Bikram Choudhury, yoga's biggest asshole, squares off for a copyright showdown

I missed this great piece in the LA Weekly from a few weeks back about multi-millionaire yogi blowhard Bikram Choudhury. We've covered his antics before, but his copyrighty litigiousness just got interesting again.

Short version: Bikram is basically the Walter White of yoga. And I'm talking Breaking Bad Season 5 episode 6 Walter White. The "hot yoga" kingpin isn't in the yoga business or the money business, he's in the empire business, and he's suing his former apprentice and right-hand-dude Greg Gumucio for intellectual property infringement.

But now, the US Copyright office says it may have issued all protection related to yoga sequences in error, including the one Choudhury's suing over.

Random tech world connection: Choudhury was introduced to his now-nemesis by John McAfee, the software billionaire turned yoga teacher.


But as he has brought his foe's business practices into the limelight, his own are being scrutinized more than ever. For the past nine months, the validity of Choudhury's copyright has been called into question repeatedly, most recently by the U.S. Copyright Office itself. While the various yoga practices belong to the long tradition of Indian culture, the specific arrangement of these poses can be uniquely organized, and thus potentially owned by an individual — or so it was previously thought.

On June 22, the Copyright Office seemed to reverse itself. Deputy General Counsel Robert Kasunic issued a clarification, declaring that if yoga postures improve health, they cannot be copyrighted. He added that any prior yoga copyrights were "issued in error." The announcement threw the dispute into the air. Now the question isn't just whether Gumucio violated a copyright but whether Choudhury's copyright is valid at all.

This would appear to leave Choudhury on thin ice. The healing of ailments has always been his primary selling point. At least, that's how Gumucio sees it. "Not only does this get me out of my legal mess but it critically and unequivocally says yoga cannot be copyrighted," he says.

If you're not familiar with the colorfully douchey quotes the man spouts, while wearing silk suits, rhinestone ties, and driving million-dollar Rolls Royces, well, fold your legs into padmāsana and read the whole article, 'cause you're in for a real treat.

Choudhury compares the former devotee he's suing to Hitler and Osama bin Laden, while eating scallops.

This is the same yoga franchise kingpin who once uttered the timeless words, "Because I have balls like atom bombs, two of them, 100 megatons each. Nobody fucks with me."



    1. Because “that’s probably enough” isn’t a phrase in most greedy blowhards vocabularies?

      1. Because the legal system requires it. Got a trademark or copyright on something? Then you’d better defend it each & every time otherwise when you do take it to court Joe Bob Lawyer will ask why you’ve let person X use it uncontested for 5 years. You stand a good chance of losing then. (Not defending Yogi Jerkwad here. Just stating why everyone litigates or mails cease & desist orders when something like this comes up.)

    2. Maybe he expects that his mad yoga skills will give him eternal life, hence the need for much more scratch than the average person could spend in one lifetime.   Or possibly he wants swank surroundings on multiple planes of existence. 

  1. “Bikram is basically the Walter White of yoga”   —Brilliant!   

    Details also did a fascinating piece last winter on the teacher training program: 

      1. Sometimes, I am afraid to read the articles, I prefer the buffer BoingBoing spoons me.  Seriously.

        1.  Bingo.

          @boingboing-2f150366fa9e59d5b4e3d1071d395264:disqus The internet also makes people jump the gun.  I’m joking about his Miami Vice villain attire.

  2. The small, svelte man from Calcutta runs his hands anxiously through thin, wiry hair that falls from a mostly bare crown past his shoulders.

    Wait a second…  *googles*

    SKULLET!!!  He’s got retired Pro-Wrestler Hair!  Yogi Mullet!

  3. You’ll never go broke conning Americans with the “mystical east”.  Talk to people from India who are familiar with this sort of self appointed guru and they’ll have a not so nice opinion.

  4. Million dollar Rolls, rhinestone ties, blah blah blah. Cut to the chase, can this guy you know what  his own you know what, or what?

      1. I had a really hard time too. He means “can this guy you-know-what his own you-know-what, or what” or better, “can this guy @$%$ his own @$%$, or what”.

        I’m not sure what the actual expletives are supposed to be in this phrase…

        1. Dawww, so innocent :) “Suck his own dick” is the phrase you’re looking for. This is a fairly common trope with regards to male proponents of various flexibility-based arts – gymnasts, yogis, contortionists etc. Stay classy, world!

  5. Amen, on that headline sister.  My yoga instructor told me (ie-veracity plausible-only) that Bikram requires only a certain type of rug to be used in the studios.  A rug, I might add, that has the unique ability to pass on the nastiest case of dermatitis that I have ever had on my outside ankle bones, shit required adhesive steroids to get rid of it.  

    1. One of my students who took Bikram, but not from him personally, said that the instructor walked around windexing the mirrors during class.  Apparently, environmental control is important, presumably as an aspect of branding.

  6. I got a few refugees from his classes.  Apparently he wanders around yelling at students for being fat.

  7. “Yoga’s biggest asshole”.  LOLwow.  That title could only have been churned out in California.  Then again, a thousand times better this than other shenanigans that happen in states with “all guns and no queers” postures.

  8. Over the next four decades, his clients would include… George Harrison, Charlie Sheen, Britain’s Prince Harry and Jennifer Aniston.

    Charlie Sheen?  Well that explains everything.

  9. This explains why there has been an explosion of street poles plastered with “Hot Yoga” studios in town over the past 3 years. The ponzie of Yoga. Buy in, turn on, pay out.

    To toot my own horn, I practice Kundalini which has hopefully not been altered in its practice of over several thousand years. 

    Go into the light.

  10. So the US Copyright Office has essentially validated the factual nature of yoga’s effectiveness?  Wonder if they’ll get around to realizing that gene sequences are factual, too . . .

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