15 June 2008

the Starbucks of Yoga

A lot of yoga folks look down on Bikram yoga, the 90-minute program of poses done in a very hot, steamy room. It is the same each time and its namesake and founder has some policies that regiment it even further, which can sometimes be frustrating to yoga studios doing his programme. If one is in a city with a wide range of yoga choices, and one lives there full-time, then Bikram may not be the best choice--there are other hot yogas if you like that, and other ways to do yoga that can be more challenging in some ways, and certainly have more variety if you're into that.

But as someone who has never lived in a place with decent yoga within an hour drive, I will attest that Bikram : Yoga as Starbucks : Coffee. It's not, as some people claim, the 'McDonalds of yoga'. That implies that it is bad-for-you, cheap, and unthinking product delivered as conveniently and quickly as possible. It is instead the Starbucks of yoga. Yes, some people only drink frappucinos, but you can also get good, consistent doppio macchiatos and americanos, and when you're in a strange city, it's good to know that you don't need to try every coffee place in town to find a decent bean.

Bikram has been my salvation when travelling, because I know that in an hour and a half I can get a good all-around workout and I know that the likelihood of anything vaguely hippie/Orientalist/new age is fairly low, aside from the 'namaste' at the end of the workout. I know what I'm getting, and I can do this while carrying almost no gear. My most recent experience was at a great studio in Berlin Mitte, but there have been many others. Herewith the map of Bikrams I have known:

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