Bikram Choudhury: Truth And Lies
The hot-yoga founder, the documentary shows, is a flawed and criminally dangerous man
Early on in Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator, a woman points out that Bikram yoga adherents don’t have to chant ‘Om’, as if somehow this makes it more secular, less cult-like. Except, of course, everyone talks about Bikram and the ‘hot yoga’ he brought to America as if it were a religious awakening. He has his apostles, the owners of Bikram yoga studios across the length and breadth of the country. And he has his devotees. “I’m not saying there haven’t been ... some bad moments,” says one follower, “where he shows a really ugly side. But still, to this day, the classes I did with him, my back bends were deeper, my standing bow was held longer and there is something about that, which is why so many people to this day won’t even discuss anything negative”.
The negatives are small-beer accusations like rape, sexual harassment, racism and homophobia. Bikram’s defence is simple. He changed Americans, and possibly America itself: Prostrate before him, shower wealth and fame upon him, but don’t be so ungrateful as to point an accusatory finger, to breathe a sceptical word. You do not have to deny Bikram Choudhury’s charisma, his Gatsby-esque rise from the streets of Calcutta to the riches of Beverly Hills, to think he is a con man, to think his rise has more to do with his patter and false promises, and some deep-seated American (or simply, human) lust for self-punishment, than yoga. Bikram’s life, this compelling, convincing documentary shows, is built on lies. His level of chutzpah and messianic self-belief might be transcendental, but he is just a man—a terribly flawed, criminally dangerous man.