Bikram is a doorway into the science of yoga
Bikram yoga is a great doorway into the unlimited nature of the science of yoga. Bikram yoga and the man behind the name have had an immeasurable impact on the practice and study of hatha yoga – the physical limb of yoga in which the body and postures, asana, are used as the main tool for transformation – in the western world. This very basic form of practice, that is espoused by his worldwide army of acolytes, has worked well to engage millions of people with the ancient discipline of yoga. Although Bikram is often confused with the much wider field of yoga, it is an effective introduction to the expansiveness of yoga philosophy and practice.
What Bikram the man has mastered through this one dimensional practice is nothing short of extraordinary. The very rigid nature of his teachings, and the classes he has popularized, have simplified and accelerated some of the benefits of a hatha yoga practice. This has influenced people least likely to have otherwise received exposure to yoga.It is one tiny spec of what yoga is though. It’s just one class routine within hatha yoga which has thousands currently in practice. Hatha is also just a small dot in the rest of the yoga universe.
Bikram will tell you, and anyone else willing to listen, that there is no such thing as Bikram yoga. What does that mean? It means it’s all yoga and it belongs to nobody. It means that yoga is way too expansive to label it in such a simple manner.
yoga science is a mirror
The evolution of yoga science is a mirror for the evolution of all human life and of each individual’s path within it. All life, and for that matter yoga practice is solely dependent upon the constant march forward of change. And yet, the primary study of yoga reveals the true or unchanging nature of our higher Self underlining such progression. On this path of Self Discovery, Self Awakening and ultimately Self Realization, it is imperative that the practitioner or devotee embrace this external change with acceptance.
The effectiveness of the Bikram practice is hard to argue with although the rigid nature in which it is perpetuated is fundamentally flawed. In a broader sense, though, even these flaws are part of the yoga practice. In the here and now of daily practice we must let our own path and our collective path evolve with as little attachment, judgment and expectation as possible. When our practice is driven by these things it reverses the very course of accelerated growth we have put ourselves on.
As the community that has been influenced by Bikram and his yoga machine begins to mature, the flaws are visible everywhere. In the Bikram world we often see a co-opting of all the great things about yoga practice. Living a yoga life is only apparently offered to those that practice it in a very specific way. This very convincing yoga master has attempted to take the entirety of yoga and its benefits and make it his own. Many of the followers digest this completely even though nothing could be further from the truth. This is not the only person or tradition that has spread this very false and extremely limiting idea but as my parents used to say to me “we are talking about this person or situation right now”.
no yoga is the special yoga
The devotees of many different traditions throughout time (including Bikram followers) talk and act as if their yoga is the special yoga. Just referring to it as “the yoga” misses the point completely. Its not “The” anything. It’s just yoga. It’s about observation instead of identification. The moment we attach identity to the path we are off the path. The good news is we can always get back on again. It’s just like being conscious, present or in the moment. Whatever language you use the moment you classify it, then its time to start again. This is the nature of the ego-life; but yoga shows us a better way to mental peace and balance.
Each generation has convinced the converted that they have found the answer. The truth has always been there we are just merely rediscovering it time and time again. The truth is always there. Just because we don’t realize it at any given time doesn’t make it any less true. Yoga philosophy teaches that there are many paths but one truth. It also teaches the oneness and connectedness of everything. Separation is an illusion. Therefore it is an illusion to describe your practice through separation. Oneness is our truth, our path and our destination but not always where we are in our own current level of awareness. This separation helps the practitioner to get started and then get committed to a practice. It does not serve us or our community to attach to it for the long term. Whether it’s a hatha, pranayama, meditation or any other part of the eight limb path of yoga, the key is to break that mold as soon as we are committed to our own practice of Self Awareness. These are the first steps for us to evolve on our own journey towards our true nature.
Bikram yoga is a great way for us to forge this commitment to a practice. There are thousands of other ways to achieve this, but Bikram is one of the most popular and widespread. When it comes to establishing millions of people on their own path it is clearly working. Where it is not working is the way in which the culture of the community is currently designed and how intensely it is attached. The “just do it one way forever” perspective is tearing the fabric of the community apart. This rigidity though, is just a natural part of the evolution of human designed systems. So it’s not tragic if we accept it from a more expansive yoga perspective. It is something we can learn from and examine moving forward as the wider yoga community grows. I think the first lesson is that all things rigid will break and all things flexible will bend, much like our bodies.
resistance to change is an illusion
The more entrenched the die hards that resist change get the more likely there will be many broken parts. Understand that this is an illusion, however powerful it has become. The more people who join together to create an accepting and flexible community the more likely we will collectively bring all of the parts together. The time is certainly now for all of us to act. My intention is to do all I can to help foster union in our yoga world.
Bikram, the man, is self destructing right before our eyes partially due to the inflexible nature of his public persona, as well as his abusive behavior. There is no need for the community to go the same route. There is a need for an immediate and massive change in a more inclusive and responsible direction. The opportunities are endless for Bikram’s contributions to be embedded in the next generations of yogis. So many of us , like myself, that = who have been directly taught, or influenced, by Bikram and Bikram yoga have been taking this foundation and are moving forward.
We need to come together in some way to honor the spirit of our teachers and not their indelible charisma. We must recognize that a yoga life is infinitely bigger than any single one of us. Our collective nature is our strength, and as long as we live in the illusion of separation we will experience the suffering that comes with it. Separation is the current path of human life – however yoga science has been showing a more clear and balanced way for millennia. Lets keep our eye on the light.
Let us live through the expansive message that shines bright throughout the ages and keep ourselves unattached to any of the singular and desperately lonely egos that are spreading the message. Yoga is not Bikram Choudhury or B.K.S. Iyengar or K. Pattabhi Jois or Paramhansa Yogananda or Tirumalai Krishnamacharya or Sri Yukteswar. Yoga is not anyone, these people are simply the dispellers of darkness that help us follow the light along the path. Gurus have been a very important part of yoga history and will continue to be throughout time. Let us remember that no matter how enlightened they are, or we are, we will always need to be focused on the message and not the messenger.
Bikram has developed a wonderful doorway into yoga. This is why we use what we learned from him, and many other great teachers. This is at the foundation of evolation yoga. The class and the simplistic philosophy surrounding it are just that… a foundation. It is a very loud and sometimes shocking doorway. Once in the doorway it’s a good idea to turn on the light and start moving around the house. Transcend the doorway and include it along your path forward. Stay focused on that doorway but seriously consider how much of the house can you experience from the entrance? It depends on the size of the house I guess. Yoga is the biggest house you have ever imagined. Come inside.
Just by writing this piece I am partially coming from a place of identification no matter how strong my intention is to be the observer so take what works for you and discard the rest.
One Love One Heart