Indian traditional yoga practices and teachings are far more complex than western, modern yoga. Indians looked for the local yogi in case of illness before western medicine came to India.
With his holistic knowledge he would then prescribe diets, colonics, herbal teas and also some yoga exercises.
The very ascetic yogis didn’t take any money for their help but transmitted their knowledge for food and accommodation and attended the sick at their homes until full recovery.
Yoga’s way to the Western World
When British and American tourism developed in India in the 19th century, the fascination for yogis started to grow, who sometimes exhibited their supranatural powers at festivities. Then in the 1960s, news went around the world that there was a yogi in India who could cure arthritis.
During the 20s, Hollywood looked for muscular actors for films like “The Ten Commandments” (1923) and “Ben Hur” (1925). They invited the great Yogi Paramahansa Yogananda to California. With his collaboration they developed tools and dumbbells which founded modern Bodybuilding (Muscle Beach Santa Monica).
Paramahansa Yogananda died in 1952 in California. He founded the Self-Realization Fellowship and wrote the famous book “Autobiography of a Yogi”.
At an official banquet with the Indian Ambassador he attained Mahasamadhi (conscious leaving of the body) making him world-famous.
From Paramahansa Yogananda to Bikram Choudhury
The younger brother of Paramahansa Yogananda, Bishnu Gosh, took over the equipment of his brother from California and in 1930 founded the Bishnu Ghosh College of Yoga and Physical Culture in Calcutta.
His most successful student was Bikram Choudhury, who started his yoga education at age 5, and as a teenager won the National India Yoga Championship three times.
At the age of 20 he had a severe accident while weightlifting. The prognosis for his knee was that he wouldn’t be able to walk anymore. Through the help of Bishnu Gosh and yoga exercises he succeeded in healing his knee in only 6 months.
Highly impressed by this miracle, from then on Bikram devoted his life to yoga. He visited Bishnu Ghosh’s patients and taught them the prescribed yogic exercises. He started with group exercise to be more efficient. The usual seven exercises didn’t suffice, as there were different health problems in the group to be dealt with.
Formation of Bikram Yoga
Slowly a series of 26 exercises developed over time which helped with countless health problems including arthritis.
The wife of the former American ambassador in Tokyo fell severely ill with arthritis and the ambassador called Bikram to Tokyo. It was an extremely cold February and in the beginning Bikram couldn’t help her as she couldn’t move in the paper walled rooms due to the very cold temperatures. Eventually she brought in her little gas heater and the yoga movements were possible even during such a cold winter in Japan. The connection of heat and yoga was discovered and Bikram Hot Yoga was born.
When Shirley McLaine was in Tokyo for the filming of "My Geisha", she followed the ambassador’s wife to the Indian Master’s class and discovered the power of Bikram’s Yoga.
In 1972 former President Nixon was in Honolulu and fell ill with an advanced thrombophlebitis. On a recommendation, Bikram was brought to Honolulu, and succeeded in healing the President in only three days. Bikram received an American work visa as a gift to spread his knowledge in the USA.
Shirley McLaine helped him to start his first little studio in Hollywood. For many years he was the secret of Hollywood stars. Bikram perfected his series of 26 exercises to heal the whole body for young and old. For over 40 years Bikram has taught his yoga series bringing happiness and health to millions of people.
With many studios, Bikram Yoga is one of the most sustainable and popular yoga styles worldwide. The original Bikram Yoga has been practiced at Grüngasse 21 since 2004.