach the strategies and tactics so we can thrive financially as yoga entrepreneurs. We are the Yax brothers and welcome to Yoga Entrepreneur Secrets.


01:03          Alright. So Chris, you just saw a documentary last night. Tell me what the name of the documentary was. Ah… It’s called Bikram. Yeah. And there’s the under… like the by-line said like, “Yoga Guru Predator.” And I was like, “Ha, that’s a good tagline.” So, let’s… I guess before I get into… If you haven’t watched it, it’s on Netflix. It’s a documentary. It’s all about Bikram Choudhury, who brought Bikram Yoga, right now like Hot Yoga. We teach hot yoga. We were kind of born into that world. He was one of the originators of hot yoga. So let me give you a little story about that. So he… was teaching… his teacher Bishnu Ghosh, he taught him how to teach… taught Bikram how to teach yoga. This was Calcutta, India. And, it’s hot. It’s hot and humid. And, the style that they taught was done in a way… was done… I mean, it was done in a way that would you sweat and… but the temperature was there already.


01:58          Now, Bikram moved to Japan to help teach there, and what he realized is that the temperature was cold. Right? It was a lot colder than it was in Calcutta, India. So, his solution was to put heater… heaters in the room. Right? And so, he created the same environment that he came from when he taught. Alright? So, later on, right? He realized that that was really helpful for the style, and what he… and the results he was trying to get for people. And so, he continued to heat up the rooms, and put heaters in the rooms. He moved from Japan and eventually ended up in Hollywood, California. And, continued to teach that… that style of yoga done in a heated environment. And so, he was one of the originators of hot yoga, and bringing that style into the United States. So, we… one of his students was a man named Jimmy Barkan, who was in California at the time, like trying to get his foothold into the acting world. And he was a singer and he’s a super talented guy, but he found Bikram, and then started training, like intensely.


03:05          He actually said he and Paul Grilley were in like in the beginning, like friends who were taking three and four classes. They were hardcore back in the day. Hardcore back in the day. And this is like, Bikram who would like kick the shit out of you, and yell at you, and like, bark at you. And, which I guess I understand why a lot of different teachers do that because that’s where they learned it from. So anyway… Jimmy was one of his seniors… ended up being one of his senior teachers. He studied with him for 25 years. Yeah. And he opened up a yoga studio in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Well, right about the time we started getting into hot yoga, they had a falling out, and Jimmy was like, “Alright. I’m doing my own teacher training.”


03:42          John went to the very first Jimmy Barkin Barkan method teacher training. I went to the second one, I think he did two that year. And then we immediately both went back to the level two training. And so we were like, that was our birth into the hot yoga world was via Jimmy Barkin who had changed the sequence already. He was just a sweetheart of a dude. Crazy knowledgeable about that sequence and the information, phenomenal teacher, just phenomenal teacher. Like we were so blessed to have like been born like has with him as our teacher. So that was, that’s our history. That’s why. And so right now our studio is, we teach hot yoga, right? We teach hot yoga in the hot yoga method that we learned from Jimmy Barkin, which has evolved over time. We’ve changed the methodology and we’ve changed the sequence to align with what we believe to be like maybe perhaps the best form of movement within that hot sequence.


04:35          And then we also teach flow, but all of it’s heated. So when I look back at the lineage, like Bikram is part of it, which I feel like now I have to take a shower. So I feel dirty about being a part of that lineage. Let’s get back to this documentary and give us the cliff notes version of the documentary. Chris. Well, I guess first to his credit, like he brought over a sequence that’s crazy powerful, but it wasn’t his sequence. It was the sequence that he learned from Bishnu Ghosh. Like in fact there’s a pamphlet that called like ghost college of India booklet and in that are the 26 postures and two breathing exercises. So it wasn’t really his to begin with though, is what he learned from his guru from ambition and golf. That’s first. But so my point is like, okay, so he’s, he’s impacted people in really great ways by giving the West this amazing sequence we’re a part of.


05:33          We’re a part of that, which again makes me feel dirty. But what, and the reason why is because, well, you were you as Bikram and I was just like in furious last night. But it’s the problem in the world of yoga that it’s always been the problem or really anytime you are placing yourself in a position of power because of what you teach, you then have a higher responsibility to be ethical and to be a good human being. And so the gist of the documentary was, you know, he started drinking his own Koolaid and thinking that he was actually a guru and he then, you know, as the big room sequence pot became more popularized as a business model. It makes a lot of sense. So like he, you, he created a franchise and the only people who could open up a brick room yoga studio were people who went through his teacher training.


06:24          So all of a sudden his teacher training started exploding and getting like three, four or 500 people in them. And he or he was literally elevating himself on this pedestal in his, you know, like no judgment with that, that’s your thing, whatever. But he then started using his position of power as a sexual predator period. He was sexually assaulting and raped. This is like allegedly, cause he’s never been brought to, brought back from, he’s now an exile out of the United States because he’s a fugitive here for civil reasons. He lost a lawsuit and was the plaintiff was awarded like seven-plus million, which he hasn’t paid a dime of because he immediately fled and went to Europe, went to India and I think Atlanta and at least in Acapulco or somewhere in Mexico at this point. I think he went to Thailand actually. Anyway, you watch the documentary, you’ll see all the details of it.


07:18          But like what pains me is that he’s never been brought to court under a criminal suit for what he’s done to those women. And it’s multiple, multiple, multiple women who have come forward and said, listen, I was sexually assaulted and a few of them were raped by him. And this is like, so I have two young children and I’m like, it’s so fucking unacceptable when you, and this is my point, this is like the bigger point of this whole thing is like when you put yourself in guru status and not even give her status, but like when you’re a yoga teacher and you’re walking in into a yoga room and you’re teaching people to postures in your, and you’re giving them information on like the spiritual realm of like how to live a more skillful life immediately they put you on a pedestal and they look at you like you have the answers and then you become the way.


08:06          And if you take that, that level of power and the pedestal that you put that they’ve put you on and then you’ve raised it up without any humility and the recognition that it’s not you like they are mistaking you for the message, you’re the signpost. Yes, you are the conduit. You are the channel through which messages flow. You are not the way, the way is the message now. So what pisses me off is because this has been prevalent in the overworld, right? From John’s friend and the Anusara world to [inaudible] to sigh like preaching celibacy as he’s sleeping with all of his disciples. I mean it’s even in the like recently came out in the Shambala, um, aside of Buddhism, right? The highest up was sexually assaulting raping women. I mean like, not to mention the Catholic church. Oh my God. Don’t even get me started.


08:59          This is insane. No, the definition of guru is the speller of darkness, right? Not the promoter of darkness. And this is what we’re seeing over and over and over again with these yoga teachers that have gained fame because they’re essential. Teaching is powerful, right? It’s changing lives. It’s helping people. But what happens is some switch, some shift where they mistake themselves for the message. They mistake themselves for being the power when what they’re doing is showing people the way to their personal power. Right? This shift happens and it causes people to do just craziness. Crazy. It’s absolute insanity. Absolute insanity. Yeah. What else? Like what, what pains me now is this all came out like prior to, I think it was like 2000 between 2015 and 2017 so in 2017 the judgment against him in the civil court was like, it did not go in his favor.


09:58          Right. He was like, he lost and was like forced to pay all this money and he fled. Right? So he fled and now he’s living wherever he’s living and this is what gets me, he’s still doing teacher training. He’s still in a position of power and there are studios still sending their students there. They’re women to be students of this sexual predator. Like what the fuck? Like why like the state of California district attorney of California. Why aren’t you like filing a criminal lawsuit based on all of the evidence that you have already? All the evidence that is admissible from the civil trial in the criminal trial and extraditing him from wherever he is back to the United States so that he can stand on trial for his crimes. He is, he has access to women and young girls who are looking at him like he’s a guru and he’s like, I know in his heart he deserves love like we all do and like it’s part of like I can see like I can spiritualize this anyway.


11:05          I’d like to like let like I know he has one with sources I was and he is deserving of love in the next life. Okay. Like now in this life, keep him away from any woman and keep him from ever doing another teacher training ever again. That is how I feel about it. That’s why I’m pissed off because he’s still able to do the things that took two women. He still has like lock him up, lock him up. Yeah. He should be in prison, should be in prison, allegedly doing allegedly doing what he’s done. He should. Yeah. Allegedly. Again, he is innocent until proven guilty. And so this is my opinion. None of it is fact but watch the documentary. It’s very enlightening. So let me take this back to your original message with this, Chris, is that when you study, when you study


11:54          a contemplated practice, when you get into yoga, when you take a teacher training, when you get into something that allows you to connect with a deeper part of yourself, it is not the person that’s doing that, right? The person, the guru, the teacher, whoever that is is simply a signpost, simply a channel. They are simply helping you to see what’s already inside you, right? They are not the way you have the way inside of you. And that is the key. And so whatever path you’re taking that helps you wake up, that helps you live a better life. No, that it’s already inside you. You may need to hear that message. You need to need to follow those teachings. You need me to do the practice, do it, whatever it is that you do to get that, but it is not the person that’s giving that to you. They are showing you the way that’s helping to open that up within you.


12:41          And if you are teaching and doing teacher training and you, they are elevating you to a status, please recognize it’s not you. And they say thank you for everything you’ve done for them. Recognize you as like yourself as the channel through which that information is flowing and don’t let it go to your head and give you this inflated sense of self, like feel good and fulfilled at the service that you’re doing, but don’t take it to that level of like inappropriateness and being unethical and like, or just self-aggrandizement. It’s not the, that’s not why we’re doing it. It is a byproduct of people recognizing that you’re teaching them a way of being that they may have never heard of and it’s changing their lives dramatically. It’s giving them a quality of life that they’ve never experienced before and it’s not you, it’s the information, it’s the message.


13:30          It’s exactly what John said, and if you keep like humility and you recognize that it’s sourced, flowing through you and it’s not, you’re just a conduit, you’re just a channel through which that information is flowing, it will help keep your head level and keep you on the ground and not allow you to start believing like whatever has to be believed that produces what we’ve seen in the yoga world over the years between all the guys that we’ve already mentioned. Interesting. They’re all men pieces of shit. Oh yeah. So do the work out of the struggle and believes. Make the world a better place to live.


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