What this yoga scandal teaches us

Bikram Choudhury’s wife wants a divorce. I guess citing “irreconcilable differences” is just the way a “softly-spoken global philanthropist” would put it (after all, we’re talking about numerous rape allegations against her husband, brought by six former students).

I think most of what can be said about the Bikram yoga regime and its founder has been said. But the fact that this seems to be a recurrent topic – does anyone remember John Friend? – makes me wonder.

I used to think that in an average sample of yoga teachers you’d find fewer criminals than in the overall population. I believed that yoga teaching goes hand in hand with a certain attitude. That teachers would feel bound by Patanjali’s eight limbs of yoga:


But they’re not feeling that way. Not all of them. But maybe the problem is inherent in the system? Consider what you need before you can work in any other health setting:

Criminal record screening // National Police Clearance // Department of Health Criminal Record Screening // Working with Children Check // Senior first aid certificate // Aquatic rescue qualification // Comprehensive vaccinations

But hey, you want to teach yoga? A two-week course will do. But even if you don’t have a teaching degree you can call yourself a yoga teacher. Some professions are like that. Journalism, for example. And most people are sufficiently discerning to detect rubbish research and bad writing.

But would you not think that particularly in the health industry protecting professional titles would be key?

Is the current yoga teaching system simply not built to support and protect students?

What do you think?


(The above is a list of what’s needed before you can start studying physiotherapy.)
Infographic credit. Quotations: credit.

7 replies »

  1. It could certainly use regulation- a shame to have to say it about a wellness industry, which as you say, you would hope is an inherently safe space. Does anyone here regularly practice Bikram? I really enjoyed it before getting chronic fatigue!


  2. C.R.E.A.M. (Cash Rules Everything Around Me, for the unfamiliar) Bad-Apples are everywhere all the same, it’s mostly stupid or careless Bad-Apples that tend to get weeded out by the filters. Certainly Yoga in the U.S. has become, as things do, affected by the Culture (read: Capitalist, Competitive, etc.- not Bad, just Real) in which it is operating…

    I suspect Bikram, Friend, and a host of other lower-profile cases of similar nature probably set out with good intentions and just got swept away in their own Circus. Maybe they had a grand scheme in place all along, though that might be giving them too much credit, but plenty of Humans have been caught in the same type of trap. Any Human Institution runs into problems of similar nature, if not of the same scale and degree. I think I’m about to quote Eckhart Tolle, so I’ll boogie out of here…

    Love the IMG though! nicely presented!


    • Yes, you’re right, they probably just got swept away by their own circus, as you say. And in the end we find that “yoga teacher stars” are behaving similar to other “stars” in the entertainment industry – and that their students turn into “fans”…

      Liked by 1 person

    • I agree – we now have naked yoga, dog yoga, cat yoga, ski yoga, underwater yoga, wedding day yoga… Marketing 101: Finding a differentiator is key to attracting clients. And the booming yoga industry does this really well!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Fully agree with your article! The problem is exactly this — yoga has become an industry. And, every industry comes with one and only one aim – money and profit, both of which are diametrically opposite to the principles of yoga as expounded by Patanjali and even earlier (and much more easily) by Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita.

    When a person can “do” yoga for x number of hours and become a certified yoga teacher, it is a clear sign that something is wrong. Why would someone take something as sublime and spiritually elevating as yoga and twist it into crap like naked-yoga, dog-yoga? Why would an entire industry erupt around yoga-pants, yoga-mats, and yoga-what-not? Money… money… money!

    A safe thing to do would be to separate “yogAsanAs” and “the philosophy” to maintain the sanctity and beauty of yoga. If all students are introduced to the Gita, the greatest treatise on Yoga, then they would possibly have an inkling of how far their $300 hot-yoga course actually took them on the path of enlightenment.


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