News The Hottest New Yoga Trend

The Hottest New Yoga Trend

By Anna Hustler September 2002

Walking into Bikram’s Yoga College of India studio is comparable to stepping out of an air-conditioned airport into a very hot, very humid South East Asian country. It’s another world. It is also the newest trend to hit Sydney.

It's Hot Yoga.

The aptly named Hot Yoga, otherwise known as Bikram Yoga, is a routine of 26 yoga postures done in a room heated to 37 degrees.

The heat, which mimics the weather conditions of India, the home of yoga, is believed to help with flexibility, detoxify the body and build endurance. “This yoga is going to change the skeletal structure of your body, slowly, over time. The heat helps to do that,” says Rodney Korky, who has taught Bikram Yoga in Australia and the United States.

To Bikram Yoga’s followers it’s not just an intense, grueling, 90-minute workout in a room with 40 other sweaty bodies. It is a life changing experience.

“It’s a mental thing, not just physical. It’s about focusing your mind and getting through it,” says Paul Woodward, who has been practising this unique style of yoga for just over two months. “Since I’ve been coming I’ve been eating much healthier, feeling better and I’m much more energised.”

The founder of this unusual style of yoga is Bikram Choudhury, who began practising yoga at the age of four. He is renowned by some as “the man who brought yoga to the west”, but The Yoga Journal has also dubbed him “Yoga’s Bad Boy”.

Bikram humbly began his career in the US almost 30 years ago, but he soon abandoned the practice of giving free yoga lessons and his yoga is now the hottest thing (literally and figuratively) in Hollywood.

Well-known among Hollywood’s glitterati, he leads a somewhat extravagant lifestyle in a Beverly Hills Mansion, making $3 million annually from his teacher training courses alone.

But his material abundance and his straight talking, drill-sergeant teaching technique have not deterred the many Bikram students and teachers who follow his style almost religiously.

Although Bikram Yoga has not yet become a franchise, Phil Goodwin, who owns and runs a Bikram studio in Surry Hills with his partner Nicole Walsh, says that is where it’s heading. With 650 yoga studios worldwide, Bikram is currently aiming to copyright his unique brand of yoga and turn it into a franchise. In doing so he has been accused by some in the yoga community as “commodifying spirituality”.

Goodwin, who has just completed a weekend seminar in Sydney led by Bikram Choudhury himself, talks with an enthusiasm that is not uncommon amongst followers. “Bikram is such an amazing person. It’s a pretty amazing style of yoga, that’s for sure. It changed my life anyway,” he says.

The Surry Hills studio has only been open for six months, but it is already fiercely popular. It holds 26 classes a week, with anywhere between 20 to 60 people attending each class. “It has become more and more popular,” says Goodwin. “And the reason it has is because it works, it’s as simple as that. It gets results and people in the western world respond to results.”

Not everybody is so impressed with Bikram Yoga however. “I feel like somebody has beaten me up with a stick and left me by the side of the road,” says Veronika Kopacikova after her first class. “The first time is crazy, you don’t know what’s going on, you can’t really get it together, the heat is freaking you out, but it does get easier really quick,” assures the instructor, Rodney.

Copyright 2003, Australian Centre for Independent Journalism
University of Technology, Sydney. All rights reserved.


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