I learned a great deal this week about the origin of Bikram Yoga and it begins with this man, Bikram's Guru. Let's recap....
I stare at a colorized print of this image to the left, every day in lecture, so I think it's important for you to see it also.
Almost 60 years ago, this brilliant yoga master and physical culturist, named Bishnu Charan Ghosh, saw a loud-mouthed, 6-year old kid in the streets of Calcutta, India showing off yoga postures to his band of trouble makers. Bishnu Ghosh took this young rebel, Bikram Choudhury, under his wing for the next twenty years and taught him Hatha Yoga, making him into a 13-year old All-India Yoga Asana Champion and a record-breaking weight lifter. When an 18 year old Bikram had his knee crushed in a weight lifting accident, the doctors told him he would never walk again and wanted to amputate the leg, but he limped back to Bishnu instead, and his guru healed him in six months. This incident - you could call it a miracle, even - inspired Bikram to become a yoga teacher and heal other sick and injured people. But there's much more to this story...
Jim Kallett, who owns Bikram Yoga San Diego, and who I referenced in my previous blog as one of Bikram's top disciples, gave us the play-by-play on the emergence of Bikram (the man), his practice and his incredible following. I won't regurgitate everything, just the stuff you should know.
Back in the day in India, where yoga first originated, if someone had a mental or physical problem, they would go to a Yogi for diagnosis. Bishnu, as such, would give a specific series of postures and procedures to correct the problem. There was no such thing as a "yoga class" at this time. Since Bikram was Bishnu's #1 disciple, he quickly learned the healing process from his master and began to consult with as many people as possible on a daily basis, one-on-one, most days without sleeping or eating because he was so busy. But it became too much for Bikram to see everyone who wanted to see him, once word spread thru India and beyond about his healing abilities.
In 1965, Bikram created his series of 26 poses, that I am mastering today, in order to help/see more people in one shot. With this accomplishment, Bishnu Ghosh said the disciple has gone beyond the guru with this series, and with that praise and growing popularity, Bikram took his yoga to Japan. It was in the Western culture that Bikram Yoga really exploded. Not only did the most powerful socialites, politicians, celebrities, etc. in Japan embrace Bikram, but so did President Nixon.
In 1972, Nixon suffered from a life threatening blood clot and when the doctors came up empty on solutions, Air Force One flew Bikram to Honolulu for his first visit ever to the United States to consult with Nixon on his dire condition.
What did Bikram do? He threw everyone out of Nixon's hotel room, even the secret service. For 3 months straight, he would put the ailing president in a boiling hot bathtub and do breathing exercises (Pranayama). Nixon survived and recovered from his condition and was beyond grateful to Bikram for curing him with "yogurt." Nixon, not knowing what he was doing, called yoga "yogurt," which shows how little people knew back then about it. But then again, this was the first of a long list of mistakes Nixon would go on to make, but I'm not hear to recap our country's political history.
Bikram received an envelope from Nixon, upon departing Hawaii, which contained the highest level of Visa clearance (basically, an instant Green Card) that was ordered by the president himself. This gesture is why Bikram was able to come to the US to open his first Yoga School in San Francisco in 1972, but it was Shirley Maclaine (one of Bikram's biggest celebrity followers to this day) who convinced him to open in LA, where he was soon flocked by more politicians, Hollywood celebrities and athletes like Madonna, Brook Shields, Abdul Kareem Jabbar, Micheal Jackson, John McEnroe and many more.
To be continued....
Meli needs sleep to be ready for the last class of week 2, tomorrow 8am. Will post the week 2 teachers list and the continuation of Bikram's coming of age. Good night my friends!