The Hot Yoga War

Two yogis battle over the fate of a tradition (and a pile of money)

But as part of his new approach, he began schooling larger and larger numbers of people at a time, eventually working his way up to 400 people in one session. The courses weren’t cheap—today they run $10,900 per student. He was training so many students that eight years later, he decided to copyright his method. If someone wanted to teach his style of hot yoga, he or she had to sign a franchise agreement—with the requisite fees kicked back to Bikram.

There are now more than 330 studios in America—600 worldwide—with the greatest concentration in California, where Bikram yoga is offered at 86 separate locations.

Throughout the years, a handful of former students have attempted to set up unaffiliated studios. Bikram successfully sued a few of them. But none of these insurrections has been as big, painful, or lengthy as his battle with Gumucio, his former favorite student.

The various suits have sent a palpable chill through the world of hot yoga, considered the largest and fastest-growing segment of the field. Bikram claims that 35 million Americans practiced his brand of yoga last year alone.

A Pupil Challenges His Master

Like his former mentor, Gumucio has dark, shoulder-length hair, though his flows in luscious waves. Heavy eyebrows and a large Roman nose accent a ruddy, usually unshaven face. If Bikram seems like the Energizer Bunny—a constant stream of nervous energy—Gumucio is his counterpart, exuding a slow, cavalier confidence.

They first met in Los Angeles in 1996. Gumucio had quit his job as a Seattle radio announcer and moved to L.A., somewhat on a whim. He’d taken only three Bikram classes when his sister persuaded him to enroll with her in the teacher training program.

That first day, he attempted to stand in the half-moon pose, his feet together, arms pressed tight overhead, torso stretched to the right. Ideally, the body curves into an upside-down L shape, which requires the sides of the body to stretch further than feels humanly possible and leaves one’s abdomen shaking. Yet the novice strained to tilt more than a few inches to the side. As his eyes focused on his posture in the mirror, Bikram approached him from behind.

“What the hell are you doing here?” the teacher asked quietly.

Gumucio smiled. “Well, I’m here to do your teacher training.”

Their eyes locked in the mirror, Gumucio still struggling to bend his body sideways. “Good luck,” Bikram said, giving him a look of slight disgust before moving on.

“So for the next eight weeks, he literally tried to kill me,” Gumucio says. “I mean, maybe not literally, but he made it, like, uncomfortable, because I think he couldn’t believe this guy with so little training would go to the teacher training.”

To the uninitiated, a Bikram class can seem like a cult. It’s not uncommon to see girls brush the guru’s hair or massage his body as he lectures, as if he were a deity.

One day, while struggling through class, Gumucio decided to take matters into his own hands. He signaled to one of the girls that he wanted to take over. “I decided to massage the evil villain in my life,” he recalls, laughing. Bikram noticed his new masseur and was impressed.

“From that day forward, he was nice to me,” Gumucio says. “But I had to pay a different kind of, you know, penalty. Because then he made me massage him, like, every single day for, like, four hours a day. I would be dripping with sweat all over, just from working on this crazy man.”

All that fawning worked. By the end of Gumucio’s training, the men had formed a close friendship. Six months later, Bikram trusted Gumucio to return to Los Angles to run his world headquarters studio and stay in his home while Bikram and his family went to India on vacation.

Gumucio had been welcomed into the inner circle of one of the world’s foremost yogis.

“He is a very good disciple at the beginning,” Bikram would later say. “He was my good student.”

Their relationship would remain solid for the next five years. Gumucio helped with teacher training and speaking engagements. The men vacationed together and stayed in each other’s homes.

Gumucio would go on to open four studios in Seattle, but none were called “Bikram Yoga.” Instead, he used generic names like “Yoga Fitness.” The field had yet to see the popularity it has today, and Gumucio believed that greater success could be had by appealing to a wider, more athletic audience than the “new age, tree-hugging” type Bikram attracted.

Yet their friendship began to strain in 2000. That’s when Gumucio met John McAfee, a software billionaire turned yoga teacher, and visited his Colorado estate. The pair immediately clicked. Soon, McAfee was inviting him to teach at a retreat, spending several days in nature practicing yoga in complete silence. By the time it was over, Gumucio decided he wanted to teach multiple forms of yoga, incorporating McAfee’s kriya method, which focuses on the spine.

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10 comments
sonia.drek
sonia.drek

                                  BIKRAM CHOUDHARY IS BASTERD AND PERVERT 

i got some information about bikram choudhary he seems to be pervert and a old man with full of ego...he tried to rape one girl from his teachers tranning i was shock to read this .Bikram tHe basterd first try all his tricks on her but one day he corssed all limits of huminity,The girl was trying preparing for yoga championship and he asked Bikram how to win yoga champonship what postuer and wat changes she shoud make in reply he the basterd put his hand on her leg and whisper sexual favour and the he hold her from behind and pressed his penis into her legs.

and this basterd said i am so lonley i need somone to have sex to massage me otherwise i will die.. What is this a Yogi or pervert a girl who is just his daughters age this basterd is askiing all this and and bloody had sexual relationship with almost all good looking girls who comes for teachers tranning and has one Girl Friend In Japan  and wife at home ...and when this girl said ok if you need sex you have your wife ..this basterd and Fucker said she is bitch..and then this girls again asked him what about your Girl Friend basterd said she is just for sex i dont love her...Please have sex with me otherwise i will die .Then this innocent girls said your yoga will fix this problem he said no now no yoga will can fix this its not working on his body...i feel he is really basterd i cant even call him dog or pig as these animals are innocent but this Old pervert is basterd and feel bad why we americans still paying him Huge amount for his stupid teachers tranning we shoud throw him out of this country 




AYogi
AYogi

The essence of Yog and Yoga practice is lost in this materialistic discussion.Wake up people and get a life.Breathe and spread love ,paece and happiness.According to Bhagvad Gita:you cannot get more than you deserve and Whatever you do, just surrender your achievements or failures to God. This way you will experience eternal bliss void of any EGO, desires and sorrows. OM TAT SAT

Paul
Paul

Hooy crap, as Apu would say. 6 pages of this 1%er crapola? LOL!

Betty
Betty

Waiting for someone (Village Voice?) to interview some of the MANY Bikram affiliated studio owners who have refused to sign any of the franchise agreements Bikram has exhorted them to sign. He has screamed and yelled, threatened them with lawsuits, told them he will approve studios across the street or around the corner from them, told them they are personally loathed by others in the community, ridiculed them, spied,on them, in short bullied in every way he could and STILL more than 2/3 of them have refused to sign. Even owners who have been part of the Bikram community from its earliest days have refused to capitulate to his demands on this issue. What do they know that NO ONE in the press knows?????

FindingNamo
FindingNamo

I hope Bikram payed royalties for the roomful of people singing the "Happy Birthday" tune.

YogiB
YogiB

I notice Ms. Moss didn't reflect the feelings of the more than 200 Bikram studio owners who have refused to sign the many iterations of franchise documents Bikram has demanded they sign. As people who have taught his method for decades, been his most ardent supporters for decades, might they have valuable insights to share? Ms. Moss also got the history wrong. For the past 30 or so years AFFILIATED studios PAID nothing except loyalty to remain in the Bikram fold. They were asked to follow his prescriptions for the room and yoga, and that adherence was their only payment. Most of them complied happily and sent hundreds and hundreds of people to Teacher Training and Bikram lived WELL on the millions he earned from those teacher trainings. Was the yoga corrupted? Watered down in this process of training teachers en masse for profit? Some of these old alcolytes argue it was. Bikram didn't seem to think there was any problem except that he started to struggle to live on 5 million. For the record, Ms. Moss, the Bikram of the early years followed HIS guru's teachings (Yogananda, Bishnu Ghosh's brother) and PROMISED he would NEVER charge studio owners anything to teach the yoga...Yogananda said that the yoga should never be used to enrich a single person, a teaching Bikram has more recently discarded along with his many promises never to charge studio owners. YTTP charges $8 for a drop-in class. If you practice four times a week, at that rate you are paying FAR more per class than most regular students in a traditional Bikram school (with an annual package, most students pay as little as $2.75 per class for daily practice). Have these lower prices corrupted or ruined the yoga? Hardly. Schools fail because they are poorly run and don't know how to compete in an ever more crowded yoga marketplace. Simple as that. And it hasn't hurt Bikram to have all of these yoga studios popping up like mushrooms: 600 people in teacher training at $10K a pop, the staff all DONATE their time and expertise, teachers and studio owner DONATE their time and energy as they have done for years, and the trainees have to then be re-trained at their home studios because Bikram is shuffling them through like cattle in a shute, their ONLY skill regurgetating the dialogue on demand.

Shawna
Shawna

Greg was an instructor at my Bikram training in 2000. He was(is) one of my favorite teachers. I learned so much from him. I went on to work for him just before his move to NYC. He is awesome mentor,whatever he teaches...It 's unfortunate the politics. It detracts from the real magic and healing that goes on in yoga. I say we keep the focus there.

Amybercasio
Amybercasio

It is extremely offensive! It's tiresome to see journalist giving bikram's position so much attention. If Gumucio ran bikram's teacher training for several years he is more than likely training his current hot teachers to be on par or above the Bikram graduates. He's providing a better quality product at a lower price. THAT'S the flame under bikram's a**!

MarjMorningstar
MarjMorningstar

Bikram comes off as a selfish, crazy, megalomaniacal moron. That's because he is.

Sickworld
Sickworld

How insane can this be, you can take no side and still think that to compare anyone to hitler or osama given their histories is an insult to all those who suffered at the hands of those monsters. and to compare yourself to jesus at the same time?

 
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