The Hot Yoga War

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

“I wouldn’t be able to pay the teacher the standard I want, pay for the heat system, the amenities, the shower, the space, the rent—keeping it the way it should be, so the studio is not completely packed and crowded. . . . If he makes it more affordable to people who can’t afford it, I am all for that. If it starts to bring down the value of a yoga studio . . . then I think it becomes a problem.”

To Donegan, this isn’t a fight over money or market supremacy. It’s a moral fray, a clear contest between right and wrong.

“He’s not a businessman,” she says of Bikram. “He’s a terrible businessman. He’s not copyrighting to make money. He just wants everyone to do his product the right way, because it is the right way.”

This is the legacy Bikram hoped to protect by suing Gumucio. 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 Bikram’s copyright has been called into question repeatedly, most recently by the U.S. Copyright Office itself.

Although 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 Bikram’s copyright is valid at all.

This would appear to leave Bikram on thin ice. The healing of ailments has always been his primary selling point. Or 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.

Unfortunately, it’s not quite that simple. Nothing to do with the federal government ever is.

Although Kasunic admits that Bikram’s copyright was likely issued in error and that no new copyrights will be issued to yoga, he also says his office has no plans to reevaluate the ones already issued.

In other words, his is a quintessential government mea culpa: Yes, we probably messed up. But you don’t expect us to actually do anything about it, do you?

Instead, Bikram and Gumucio will have to wait for a judge to settle their war when the case goes to trial in Los Angeles sometime next year.

It’s Still Good to Be King

To most of the country, the yoga war might be nothing more than another mercantile fight between two titans wrestling over the spoils of their industry. Yet back at the banquet hall in Boston, Bikram frames Gumucio as a villain on par with the all-time greats.

“If you have a sick body, a screw-loose brain, you will only be surviving—that will be a man like Greg, Hitler, or Osama bin Laden,” he says between bites of plump scallops.

Bikram now claims “zero feeling” for his old disciple and believes that the American courts will eventually decide that rectitude is at his side, where it rightfully belongs.

“You cannot steal somebody’s intellectual property. Law and justice protect,” Bikram says, leaning close to be heard amid the roar of conversation, his small brown eyes red with exhaustion. “Because I’m a sweet, kind guy, everybody think I’m an idiot, I’m weak. Now I have to protect my franchising. If I don’t, nobody will buy my franchising anymore.”

Suddenly, there is the chime of a butter knife clinking against a wine glass for quiet. It comes from one of Bikram’s close friends, who is standing with his arm around the guru’s wife, Rajashree.

“Today is Bikram and Rajashree’s 23rd wedding anniversary,” the man announces proudly as the room erupts in applause.

“Oh, I forgot! Shit!” Bikram exclaims as a large mango cake is wheeled to the center of the room. “I forgot completely! Shit! Why you didn't remind me? Shit! You keep me too busy!”

The yogis sing “happy anniversary” to the tune of “Happy Birthday to You.” Then Bikram announces that, far from forgetting the occasion, he has bought his wife one of the world’s most expensive cars, an $800,000 Rolls-Royce convertible.

Bikram seems to inflate with energy as he addresses his followers. “You work hard to make me famous,” he says. “Something I did right all over the globe.”

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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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