Yoga can be described as a philosophy, as a way of thinking. Yoga is about how you are living your life. It’s a practice to be in the moment. It’s a path for physical, mental and spiritual progress, a path that leads to inner happiness, to freedom, to self-realization. The goal is to unite body, mind and soul. The actual word Yoga is Sanskrit and one meaning is “to unite, join, unify”.
Yoga is one of six classic systems of Hindu philosophy whose roots date back 5000 years. There are different kinds of yoga e.g. Raja yoga, Bhakti yoga, Karma yoga and Hatha yoga. All kinds ultimately lead to the same destination – to the union with Brahman, the true identity.
Bikram Yoga is a style of Hatha yoga. And within Hatha yoga we are mostly working with two of the eight disciplines, asanas (postures, how to treat your body, physically wellbeing) and pranayama (breathing, mastering the lift force). The other six disciplines are yama (guidelines for engaging with the rest of the world), niyama (rules of personal behaviour), pratyahara (drawing the senses inward in order to still the mind), dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation), samadhi (Super consciousness).
The founder of Bikram Yoga is Bikram Choudhury, born in Calcutta, India 1946. Bikram started practicing yoga at the age of three. His guru was Bishnu Ghosh (the brother of Paramahansa Yogananda, author of the popular book “The Autobiography of a Yogi” and the founder of the “Self-Realization Fellowship” in Los Angeles). Bikram practiced yoga at least four to six hours every day at “Ghosh´s College of Physical Education” in Calcutta. At age 13 he was the youngest contestant ever to win the “National India Yoga Competition”. Three years later he was declared “Yogi Raj” (King of the Yogis) by Swami Shivananda. At age 17 Bikram injured his knee during a weightlifting accident. Leading European doctors told him he would never walk again. Not accepting the doctor’s prognosis, Bikram went back to Bishnu Ghosh’s school. Through the help and guidance of his guru, six months later, his knee had recovered. Ghosh was a celebrated physical culturist and the first to scientifically document yoga’s ability to cure chronic ailments and heal the body. Bikram was asked by Ghosh to start several yoga schools in India. The schools were so successful that at Bishnu’s request Bikram travelled to Japan and opened two more.
In a United Nation sponsored research project at Tokyo University Hospital, Bikram helped doctors prove that yoga regenerates tissues and cures chronic ailments. Combining Eastern discipline and Western medicine, Bikram perfected his comprehensive system suitable for all ages and levels of fitness.
At the invitation of President Nixon, Bikram arrived in the United States in 1973. He quickly became the foremost yoga teacher in the west. And he has taught the Bikram Yoga-series to millions of students around the world. There are now over 500 affiliated Bikram Yoga studios worldwide.