Hot, sweaty, scandalous: Bikram yoga copyright clash

Laywergram… nastygram… yogagram? Salon story today on eccentric yoga entrepreneur and apparently hot-tempered fella Bikram Choudhury, and his efforts to enforce copyrights on the fastest-growing style of yoga in America. Mr. Choudhury has copyrighted the poses, and threatens to sue anyone who teaches them without his permission.

"From the business side, I kind of understand it," says Judith Hanson Lasater, a prominent Bay Area yoga instructor who has been teaching since 1971. "But from the yoga side I think it's really sad." Mom-and-pop studios across the country, owned by people like the Morrisons who feel they are doing a service by helping to disseminate the teachings of yoga, are outraged by Choudhury's hubris. "Yoga is an old philosophy and an old tradition," says Tony Sanchez, who opened a Bikram Yoga studio in San Francisco in 1985. "It's ridiculous to have someone claiming that these are their postures."

Choudhury, 56, is a yoga guru so brash that he has been known to compare himself to Superman and Buddha, teach from a throne wearing nothing but a tiny Speedo and a headset mike, and proclaim his style as "the only yoga." When asked how he could make such drastic statements, he told Business 2.0 magazine: "Because I have balls like atom bombs, two of them, 100 megatons each. Nobody fucks with me." Perhaps because of his erratic, grandiose behavior, the hundreds of cease-and-desist letters he sent to studios across the country were remarkably effective. Most studios either met his demands, stopped teaching Bikram classes and using the Bikram name, or shuffled around the standard 26-pose sequence.

Link to Salon story (registration required), Discuss (Thanks, Mara!)