Saturday, October 12, 2019

The rise and fall of Bikram, a famous hot yoga guru

Bikram Choudhury was born on February 10, 1944 in Calcuta, India. He is a yoga teacher and the founder of Bikram Yoga, a form of hot yoga performed in a series of 26 hatha yoga postures done in a hot environment of 40 °C (104 °F).

This week, a Los Angeles judge signed off on an arrest warrant for him, because in 2016, he was ordered to pay millions following a harassment lawsuit by his former lawyer Minakshi Jafa-Bodden.

Jafa-Bodden accused him of sexually harassing her and then firing her after she began looking into claims by other women that he had sexually assaulted them. In 2016, jurors unanimously found Choudhury guilty, and concluded that he had acted with fraud, malice and oppression towards her.

Today, the yoga-guru is on the run, having reportedly fled the United States after the warrant issued for his arrest last week, with bail set at $8 million. The hot yoga famous guru has risen to great heights, only to fall so devastatingly low.

Bikram grew up on the poor streets of Calcutta, India, and at the age of three began to learn Hatha yoga poses. He began studying the practice more intensely at the age of five and as a teenager went on to win the National India Yoga Championship for three consecutive years.

After a weightlifting accident he develop precise 90-minute sequence of 26 yoga poses and two breathing exercises, which he used in combination with Calcutta’s daily heat, to heal himself.

Within six months, he was back on his feet, having completely regained his health and vitality. Confident in the healing power of his unique yoga system, Bikram was ready to offer his teaching to the world, and in process, make a lot of money.

He immigrated to the US in the early 1970s and established his first hot yoga studio in a Los Angeles. Very soon he open his second studio in Hawaii and in a short time it become success. Then he started building his empire spanning 720 yoga schools in 220 countries.

The world loved Bikram yoga, which was supported by celebrities such as George Harrison and Michael Jackson, George Clooney, Ashton Kutcher, Andy Murray, David Beckham and modern-day and Lady Gaga, to mention some.

His yoga empire also earned him a fortune. Some reports suggest he had worth as much as a $100 million. So when hot-yoga proved to be a successful business, competitors also sought out opportunities to profit from the yoga craze. Bikram reacted by claiming his yoga sequence was intellectual property and filing aggressive lawsuits against them, which ultimately proved futile. In 2015, a court ruled that yoga poses could not be copyrighted, nor competitors held liable for teaching it.

Bikram is/was an eccentric, charismatic yogi adored by hundreds of thousands of devoted enthusiasts, many were young women who considered him as a spiritual leader. He started offering his famous intensive teachers training, twice-yearly the courses to certify instructors wanting to teach Bikram Yoga, he had no shortage of students willing to pay him $15,000 for the privilege of sharing his sweat in a hot room for nine weeks.

But on those teachers training many students witnessed Bikram being openly narcissistic, dishonest, racist and sexist behaviors.  In fact, it was in Bikram’s teacher-training courses where some of the worst alleged conduct was said to have occurred. He is currently facing six separate legal suits in California courts, with accusations ranging from sexual advantage, gender violence, intention to rape etc but, no criminal charges have been brought against him.

Bikram has denied all those allegations however he was found guilty of wrongful termination, sexual harassment and breach of contract of his lawyer Jafa-Bodden. He has failed to pay her 7 millions, and the court has ordered that all income from his studio franchises be awarded to her.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Are you taking life too seriously?

It's now very common to hear people say, "I'm rather offended by that." As if that gives them certain rights. It's actually nothing more... then a whine. "I find that offensive." It has no meaning; it has no purpose; it has no reason to be respected as a phrase. "I am offended by that." Well, so fucking what. - Stephen Fry

Do you associate life with images of perfection? Like... perfect happiness in a perfect family with a plenty of sunshine and vegetables, with a perfect body doing even more perfect yoga asanas, and meditating in perfect green forest pursuing a wisdom to save the rest of humanity?

Are you living your life, waiting for the next moment to be better than this one? Well...

In any given year, 1 in 5 Canadians experiences a mental health problem. By the time Canadians reach 40 years of age, 1 in 2 has, or have had, a mental illness. The terms "mental illness" refer to depression, anxiety, delusions... general dissatisfaction and disappointment.

Did you know that only 25% of women are able to reach orgasm during sexual intercourse? According to long-term studies, 50% of women have the orgasm once in a month, 20% once in a year, and 5% never have orgasms.

Can you imagine? 3 of 4 women can’t feel complete sexual pleasure and there is at least 1 of 4 who has never experienced an orgasm – even after decades of having sex.

No wonder that so many women over 40 have lost their desire for sex, have been emotionally abused and are fearful, or think that there is something wrong with them because they don’t feel the pleasure that they hear other women talk about.

The problem of orgasm is just a tip of the iceberg of modern living. I blame the orgasm problem to the fact that you take the life way too seriously.

Every day you are faced with traps that encourage you to take life seriously. You are faced with all kinds of frustrations, turning everyday situations into problems, constantly on the lookout for shit to complain about and worrying about a bunch of things that simply do not matter.

You are very sensitive, you get offended by rain, by look, gesture, words... especially words. "I am feeling offended" is an epidemic spreading across the world and the problem of sexuality is the consequence.

And I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you’re a carrier of the disease. It’s a mental condition whereby your ego grows up to the point where everything offends you. The symptoms are hurt feelings, indignation, irritability, disappointment, grumpiness and an all-around allergic reaction to anyone who says or does something you don’t like.

You try, you think, you plan, you work, and then there is no achievement. The thing that you desire never happens, it never comes. If life was a static, fixed thing - not dynamic and flowing - then you could achieve what you wanted, but then life would be a death. Life is life because it is dynamic, changing. You cannot predict its course, it is unpredictable. It is dynamic and flowing - always flowing nowhere.

If you are serious, then you cannot flow. Then you are frozen inside; then you become just a dead stone. Then there are resistances around you. You cannot melt, you cannot change as life changes. You have a fixed pattern, a fixed shape, and because of that shape you will resist change. Then you are not flowing with life, you are struggling against it. Seriousness creates frozen-ness, and frozen-ness creates struggle. 

- Life is Not Serious, Osho

The grand cosmic joke is that there is nowhere to go and nothing to do. You fool yourself for waiting. The life that you're having at this moment is all there is. This is it!

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Ashtanga Teachers - The Overstretched and Underpaid Folks

An Authorized Ashtanga Yoga Teacher
to lead the Mysore practice

We are looking for an Authorized Ashtanga Yoga teacher, (authorized by Sharath's himself) with at least 10 years experience practicing Ashtanga Yoga, who doesn’t mind teaching 4 hours in the early morning. The ideal candidate is the one who is working on their continuing "ashtanga" education. The candidate must be a gentle but firm, with the heart and soul, the one who love people and it is truly committed, dedicated and humble. We pay $3.99 per head, eg. per number of practitioners who show up in Mysore room.

This is a current situation in yoga business. If you're qualified, you don't need to apply. I just want to show how difficult is to be yoga teacher in today's yoga market.

If you are unfamiliar with how to become an Authorized Ashtanga Teacher you should know that you need to practice, practice and practice more. Somewhere around 10 to 15 years in most cases. You have to make multiple trips to KPJAYI in Mysore so that Sharath can remember you.

Actually, at present time I have no clue how to get authorization. The KPJAYI is no more, Sharaswati is giving lectures there while big boss has left the place and opened his wellness center. Well lets continue...

When the boss feels good, at some unknown day, at some unknown point, he may grant you Authorization to teach Ashtanga Yoga. There’s Authorization Level I which means you can teach Primary Series and there is Authorization Level II which means you can teach both the Primary and Intermediate Series. Don't bother about level 2, most people in western world can work only on primary series.

Once you became the authorized teacher your name appears on the Sharath's list on his website. In order to stay there, you need to  maintain a yoga room or shala to allow for daily, preferably morning, Mysore-style practice and you should honor tradition of Ashtanga Yoga, and of course you should continue going to Mysore, India for continuing study with the boss.

For some, the practice of ashtanga yoga is a spiritual calling for others it is just an exercise routine but for Authorized Ashtanga Teachers it is a lifestyle choice. They do not like referring their professional teaching of ashtanga yoga as a yoga job, but it is what it is, a job. It’s just a job that happens not to pay very well.

Do your practice and all is coming taken out of context can lead to unhappiness, it can lead to injury and the bankruptcy. Practicing without mindfulness does not count, really, our body takes the path of least resistance so injuries come. Being an ashtanga authorized teacher without a detailed business plan of teaching yoga will make you just overstretched and underpaid.

At the end of the day, the technical aspects of Primary Series are not enough. You cannot maintain dissent financial life doing a fancy Bhujapidasana, no matter how perfect it is. It’s just not gonna happen. You have to explore the psyche of your customers. And asana in that regard is a very limited.

Asana is just a stepping stone. At some point, you have to make decision are you going to work on your own practice or you want to be paid for your knowledge. You have to make a choice. That requires a deeper understanding of yourself and your surroundings. Good luck.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

The end of headstand and shoulderstand

I have noticed recently a new trend in yoga wellness centers, yoga studios and gym yoga classes... there is no practice of shoulderstand and headstand, teachers are not allowed to practice those poses...

Our intention in teaching and practicing yoga at QSY  is to grow as individuals and deepen our sense of connectedness with the wider world. While practicing headstand and shoulderstand, or other “fancy” or extreme poses, may be fun and provide learning experiences, they do not necessarily bring us any closer to that aim.

Inversions at QSY (Queen Street Yoga): We choose not to teach full Headstand and full Shoulderstand (where weight is placed on the head and neck) due to safety concerns for the spine. We ask that students do not practice these poses before, after, or during public classes for the safety of all QSY members.

- Studio Policy and Etiquette by QUEEN STREET YOGA, Kitchener, Ontario, Canada

What is yoga without headstand and shoulderstand poses? They are not "extreme" poses. They are  the king and queen of yoga asanas. Why do studio owners see them a dangerous thing to play with?

Let start with the famous The New York Time interview, a yoga teacher Glenn Black who gave me initial material for this post:

...the awareness is more important than rushing through a series of postures just to say you’d done them. The vast majority of people should give up yoga altogether. It’s simply too likely to cause harm.

Not just students but celebrated teachers too, injure themselves in droves because most have underlying physical weaknesses or problems that make serious injury all but inevitable. Instead of doing yoga, they need to be doing a specific range of motions for articulation, for organ condition to strengthen weak parts of the body. Yoga is for people in good physical condition. Or it can be used therapeutically.

It’s controversial to say, but it really shouldn’t be used for a general class.

From How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body by The New York Times

Amazing shit. Isn't it?

One of the most common sights in downtown Toronto is slim, professional women pacing fast across the city with rolled-up yoga mats under their arms and determined looks heading towards one of many yoga studios. Do they give a damn for Glenn Black's warning about the practice of yoga?

Today, yoga is a $5 bn (and more) industry in North America with an estimated 21 million practitioners. And in Toronto, at least, tales of yoga disasters are not difficult to find. Dr. Raza Awan, a sports injury specialist in Toronto who uses yoga for rehabilitation, started tracking yoga injuries after noticing there wasn't much-published data.

"If someone is too flexible and gets into the end range of a pose without good support and muscle stability, it can cause wear and tear on joints", Awan said. "While injuries to the lower back, knees, and wrists are more common, hip injuries can be more significant and need surgery", he told CBC's Kim Brunhuber.

The controversy about the practice of postures like headstand and shoulderstand is nothing new.

According to Dr. Timothy McCall, medical editor for Yoga Journal, the headstand is “too dangerous for general classes." This view, as he has indicated, directly comes from his own personal experience.

The way these poses are usually taught in yoga studios are questionable. I don’t think it takes a biomechanical genius to figure out that 90-degree shoulderstand is at the very least, uncomfortable. It is believed that headstand if it is done properly, there is no weight being placed on the neck. However, imagine someone with a problematic spine who is overweight and leads a sedentary life. These poses are a great source for an injury to happen.

Every pose is a personal experience and it does not mean it will be everyone’s experience. To be fair, there are lots of ways to modify these poses to make them safer, however, just like any physical activity, repetition either strengthen body or increases the chance of injury.

Whenever you do headstand or shouldderstand, the blood flow to brain increases. This can help to improve concentration, focus, and mental functioning in general, keeping your mind clear and sharp. The concentration and focus required to practice these poses forces you to turn your attention inwards, which is extremely beneficial for that feeling anxiety, stress, fear or other worries.

These poses require strength in the shoulders, upper arms, and back, to support the weight of your entire body, very little weight should actually be on the head. Practicing these postures tones and strengthens arms and shoulders.

In conclusion...

When it is said that an asana is dangerous, or even this asana helps with this problem, or this pose is beneficial for that problem is just hearsay nothing else. The problem with these kinds of statements is that they are completely lacking context. You cannot ascribe danger and benefit of the particular postures apart from the people that are doing them.

I would like that, 200 hours, yoga teachers stop talking about asana in an abstract sense. Yoga only exists in the concrete, in the personal, individual sense. And this concrete consists of a person putting their body with all its limitations into a proper shape. If you take the personal practice as a starting point, then you can have a talk about asana, the correct alignment, the pose's dangers or benefits.

Monday, October 7, 2019

I'm going to explain you about life, buddy!

I am 54... after 50 things are weird. In 20s you hope something will come. Whatever life you have, in 30s you are always talking about truth. Whatever you occupy yourself with, you think that it leads somewhere, moves you toward some goal, that there is meaning in it. When you rich 40s, you think you already know so many "truths", like it were toilet paper or something and you got a supply in the closet.

But what you learn, as you go beyond 50, is there ain't no truth. You clearly see that the meaning, once you cherished so preciously, is just a creation of your imagination where everything is real...  but not true.

You are no longer certain what your purpose is. Your relatives and friends start disappearing from your life. Seeing the dear people vanishing from your world, you may feel somewhat alienated, what drove you in the 30s and 40s no longer drives you in 50s.

my home

Yup, all there is is a bullshit, pardon my vulgarity here. Layers of it. One layer of bullshit on top of another. And what you do in life after 50, you pick the layer of bullshit that you prefer and that's your bullshit, so to speak...

What I have learned so far, in a gradual manner with lot of mistakes, is that by being alone I have left the ordinary life behind and that I must adopt a new way of life if I am going to survive. I have to be a warrior, to proceed strategically, with a great care for my well being.

To be alone is something big. The frightening nature of being divorced leaves me no alternative but to choose with whom I share my time. I realized that my death is the only friend that will be with me until the end. Without the awareness of death I am just an ordinary, complaining man involved in daily activities without sense.

Everything what I will do from now on will be a folly in regard to myself and my world because nothing matters. Certain things in people's life matter to them because they feel they are important. For me, not a single thing is important any longer, neither my acts nor the acts of anyone that I know. Really, it doesn't matter to me that nothing matters.

my home

Do not believe a word I say. Experiment on yourself. You do not have to go anywhere. Just where you are right now, begin to spend time diving within yourself, watching your life, witnessing your own bullshit.

If you make yourself deprived of illusions, imagination and hopes - if you are deprived of your interests, your cares and expectations - your world would collapse, you would become empty, hopeless and alone. It is the place to be, a great start in right direction.

This would be the death of "you", the death of everything it consisted of, the destruction of all your bullshit collected through ignorance and inexperience. All experiences will remain in you merely as material, but subject to evaluation. Then you will be able to choose for yourself and not have imposed on you what others like. You will have the conscious choice.

...and this is what you need to know.

my home

Being empty of all mental content, of all imagination and effort, will cause life to rush in. When you demand nothing of the world when you want nothing, seek nothing, expect nothing, then LIFE will come to you uninvited and unexpected.

The life is a dream, your dream, your show. It is your world. There is no one else here, just you, and nothing is being withheld from you. You are completely on your own. Everything is available to you.

No one else has anything you need. No one else can lead you, pull you, push you or carry you. No one else is necessary to your success.

The life is your dream because you are asleep and you can wake up. If you understand that, you will understand that I am giving you the best news you could possibly receive. You are welcome 😉