My Advanced Seminar scheduled for Phuket, Thailand on June 22, 2014 will be the last openly public Advanced Seminar I will be doing. There will also be no more Bishnu Ghosh Yoga Championship after this year’s International Finals in London in May, or relationship with Bikram Yoga and any Yoga Championships for now.
There are times when self reflection is necessary to redirect things when they are moving in the wrong direction. In my Teacher Trainings and Lectures, I often talk about the importance in Yoga Vedanta, to “keep your two feet in one boat,” to stay on the line, the direct journey to your destination. One hair off the line, and the further you go, the farther away you get, until one day you’ve travelled in a complete circle, and like a yellow cab in Manhattan, you end up standing in the same parking space where you started, with 250,000 miles on your odometer, you’ve gone nowhere, or at least lost somewhere far from your ultimate destination. You cannot start your journey if you don’t know your destination, but you’ll never get there if you are facing the wrong direction, or go off the line.
I have been thinking a lot over the past couple of years about the direction Bikram Yoga has been taking, and I do accept some responsibility for it. Since the big Centennial Yoga Expo in 2003, where we initiated the Bishnu Ghosh Cup International Yoga Asana Championship, to commemorate the incredible and profound influence my Guru has had on Physical Culture throughout and beyond the 20th Century, the spread and practice of the Advanced Class of 84 Postures has increased to where it is out of control. I have been hearing many stories of people getting injured and developing chronic problems from the attempt to practice all 84 Postures.
My Guru, Bishnu Charan Ghosh sent me to Japan and to the West because he saw what I had created with the system of 26 Beginning Postures, 2 Breathing Exercises, a way to bring the practice of Yoga Asana as a means of improving and maintaining health therapeutically, and increasing longevity of life, in a way no one else had been able to do. He was committed to the mission of his brother, Paramahansa Yogananda, who was told by his Guru Sri Yukteswar Giriji, that he would be the one to introduce the Science of Yoga to the Western World. But the accessibility to every person was ultimately quite limited, discriminating, only for few. Many of the great Yogis who followed Yogananda over from India, who tried to introduce Hatha Yoga to the West, like Swami Sivananda and even my Guru Bishnu Ghosh, gave up because they saw the western body was not made to do many of the Postures the way they had been taught for centuries in India. A few who learned from them, and others who came, then changed the Yoga to try to fit the western body and way of life, and compromised the primary principles of Hatha Yoga Asana. My Guru recognized and saw in the system I created, the way Yoga could be successfully taught in the West and the rest of the world on a wide scale. If you try to fit Yoga into junkyard bodies, screws-loose brains, and lost souls, into people living in the Modern, Western, Stress-filled life, you end up destroying the Yoga. But If you try to fit people into the balance of Yoga, done properly and safely, only then will you balance the person.
My creation of Bikram’s Beginning Yoga Class simplified and made accessible and safe, without weakening and compromising the primary principles of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, of Sthira Sukham Asanam, the proper practice of Hatha Yoga Asana to anyone and everyone, without discrimination, elitism, entitlement, prejudice, bigotry, false superiority. Any size, shape, condition, walk of life, occupation, age, gender, nationality, culture, everyone, anyone, EVERYONE, can at least try, and thus improve the quality and longevity of their lives. After all, Yoga you don’t Do, Yoga you TRY (as long as you try the right way). It’s the process of trying to do the Postures, correctly and safely, that gives you the 110% benefit, medically, physically, mentally, emotionally, physiologically, psychologically, and spiritually.
Bishnu Ghosh never had a sequence of all the 84 Hatha Yoga Postures of Patanjali, He taught each individual a sequence of Postures, a chart he would make specifically, as therapy to address and cure their chronic problems. We never used to practice them all at once, all together, in a sequence the way we do now. We used to work on series of Postures, individual Postures, series often specifically designed individually, helping each and working with each other, the way it was always done in India and still is, in it’s therapeutic application. When I put the 84 Postures into series and a sequence as I would practice them, I would invite a couple of my best students to join me in practicing them. Teaching them individually, there is a lot of benefit for the very few who can actually do them, those who are strong and flexible enough, and who have developed a personal practice long enough, under my guidance, as I and others did under my Guru’s guidance. I then started doing a few Advanced Seminars, teaching the 84 Postures, with lots of individual attention, starting in 1997. But I would make each participant put their hand on their heart, and swear on their Mother’s name, that they would never speak of it, offer it, teach it, charge money for it, talk of it at all -- it was a secret, private, individual, personal practice. Then with the Championships continuing over the years, people felt the need to learn all 84 Postures, and do the entire sequence in order have a chance to win. Now all kinds of people are not only doing it, but are teaching it, offering it to the public, doing Seminars, even charging money for that, who don’t have the qualification, the knowledge, the understanding, to be teaching others whose bodies and practices are not like theirs. People are getting injured, damaged, and creating long term problems. It has no longer become therapeutic and for health, it’s become about the Yoga itself again.
Anyone who has heard me speak has heard me countless times say what I learned from my Guru, and always teach my students, that Yoga is the only subject in the world where the object is not the subject, it is not Yoga or Postures. The object is You: your body, your mind, your health, your life.
Now Bikram Yoga, and all of the Yoga practice that has spawned and grown from it, has been moving in the direction where it’s again become about the Yoga and the Postures, and not everyday people’s lives, and we have to redirect it, bring it back to the straight, correct line once again, to the source of what I have dedicated my life to, my Guru’s and his brother Yogananda’s mission. It’s a healthy thing to do, to reflect, become aware, admit, and correct when things start going off the line, or out of balance.
I want to return the focus to the Beginning Class, as Advanced Practice is more often than not dangerous (and unnecessary) for the great majority of people in this world. My teachers who I trained in the most Intensive Yoga Teacher Training, were only trained, certified, and are only qualified to teach Bikram’s Beginning Yoga Class. A person’s personal, private practice is their personal business, but I no longer want Bikram Yoga to be associated with Advanced Yoga postures and practice, or in promoting it. It too often becomes a practice of ego, elitism, sense of false superiority, vanity -- all false and fake values. There are 99.9% of the other 7+ billion people in this troubled world, with troubled lives, who need the tool and science of Yoga offered to them in a safe, scientific, intelligent, and accessible, systematic way. The way Bikram Yoga has been doing for 50 years, over 40 years in the West, and around the Globe.
Every Bikram teacher and practitioner, every Yoga teacher, every person needs to look in the mirror now too, and ask yourself really why are you doing it, what you came to Yoga for, and why. Think about it very carefully.
We do have to change the world, and we have this proven system that has to be kept intact, maintained, and continued to to be made more accessible to more and more people, and especially to the Youth who are the future of this planet, so people can live good, healthy, honest, confident lives, treat themselves and each other well, with dignity and humanity, communicate with mutual understanding. Not just be able to wrap their leg around their head in Tortoise Pose. There’s certainly a place for Advanced Yoga practice, but it’s not for everybody, in fact it’s for extremely few, and it’s not what Bikram Yoga really has to offer this entire world, it’s not Bikram Yoga, which is based on Yoga becoming accessible to EVERYONE, ANYONE, not just the few.