I have told a few people to check out this blog, which means there’s a chance you already know that while I continue to practice hot hatha yoga, I’ve decided to stop practicing at the studios licensed by modern guru Bikram Choudhury. But I thought I’d go ahead an include the quote that tipped the scale:
“You Westerners are like spiritual babies,” Choudhury says. “You were born in the wrong country, with the wrong skin color, in the wrong culture. You can never be spiritual! It is not your fault. I’m sorry about that. If you can even get the body right, that much is good enough for you!”
The quote is from the same magazine story I mentioned in my previous post, and it infuriates me because I am hurt he would dismiss humans so simply. Who is he to tell me of my spiritual capabilities? I would love to hear what Deepak Chopra would have to say to Bikram. Chopra’s new book, The Soul of Leadership, says that the best leaders use guidance of the soul and heart, not just the mind. And soulful leadership does not involve denying the spirituality of your followers.
This isn’t the first time a role model has let me down. When I was in high school I adored the Counting Crows. Adam Duritz’s soulful crooning on August and Everything After spoke to my heart, and I was a devoted fan for years–until I read an interview in which he says his debut album was an embarrassment, that it didn’t represent his true self. Well, if his true self is more like his later albums I’m sorry to hear that because August is still my favorite, and it still has meaning for me.
Discovering that Bikram is sort of a jerk prompts a similar defiant disappointment: Just because I no longer admire the creator doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate the creation. Bikram yoga–which for the purposes of this blog will be hereafter known as hot hatha yoga–is a genius combination of asanas. I’m not so sure the extreme heat and humidity is necessary, but there’s no denying the magic worked by my muscles in that room. So thank goodness for all the yogis out there with the determination and passion to open hot studios that veer from the patented path. I am grateful for alternatives that celebrate–or at least allow for–my spirituality.