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“”The essence of the Yoga revelation is that an adept, by the double device of thinking profoundly and breathing deeply, can throw off the trammels of the body and become a sort of gaseous angel, purged of sin and as happy as the boy who killed his father.
Yoga consists of several different forms of exercise, meditation and physical discipline that originated in India. What most westerners think of as "yoga" is actually only one variety, "hatha yoga". Hatha yoga consists of long, slow stretches, and is known to help dramatically with flexibility and stress. It revolves around several "positions", held for varying lengths of time, along with deep breathing. Yoga advocates make a variety of health claims about yoga, crediting it with alleviation of stress-related and cardiovascular problems, including asthma and heart disease. Some of these claims are substantiated: research supports reports of the effects of yoga on alleviating chronic back pain.
Inverted yoga positions purportedly "restore bodily fluids" to the upper parts of the body, since in normal posture gravity forces them to drain to the bottom of the body. Also, yoga allegedly helps to balance the "energy" in the body. As such, it is often added to alternative medicine regimens for such serious ailments as cancer and AIDS.
Beyond this, yoga is also an ancient spiritual practice, one that most of the practitioners in the United States and Europe know very little about. Traditionally, it is passed on from a master (known as a yogi or yogini) to a student directly, not in large classes. Jains regard yoga as part of the path to absolute enlightenment.
Although it draws on ancient traditional ideas, what westerners think of as yoga was not a mainstream practice in India or anywhere else until the 20th century, and traditional yoga would be unrecognisable to the people down at your local class. Yoga as a physical practice dates back to the 1930s and to people such as Tirumalai Krishnamacharya. It became associated with the rise of Indian nationalism and with the need to promote a physically vigorous Indian culture capable of challenging British physical strength; hence it draws on the physical-fitness culture of the British army as well as on traditional Indian sports and European gymnastics, with many newly-invented poses. B. K. S. Iyengar played a role in developing and promoting modern yoga, specifically his own brand of Iyengar yoga, which he began teaching in the 1930s and popularised in the 50s and 60s via his friendship with Yehudi Menuhin and in books such as Light on Yoga (1966).
Bikram yoga is a comparatively new flavor of hatha yoga, created by Bikram Choudhury in the 1970's. It's also known as "hot yoga", and is is a series of 26 yogic postures conducted in a room heated to about 40°C (105 °F) in front of a mirror. Sessions are extremely stressful, beginning and ending with purposeful hyperventilation and involving the deliberate straining of joints and limbs. Because of these elements, there is a serious risk of heatstroke or tissue damage during a Bikram yoga session.
Bikram is unusually rigid in its specifications, with precisely 26 predefined postures, and extremely litigious about unsanctioned practitioners or rogue franchises, going to great lengths to defend its patented series of postures. As of October, 2015, the United States 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled Bikram yoga's 26 postures are not eligible for copyright protection. Writing for the three-judge panel, Judge Kim Wardlaw stated that copyrighting such postures would allow for the eventual copyright of "many routinized physical movements, from brushing one's teeth to pushing a lawnmower to shaking a Polaroid picture."
The founder, Bikram Choudhury, exhibited all the characteristics of a cult leader. He has a long history of making bizarre exaggerated claims: according to one newspaper profile "he claimed to have been invited to America by Richard Nixon, and to have taught yoga to the Beatles and Nasa astronauts. He once told a class that he invented the disco ball." And if that isn't enough, "he launched Michael Jackson’s career, cured Janet Reno’s Parkinson’s disease, was once best friends with Elvis, and had experienced '72 hours of marathon sex, where my partner has 49 orgasms. I count.'" He amassed a fortune of $75m through his yoga, much of it coming from training camps for instructors who paid up to $10,000 for a 9-week course that entitles them to teach his methods and use his trademarks. He has also been accused of sexual assault or rape by several women, mainly at his training camps; Micki Jafa-Bodden was awarded $6.8m in damages for sexual harassment and other charges. In response, he fled the USA and his American company declared bankrupcy, while many Bikram yoga studios rebranded as "hot yoga".
“”Yoga is a Satanic Spiritual Practice BEWARE !!!
|—The Vigilant Christian advises on the situation|
- Inverted and semi-inverted yoga postures increase intraocular pressure, so these poses are contraindicated for those with glaucoma.
- Hyponatraemia (severe blood sodium deficiency) from Bikram yoga.
- Like most sports: torn tendons.
- Practicing yoga is sinful in the Roman Catholic Church.
Perhaps because yoga is part of alternative medicine, it has also attracted instructors who push other types of woo. Yoga influencers Guru Jagat and Stephanie Birch have pushed the QAnon conspiracy theory. Buti Yoga founder Bizzie Gold has promoted anti-vaccination. Sayer Ji, who runs GreenMedInfo, has denied that there is a COVID-19 pandemic.
- Yoga, Inc., a documentary about the rise of commercial yoga in America. The film focuses particularly on Bikram Yoga.
- Bikram Yoga
- Mencken's review on the book "Hindu Mysticism" by S.N Gupta
- Healing Effects of Yoga
- "Yoga and Stretching Both Ease Chronic Back Pain", Reuters.
- Iyengar and the Invention of Yoga, Michelle Goldberg, The New Yorker, 2014
- Bikram Yoga Poses
- "How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body", New York Times, 8 Jan 2012
- "that could be (and, in two of the preceding examples, have been) characterized as forms of dance."
- 'He said he could do what he wanted': the scandal that rocked Bikram yoga, The Guardian, 18 Feb 2017
- Yoga guru Bikram Choudhury accused of sex assault, rape, CNN 25 Feb 2015
- Bikram Yoga Files for Bankruptcy—While Fugitive Founder Reportedly Hides Out in Acapulco, Yoga Journal, Nov 14, 2017
- Bikram yoga's moral dilemma, ESPN, Nov 9, 2018
- Intraocular pressure changes and ocular biometry during Sirsasana (headstand posture) in yoga practitioners, Baskaran M, Raman K, Ramani KK, Roy J, Vijaya L, Badrinath SS, Ophthalmology. 2006 Aug;113(8):1327-32. Epub 2006 Jun 27.
- Can Yoga Positions Cause An Eye Pressure Problem?, Carolina Valdivia.
- Exercise associated hyponatraemia leading to tonic-clonic seizure
- Musculoskeletal injuries related to yoga
- Pope Francis Says Yoga Doesn't Lead Us to God, but doesn't apply to physical exercises. Of course, it's only a mortal sin if you knowingly commit the sin of yoga.
- The yoga world is riddled with anti-vaxxers and QAnon believers: In my day job, I monitor the spread of online disinformation and conspiracy theories. I never expected to find them at my yoga class by Cécile Guerin (28 January 2021) Wired.
- Redpilled Conspirituality.
- Meet the police chief turned yoga instructor prodding wealthy suburbanites to civil war by Radley Balko (Jan. 27, 2021 at 10:24 a.m. PST) The Washington Post.