On Yoga (Part II)

Yesterday I talked about what I like about Bikram Yoga, but promised to elaborate on the controversy surrounding it. I'll also discuss my one beef with it today. (Click here to read yesterday's post first).

Most of the controversy surrounding Bikram Choudhury – the founder of Bikram Yoga – revolves around his patenting of the series of 26 posture and two breathing exercises. I think some yogis dislike this because yoga is something that belongs to everyone – you can't patent it. But I don't have any serious objection to what he's done. Maybe it's my capitalist American roots. Obviously you can't patent a yoga posture, but if you spent time and effort developing a certain way of doing them, in an order, with a specific taught dialogue, then I think that's alright. After all, you can't copyright individual words, but you can when they're put in a certain order to express a view or tell a story. What's the difference between that and putting words in a specific order to teach a yoga class?

My only problem with Bikram Yoga is the pseudo science that gets spun in class. Choudhury's official website explains that hatha yoga flushes away the toxins in all the glands and organs of our bodies while at the same time bringing nourishment to them. The claim is that the heat not only softens your muscles to make them more flexible but also furthers this cleansing process by flushing impurities out of the body through the skin.

I'm no biologist, but I was good at science in high school and to a lesser degree at university, and I'm not sure exactly what toxins he means. Sweat's main purpose is to cool the body down when it's overheating to keep our temperature constant as warm-blooded creatures. We lose trace amounts of minerals (sodium, iron, potassium) when we sweat, as well as urea. But toxins are generally filtered by our liver and kidneys and waste products from food leave our bodies in a different way, if you know what I mean.

Regardless, I'm not trying to say anything bad about Bikram Yoga, it's just that I think it detracts from the positives of anything when there's pseudo science mixed in. (If you know something I don't about this detoxification process, please do correct me!)

Also, as an addendum to yesterday's post, I did find a great article from Yoga Journal explaining that Bikram does not include weight-bearing postures in the series because he thinks even downward-facing dog is too advanced. This attitude from him pleased me to no end. I am not yet strong enough to do this type of posture, which makes me sure there are lots of other people out there who aren't strong enough to do it properly either, and it could be causing them injury. Click here to read the article and learn more about Bikram's personality as well – it's called Yoga's Bad Boy, which did make me smile.

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