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Bikram Yoga Isn't Just Stretching, It's A Big Business And A Cult Of Personality

Updated 15 Mar 2019 5.3k views13 items

The business of yoga continues to boom around the world, in large part due to the meteoric rise of Bikram yoga during the 1970s and '80s. Developed by Bikram Choudhury, the yoga practice that bears his name became much more than an exercise regimen. This form of exercise arguably turned into one of America's weird cults; the popularity of Bikram yoga was facilitated by Choudhury's ability to spread his vision through thousands of trained instructors. Along the way, the yoga guru amassed a huge fortune and devoted followers, but more recently, Choudhury's legal problems have shaken the Bikram yoga community to the core. 

The grueling heat of a Bikram yoga studio is a place to stretch, breathe, and get centered through a sequence of poses that challenge both mind and body. Though it seems relaxing, it may be as grueling as Crossfit. How did 26 postures and two breathing techniques become so prolific and dominate the yoga landscape? What about Choudhury and his methods were so appealing? And what did he do to start, grow, and ultimately tarnish a cultural movement?

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