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26 postures. 105 degrees. 90 minutes. Oh, and it just might “change your life.” These are some of the trademarks of the L.A.-based Bikram Yoga. Life changing or not, few can argue against the practice’s intensity. Intense heat, intense stretching, intense instruction. (The teacher speaks throughout most of the hour and a half class.) And Lora Gustafson, the new owner of Bikram Missoula, would add that the practice is also intensely purifying. In our interview, Lora chats about her recent move from Phoenix, this Saturday’s Open House and other aspects of the unique brand of yoga that has garnered her attention for the last eight years.

Studio Spotlight: Bikram Yoga with Lora Gustafson

26 postures. 105 degrees. 90 minutes. Oh, and it just might “change your life.”

These are some of the trademarks of the L.A.-based Bikram Yoga. Life changing or not, few can argue against the practice’s intensity. Intense heat, intense stretching, intense instruction. (The teacher speaks throughout most of the hour and a half class.) And Lora Gustafson, the new owner of Bikram Missoula, would add that the practice is also intensely purifying.

Indeed, the super high heat makes you super sweaty. Reared an East Coast gal, this was a strong selling point—I was immediately smitten with the sweltering humidity otherwise aberrant in western Montana. And though I have since stepped away from the practice to pursue others, I still appreciate the sequence for sparking what has become an enduring passion for yoga—a passion that Lora hopes this weekend’s Open House will ignite for other Missoulians.

In our interview, Lora chats about her recent move from Phoenix, Saturday’s festivities and other aspects of the unique brand of yoga that has garnered her attention for the last eight years.

New West: How is Bikram Yoga different than other types of yoga one typically finds at a Hatha Yoga studio?

Lora Gustafson: Bikram yoga is practiced in a hot room. It is 26 postures and 2 breathing exercises. It is a beginning yoga that can be practiced safely by almost anyone. You work at your own level. The class is the same sequence ever time so you receive cumulative medical benefit over a shorter period of time.

NW: Why 26 postures?

LG: After years of prescribing specific posture to people in India as yoga therapy, Bikram wanted to find a faster more efficient way to treat more people in one day. Bikram found that the 26 postures in this specific order provided the most medical and therapeutic benefit to anyone doing the class.

Author’s Note: Bikram Choudhury is the founder of the Yoga College of India. Since age 4, Bikram practiced under “renowned physical culturist” Bishnu Ghosh in Calcutta, India. As an adult, he set up successful studios across India and around the world before establishing the “Bikram’s College of India World Headquarters” in Los Angeles. Because aspects of this business are protected under copyright, all Bikram Yoga instructors must be certified by the college to teach. (Bikram’s copyright and trademark claims have been legally and ethically contested by many.)

NW: Why is the room heated to 105 degrees? And is there any way to practice the sequence without a heated room, like at home?

LG: The heat is there for many reasons. The two main reasons are: 1) to keep the muscles warm so you can stretch deeply and safely without ripping, tearing, pulling or straining; and 2) to sweat – the skin is the largest organ of detoxification. Sweating helps purify your body by flushing out toxins. There is more detail about the heat on our website at bikrammissoula.com.

If you want to practice at home I recommend using Bikram’s CD. Practice in a room you can heat up with space heaters. If your bathroom is big enough, it holds heat well and you can also use the shower to add humidity.

NW: All Bikram’s teachers have to complete a three-month training in LA. What was that like? How many people participated?

LG: Teacher training is like having an entire year squeezed into 9 weeks. It was fun, hard, good, bad, exhausting, and very educational. I loved it. My training involved 226 people who are now some of my closest friends.

NW: Bikram Choudhury has gotten flak about making so much money off trademarking his yoga and charging studios for using his name. What is your perspective on this issue? Do you think that this focus on money and name recognition (and ownership within a tradition that dates some 4,000 years) contradicts yogic philosophy?

LG: Bikram makes money from teacher training just like any other yoga. Bikram does not charge the studios a penny for the use of his name, logos, information, or many other materials. There is a large amount of incorrect information about Bikram out that has been generated by people who don’t practice Bikram yoga and who don’t know him.

“Yoga ownership” – Bikram has not claimed to own these 26 postures. He has a copyright on the dialog that Bikram teachers use. It is like protecting a script or a song. I do get upset when I find out a non-Bikram certified instructor is using his dialog. His interest in keeping non-certified instructors from teaching it is about safety and keeping the yoga pure to its lineage.

NW: You recently moved to Missoula from Arizona. What attracted you to this community?

LG: I saw an opportunity to do what I love in a beautiful place.

NW: Can you talk about the upcoming Open House and the infamous 60-day challenge the studio is promoting?

LG: The Open House is an opportunity for people to come in and find out more about Bikram yoga. All of the teachers will be there to answer questions. There will be class at 9am and 4pm. Both classes will be free. It is great way to see if Bikram yoga is for you.

The 60 day challenge is 60 classes in 60 days. It is 60 days to a new mind, new body, and new life.

NW: Is Bikram Yoga appropriate for all levels of asana practitioners? What about folks with injuries — are the heat and sequence safe for people with back or knee pain?

LG: Bikram is a beginning yoga. All levels are always welcome. We have new people and veteran practitioners together in almost every class.

The heat is incredibly healing. Many Bikram students have worked through serious injuries to the spine, shoulder injuries, car accident side effects, and knee surgeries using this series. This is the perfect place for people who are injured to heal and rehabilitate joint and tendon issues. The key is to listen to the instructor, concentrate on form and never worry about depth.

You can find Bikram Missoula at 211 North Higgins Ave, #4C or online at www.bikrammissoula.com. Call 541-9292 with any questions about this weekend’s Open House or about the studio in general.

About Brooke Hewes

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  1. “Frankly, I wouldn’t take my spiritual or physical cues from an asshat like this if you PAID me.”

    Meaning Bikram, of course.. I’m sure Lora Gustafson is a lovely lady.

  2. My own shift away from this style of yoga had a lot to do with the comment you make above, as well as the atmosphere within Bikram studios—which, overtime, I found to be jarring and intrusive (and, perhaps, missing the mark of my own spiritual needs). Having said this, I know many folks who talk trash about the practice, saying it isn’t yoga at all and it doesn’t necessarily incorporate the spiritual aspects of a 4,000-year tradition that is, after all, defined by mysticism and meditation, among other mind-body practices. And though sometimes I want to nod my head along with these stated contradictions, I try to back away from the judgment–who’s to say that one spiritual practice is better than another? Different folks need different atmospheres, different contexts, different sparks. Perhaps it shouldn’t be called yoga for the same reason that Georg Feuerstein thinks many “pop” yogas should not be because they misrepresent, if not undermine, the tradition. Still, strong judgments made within the context of a tradition that values nonjudgmental and compassion makes me shift in my seat.

    Here is the Feuerstein quote I am referring to, which I incorporated in an earlier article:http://www.newwest.net/topic/article/hatha_yoga_the_forceful_tradition/C528/L40/

    “People professing to practice yoga ought to know at least the essentials of yoga’s history and philosophy,” says Feuerstein. “Context is crucial to meaning, and meaning is crucial to practice. If someone merely wants to adopt some of the yogic postures without having any interest in its spiritual goals, in that case, one should not claim to be practicing yoga.”

  3. Understandable sentiments indeed – However, I do think it is important to call Bikram in particularly out for his absolutely insane, culturally destructive behavior – If his actions affected only him and his adherents, you wouldn’t hear a peep from me. Unfortunately, his litigious nature affects every single one of us – He actually SUES living human beings for moving their bodies in a way in which he claims complete ownership of.

    What next? Are we going to have to pay Bikram a royalty every time we want to do a sun salutation?

  4. You may not like Bikram Choudhury but his yoga style is undeniably wonderful for the human body and I can personally attest to this! I started five years ago. I have tried endless forms of exercise in my life. I am 40 years old and I have NEVER in my life felt better than I do now. I owe this entirely to Bikram Yoga. I have tried some other yoga and nothing else cuts it for me.

    There are only 12 notes in music…. TWELVE. However, musicians have been using those 12 notes for as many years as yoga has been around organizing them into melodies, harmonies and rhythm. This is what makes them “copyrightable”. Similarly, Bikram has organized some very old postures into a certain and very specific order with a certain dialogue and has copyrighted the same. Big deal! He has NOT copyrighted Yoga at all and it is incredibly disingenuous to claim that he has!!

    Holotone – what is wrong with someone wearing a speedo and a headset mic? You say this about him in a disparaging way imparting a strong sense of judgment. Does that “fly in the face of yoga’s spirit and ethics”? I believe it does so be careful about being the pot calling the kettle black. Do not worry… nobody is going to offer to pay you to do Bikram yoga or any other style of yoga. It is up to you to change your life for the better.

    I would agree that Bikram is a controversial character with quotes attributed to him regarding his testicles and such. However, you can judge him for not living up your idea of what a yoga teacher should be or you can just live and let live. We all can choose our own path. Bikram cannot and will not be charging you a fee for performing a sun salutation!

    Brooke – I regret that you found Bikram Yoga to be “jarring and intrusive”. I am not sure what you mean by this but it is a shame. If Bikram’s style does not live up to your spiritual goals that is fine (choose a different path) but I have a hard time understanding how the style could be characterized as “jarring, etc…. “. Are you referring to the social environment or the practice itself? If it is the former I can say I have felt a very warm welcome at every class I have ever attended. I have also seen a great amount of compassion and encouragement demonstrated for those who are first starting out. If it is the latter I do not know what to say. The practice is certainly not physically jarring low impact as it is and I cannot figure out how it could be called instrusive.

    Whatever your thoughts and feelings… find a yoga class and go… any class… it will make your life better.

  5. @elfman:
    “Bikram has organized some very old postures into a certain and very specific order with a certain dialogue and has copyrighted the same. Big deal!”

    If it doesn’t bother you that Bikram is one of the only people in the world brash enough to copyright physical movements and then actually sue people who dare move in “HIS” way, then I can see how this would seem like no big deal to you.

    I, on the other hand, value the health of my culture, which is seriously threatened by intellectual property trolls like Bikram.

    Like I said, if he and US IP law find it this behavior appropriate, what’s to stop him from copyrighting sun salutations or the vinyasa flow?

    Bikram’s actions are nothing short of an attack on our basic right of dominion over our own bodies – If you value personal liberty and the health of our culture, do not support this madness, financially or otherwise!

  6. You continue to misrepresent what Bikram has actually copyrighted which seems to demonstrate a lack of understanding of copyright laws on your part. One of your posted links referenced Swan Lake which happens to be a great example. A performance of Swan Lake is full of pirouettes and other standard ballet moves none of which are copyrightable per se. However, put together in the same sequence as they are in Swan Lake makes it copyrightable. You did not respond to my statement that there are only 12 notes in music which is another great analogy. It all starts with 12 notes or 4,000 postures. Think of the possibilities.

    I challenge you to find me someone who, before Bikram, organized these 26 specific postures into the precise order he has coupled with the precise dialogue he uses. You will not find anyone who has done this. Why? Because he organized it this way and came up with the dialogue that is used in his class. THAT is what he “created” and copyrighted. This is why he cannot copyright the Vinyasa flow any more than he can a sun salutation. He didn’t create them! I very much enjoy his control over Bikram studios because I know that I can go to any Bikram studio in the world (and they are all over the world) and have the same wonderful and familiar experience that leaves me feeling light as a feather and strong as an Ox after class.

    I did not get into yoga because I needed some kind of spiritual awakening. You can fault me for that if you wish but that is just how it is in my case. In fact, for years I operated under the impression that yoga was just a bunch of people sitting around in a room dressed for a workout but not really working out… instead they would be chanting, doing some light stretching and talking about chakras, etc. Of course, my impression was very wrong not just about Bikram yoga but many forms of yoga. Regardless, I was looking for a great workout that would help me lose weight and gain strength and flexibility. That is exactly what I found in Bikram Yoga and I will continue supporting this practice in every way possible until I am dead. Thanks to Bikram Yoga and my decision to practice I will be around for a long time lest I fall victim to some kind of accident, etc. I am proud to tell you that I have successfully encouraged numerous people to begin taking Bikram Yoga and, for most, it has had a significant and positive impact on their lives. You call this “madness”?! Please. Take a class and see for yourself.

    By the way, exactly what “culture” of yours is being threatened here? Are you talking about American culture?

  7. okay, so I wrote “4,000 postures”. I think I must have pulled the “4,000 years” out of the article. I do not know how many yoga postures there are but I am sure it is in the hundreds if not thousands. The point remains.

  8. By jarring and intrusive I meant the atmosphere. In hindsight, those words are probably stronger than necessary, but it was the “taste left in my mouth” after a recent class. I really enjoy the sequence and think that the folks who attend are wonderful, as are most of the teachers I have taken from. Still, relative to my own practice, which is usually done in silence and in a much “calmer” setting, the atmosphere did strike me as jarring. Mostly, though, that is because I am not used to it. I still left feeling pretty great, and, as I stated in the article, really do appreciate the practice for all that it has given me. And, as you write Elfman, I encourage everyone to try for themselves–just because it (or any practice for that matter) may not be right for one person certainly doesn’t mean the practice isn’t anything short of fabulous for others.

  9. I am glad to see you feel that your words were “stronger than necessary” but I must say it is confusing that you would not have felt the obligation at the time of writing to clarify that your reaction was because you were “not used to it”. It is an intense workout and anyone not used to it will find it challenging (even those that are used to it as well) but to say it is “jarring” sends a condemning message… just look up the definition of jarring. Being “jarred” is certainly not something that would send you away feeling “pretty great”.

    I hope it is not the case but it feels to me like you have a bit of latent resentment towards Bikram. I cannot imagine why unless it is based in a misunderstanding of what it actually is that Bikram has attempted to copyright (similar to holotone). Music is every bit as ancient as yoga and yet nobody has a problem with anyone copyrighting the organization of a mere 12 notes into a certain order! Your resentment of Bikram seems evidenced by your willingness to dignify holotone’s venomous comments with not only a response but one that is empathetic to his anger. Holotone is way out of line here and if anyone wears their ass as a hat it is him for being so judgmental when he does not even really understand the facts.

  10. I am on the way out to door but, rest assured, I cannot wait to have the time to respond (later this evening). You are, once again, WAY off base!!

  11. I knew that someone would come to the defense of Bikrams. I would have a few years ago as well. In fact, it’s the only yoga that I’ve ever really enjoyed….and I think it’s because of the order of the moves, as well as the heat.

    But I eventually gave it up because of the way the class is run. There’s no joy in it. None. Not when the instructors are up there with the comments to “go farther that you think you can” and such. This is right after “this is your own practice.” well…which is it? seems to me they are just inviting injuries….which does happen in Bikram’s.

    It’s too bad that it’s run like it is. I would still be going if it wasn’t for the “i know what’s best for you” attitude of the instructors. i’ve competed in sports since i was a kid….putting in up to 20 hours a week some years with training. i studied hard to learn how my body best responds to stress and rest. Bikram’s was a large part of that at one time….and i do miss it. But it really gets old being “corrected” by someone who doesn’t know me, my goals, or my physical history.

    It’s been a couple of years since I’ve been, and I think I’d like to go back at times. But I keep running into folks that I used to see there, and it seems that everyone I knew from past classes has left. There’s one friend that was hanging on because she had a years pass. But since the calendar just changed…she’s out too.

    If a yoga person is reading this and wants to do a “hot yoga” in another setting. I’d be there in a heartbeat. And as much as elfman wants to defend it (and it’s understandable…when bikrams is good, it’s really good) you would get sued by Bikram even if you weren’t doing the moves. I had a family member who went through the Bikram training…..and ran a yoga studio (not a Bikram’s one) for years. She always mentioned when there were lawsuits…..and there were a lot!

  12. There is no one right way to practice yoga for all individuals, hence this great debate (minus the name calling)

    One of the things that yoga teaches us is to find union, in our outer and inner lives. A balance- which is to say perspective, of our lives. It may give us insight into ourselves, or of our place in the grand scheme of things.

    This is for each of us to determine, individually what our truth is. And for Bikram his truth was to create a specific formula- these words, these poses, this temperature- and copyright it. Personally, I don’t agree with this philosophy and do not hesitate to share these thoughts with anyone who asks. I find my truth is just not to support a Bikram practice. But if I come across someone who feels that Bikram-style of yoga is a great thing for them, I respectfully share my opinions, but don’t pass judgement on them for choosing that style.

    I have tried a Bikram class at the studio in Missoula, though it was years ago. I have not gone to another one since then…though I have gone on to study other forms of yoga.

    There are many styles that are consistent from studio to studio without having to copyright their techniques. Sivananda yoga for example has a set sequence of 12 poses and starts with a specific prayer and ends with another specific prayer, from class to class, across the globe. And there is no attempt to copyright. Ashtanga classes are a specific set of poses from class to class across the globe, and though P. Jois is no angel- he still does not copyright his sequence.

    Ultimately Bikram is looking to make money- bottom line. Duh, right? But I guess what makes this so outrageous is that he is applying this business shrewdness in the context of yoga, a non-denominational practice that ultimately was developed for the sole (or soul, he he) purpose of aiding an individual to achieve samadhi (enlightenment) or at least daharana (concentration- clear mind) And here is this guy who decides to make a profit…well that is his karma to work out in the end anyway.

    Yoga has been around for thousands of years, and will be hopefully for thousands more, and it will continue to evolve as do we. The culture of yoga in America is so rich with diveristy from Anusara, Viniyoga, Integral, Yin, Vinyasa, Ashtanga, Iyengar, Sivananda, Siddah, Bikram, and more that it is easy to find a style that suits one’s tastes.

    Though I am sure it is inevitable that there will be disagreements in terms of style and technique throughout a yoga community, hopefully we all remember that it is a beautiful thing that we have all found this practice (whatever yours may be) because I believe that the more people doing yoga, the better our world will be.

  13. @Marc:
    Thanks for the Open Source yoga link re: the settlement – Glad to hear that an amicable agreement was reached!

    Well said – I couldn’t agree more!

  14. holotone:

    You dismissed my “12 music notes” analogy as a “poor one” without any explanation as to why. Then, you give me an alternate analogy that further brings to light your misunderstanding of copyright law. An “ancient Persian musical arrangement” would unquestionably be in the public domain in the year 2008. HOWEVER, that “ancient… arrangement” would have been copyrightable (if US Copyright laws were in effect) 5,000 years ago (or whenever the arrangement was created) and the arranger could have sued those who committed an infringement! Again, I say… the arrangement exists because it is made up of notes organized in a particular way. This is what makes it copyrightable. Bikram Yoga will eventually be in the public domain as well. Notes and Yoga postures last forever but copyrights do not.

    Bikram decided that this particular arrangement and combination of postures and dialogue was “his”, as you put it, because he created and developed it… he did not decide that the postures themselves were his. He arranged them and created an accompanying dialogue. He has never sued anyone for performing Triangle pose. He has sued those who have attempted to profit from the use of his very specific and UNIQUE arrangement of postures and the UNIQUE dialogue that goes with it.

    I explained that I enjoy the consistency seen around the world in the teachers and studios of those who have attended Bikram Yoga College and teach in his way. I didn’t say YOU had to like it. Yet, you try to disparage my credibility and personal preferences by attempting to associate me with a very unhealthy fast food restaurant chain. This is ridiculous and simply bad spirited. I am happy that you took a Bikram class at some point. If Bikram was too aggressive for your tastes that is fine. I do not judge you for that and you should not judge me for my preferences.

    Your “stairway to heaven” scenario, once again, shows that you do not understand copyright laws whatsoever. You can play this song on your guitar in your home or elsewhere all that you wish (as long as it is not a music store <-- this is a joke if it is not obvious. It is reference to a movie) with no royalties payable. You can even teach your buddy to play. Robert Plant could sue you but he would lose. However, if you want to publicly perform or record this song for profit then you better be prepared to pay royalties or you will lose in court. You may not realize it but when you go into a bar and hear music playing over the speakers that bar is paying (or at least is supposed to be) royalties! Technically, Brooks’ yoga class (the business) that plays music could very likely be required to pay royalties for its playback during class! Finally, you accuse ME of “name-calling” only after you came in here right off the bat with your guns drawn calling Bikram an “Asshat”. On Bikram’s behalf, I throw the same derogatory remark back at you and now I am the “name-caller”. Then, you mock my yoga practice and the benefits I have received as a result. Furthermore, I never referred to Bikram Yoga as “extreme” and your sarcastic characterization of it as such makes me feel like you are probably a very angry and bitter person. I don’t see much point in trying to debate or discuss any of this with you further. I wish you the best in life.

  15. @former Bikram yoga practitioner…or do we call you “no name”?
    I do want to interject that the previous owner of the studio was fantastic, and so is the new one. They both have their own way of teaching, while keeping in the structure of the practice. Things change, people move here from other places. This is not always bad, and this does not have to be a horrible thing. If people could envelop the diverse way that everyone does things it would be a much happier place.

    It’s really sad that just because Lora has turned her studio into a business, that some people are finding that to be a bad thing. Shouldn’t we want any business to grow and do well? She is certainly not hurting anyone, and I have found only pleasure in the surroundings. Prices change, styles change, life changes. To stay the same would have been to the detriment of the studio. Does anyone understand overhead or is it just me?

  16. @Former Bikram Yoga Practitioner:
    The rancor is likely borne of frustration with watching intellectual property law being used time after time after time to squelch dissent, restrict innovation, muzzle creativity, and enrich the few at the cost of our shared culture. The implications of this type of behavior go well beyond yoga.

    My apologies if I’d given you the impression that my rant against Bikram Choudhury (and by extension intellectual property trolls like him) was directed at anyone other than Bikram himself. I don’t doubt that Bikram practitioners are engaging in their craft with anything other than the purest of intentions.

    Deeeeeep breaths.

  17. Kim: I, for one, understand your point very well.

    Other people pay to go to an Ashtanga class. Why does nobody attack them? How dare those yoga teachers profit from their practice! I am sure the distinction will be pointed out that the instructors have not copyrighted their routine. This argument should not be made by anyone who does not understand copyright law and it appears that many here do not. Do you fault an artist for receiving a royalty when his music is played in a department store? I bet not.

    @former Bikram yoga practitioner: You do realize, do you not, that you criticize Lora for “ignoring” Bikram’s guidelines only to post a link to the guidelines showing that she is doing EXACTLY what Bikram suggests! Notice that the MINIMUM temperature is 105 degrees. As you said, Lora keeps the room between 105 and 110… right on the money. The suggested humidity level is 40%. You criticize Lora for keeping it between 40 and 50 percent!! Geez! Close enough! Do you know how hard it is to regulate the humidity? If you have gone to class recently you would see that Lora has gone to great lengths to maintain a consistent environment (plastic on the windows, new heaters, etc.).

  18. @elfman:
    “Other people pay to go to an Ashtanga class. Why does nobody attack them? How dare those yoga teachers profit from their practice!”

    When I go to a yoga class, I am paying for instruction – NOT fo the instructors “license” to teach me the sequence itself. The same logic applies when I take piano lessons – I’m paying for the instructors time and expertise, not for the right to play Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3.

  19. holotone: Yes, you are paying to be instructed at Ashtanga. This is exactly the same thing you pay for when you go to Bikram. What is the difference?

    f you learn to play a copyrighted work (I believe Rachmaninoff is now in the public domain) from your piano teacher and then you wish to go perform that work publicly for profit then you will be required to pay a royalty. Same thing with Bikram Yoga… if you want to profit from teaching his very unique style of yoga then you will need to pay him a royalty.

    It seems to me that you need to read up on copyright laws if you wish to take this any further. I do not claim to be an expert on the subject but my undergraduate degree is in music and my graduate degree is a Juris Doctor. Granted, I am not a practicing attorney anymore but I do remember a few things about copyright law.

  20. @elfman:
    “Yes, you are paying to be instructed at Ashtanga. This is exactly the same thing you pay for when you go to Bikram. What is the difference?”

    In a Bikram’s class, I am paying for Bikram’s royalty _in addition to_ the instruction itself. No thanks.

    “If you learn to play a copyrighted work from your piano teacher and then you wish to go perform that work publicly for profit then you will be required to pay a royalty.”

    But the real question is – Did my instructor have to pay the original composer for the right to teach me how to play the copyrighted work?

    “Same thing with Bikram Yoga… if you want to profit from teaching his very unique style of yoga then you will need to pay him a royalty.”

    I’m not questioning the legal validity of the arrangement – I’m questioning the MORAL validity. In my opinion, Bikram has no more right to arrange thousands of years of tradition into an “ownable” form than I would to rearrange the bible and sell _that_.

  21. … And then sue someone when they dare reprint _MY_ version of the bible.

  22. Well said holotone…

  23. Where yoga and capitalism intersect, isn’t there a Bank of Nirvana to facilitate a transcendental, harmonious exchange for a small handling charge?

  24. holotone:

    You are paying what the owner of the studio decides to charge and you will find that most Bikram studios are price competitive with just about any other yoga studio out there. Furthermore, if I read the article correctly Lora said that Bikram does NOT charge them a royalty! Maybe you should ask Lora about what she pays to Bikram rather than make assumptions.

    There are “fair use” exceptions to copyright law one of which includes education. Your teacher could teach you to play without the requirement of a royalty. Again, learn the law if you wish to argue about it.

    You say you do not question the legal validity of the arrangement but then you complain about it as if it is NOT legal at all. Laws are most often based in morality. If you believe this is so wrong then perhaps you should lobby to modify copyright laws rather than picking a single target like Bikram and then mouthing off about him in a blog without knowing all the facts!

  25. I myself feel the need to recant a few things I wrote (Brooke I was a bit harsh and I appologize). We should all remember that we are talking about someone, Bikram Choudhury, and his copyright issues and not so much about yoga itself. Things can become clouded and misconstrued in the wee hours of the night. The funny thing is that this is the stuff that Bikram loves. He loves controversy…he would be quite delighted in this banter of HIM.

    Apparantly yoga brings out a passion in people that is unmerciful…I will take that passion with me to my next Bikram Yoga class, and have a very fulfilling 90 minutes. For anyone who is not knowledgeable about the practice…it will make you love harder, live stronger and apparantly fight with avengence for what you believe.

  26. Yogafight!

    It’s like boxing with down pillows, Hello Kitty outfits, and no actual hitting.

    Guess what I’m saying is that from the outside, you people just sound hilarious.

  27. The internet is serious business.

  28. Wow..and all this time I thought yoga was union with the divine…. take off the gloves and get on the mat…….the mat of your choice…..

  29. I for one am happy that Lora has taken over the studio in Missoula. While the former owner was very nice and kind, I constantly asked why she did not provide water, an easy monetization, and plus for the students. Most Health clubs I know about and yoga studios sell water and clothes and books relevant to their practice. Lora is just providing what students have asked for.

    I know because of her business sense she is preparing for the future when she can grow the studio larger. I feel secure that she can pay the rent and will be here next year because of her smart business practices.

    It is also important to note that Lora is NOT the only instructor, so I would ask “Former” to return and come to classes with one of the 3 -4 teachers she strikes a fancy to.

    What is being forgotten here is the healing power of this practice. I have tried other yogas but none has had the impact on my life and health as Bikram’s.

    When I started last year I had carpel tunnel, and tennis elbow from sitting hours in front of a computer. Now due to the practice those are gone. My bad knees are being healed. I am over 50 years old and I can safely say I am the most limber person amongst my group of peers and friends.

    While it is not a party trick for me to bend over front ways and backwards to impress others, I know that many of my friends are already considering hip replacements and knee replacements. They are willing to pay dearly for those….but if I mention going to Yoga…oh that is too expensive for them to do. It is sad.

    So for folks like me Bikram has been a life saver. I guess I have lived long enough to know that you can not please all of the people all of the time, and I guess that is why I like Bikram so much. He doesn’t give a rats ass what you think. I find that refreshing….and the practice he has put together…healing.

    So if you don’t like Bikram…or McDonalds, than don’t go there.

  30. mcleanbrice…. you are funny….love fun….love yoga..
    Anyone else with Chronic Fatique Syndrome out there? Extreme heat has sacked me but have you had good experience with hot yoga..or bikram…..? If os I would like to hear!!!

  31. I have practiced at Lora’s studio, Bikram Yoga Missoula, about a dozen times in the last couple of months and have found the instructors, Pam, Alex, Mai and Lora, all to be absolutely wonderful. Lora maintains the studio in pristine condition.

    Oh my, I could not read all the way through the comments on Bikram and yoga that this article by New West has “inspired”. But if Bikram’s practice of Vinyasa yoga does not suit one… then don’t practice it.

    We are very fortunate in Missoula to have some outstanding yoga instructors at this studio and other studios in town. I trust most everyone will find a yoga style that works best for them, whether in a studio or at home. That is what it is all about.

    Namasté नमस्ते

  32. Recovering yoga addict

    I too was a devoted practitioner of this style of yoga for 3 years. you will find that none of the above listed teachers are still there. Lora has alienated not only the teachers by her obnoxious, pretentious “I’m better than Montana” attitude, but she has also caused many devoted yogis and yoginis to leave the studio in search of another. I encourage someone/anyone else to start some sort of Hot Yoga classes in Missoula where students are welcomed without the harsh attitude, the un-affiliated “receptionists”, the bright lights and the constant stress and holier than though attitude.

  33. I’ve been practicing at Bikram Yoga Missoula for a little more than a year. Almost as soon as I began, I felt I had found something that had, up until that point, been missing in my life. In the year that I’ve been practicing Bikram, I have felt better than I ever have–physically, emotionally, mentally. I know that this style of yoga is not for everyone, but for me, it has been life-changing.

    Because of this, I am deeply saddened by the direction the studio is now going in. Every teacher who has worked at the studio under Lora’s ownership–every single one–has either quit or been fired. Some of these people have been devoted Bikram teachers and practitioners for decades. Some are responsible for bringing Bikram yoga to Missoula in the first place.

    Lora knows the yoga she teaches very well, and I truly believe that she is a good person and that she wishes to do right by both the studio and the students who practice there. It is my hope that as she matures she will gain the self-confidence and self-awareness necessary to become both the teacher and the businesswoman she is capable of being.

    Until then, though, things are pretty grim around Bikram Yoga Missoula: The students are charged more and the teachers are paid less; the temperature is constantly cranked to well above the recommended heat (the thermostats are set at 120 degrees); students who have been practicing for years are leaving by the dozens, starting underground groups of their own so that they can continue the yoga free of the current administration; teachers come, are treated terribly, and leave.

    When I climb the stairs to the studio these days, I feel a sinking sensation. The vibe in the lobby is tense and edgy. In the dressing room, people whisper in huddles, shooting anxious glances at the door as they discuss Bikram alternatives that are popping up around town. Different gyms are offering hot yoga now, but it’s not the same and we all know it: we all love the Bikram. No one wants the knock-off.

    I continue to practice at the studio because, like many, I have purchased a package deal of classes that has committed me for a certain period of time. Also, I really love the yoga. I love what it has done for my body, my mind, my confidence, my relationships with other people, and mostly, my relationship with myself.

    At the beginning of a Bikram class, the teacher will often explain that the following ninety minutes is for meditation, that you should focus on your breath and your own eyes in the mirror. “This is your time,” the teacher will say. “Don’t let anybody steal your peace.”

    So that’s what I try to do. I figure, I have enough drama in my life, I don’t need to engage in it at yoga too. I try to keep my head down, get the benefits of the yoga practice, and then get out.

    Still, though, I can’t help remembering how nice it was when everyone joked and laughed in the lobby, when the teachers were allowed to dim the lights during the floor series so that you didn’t have to spend forty-five minutes staring into florescent bulbs, when the instruction was gentle and kind and given with humor. Climbing the stairs to the studio used to begin the best part of my day—the part I most looked forward to. And I just can’t help wishing that it could be like that again.

  34. I love your extremely well written comments. I have signed up to hear comments on this matter because I too have become disillusioned with the studio. I could not have nailed it better myself! i’d love to know though where these other Hot Yoga classes are because I’m dying to go!

  35. I’m so sad to hear about this downturn in the Bikram community. Community has always been an extremely valuable part of yoga for me—at times, just as much as if not more than the asana. Hopefully, your community will only grow stronger—opposition often makes evaluate and, perhaps, better articulate what it is that draws us to something. From this place, we are then more apt to make positive change. It seems, from your insightful and empathetic (non-judgment and compassion are essential to yoga too, of course) response, this will happen.

    Until then, however, I recommend trying a vinyasa class at Down Dog, the Women’s Club or The Yoga Fitness Center; also, the Dance Collective has great, fast-paced yoga options. You won’t find Bikram-hot rooms, but many do heat their studios between 70 and 80 degrees. Plus, with practices like Asthanga, the breath, bandha and posture create more than enough internal heat to sweat and flush toxins from the body.

    I wish you much luck and appreciate keeping us in the loop, and for sharing a compassionate, hopeful perspective.