Tag Archives: bikram

Yoga blog trends I would like to see in 2015 – part 2

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H.S. Arun’s  flawless Krounchasana


I may have lost a few followers since my last post. I do have strong opinions, but they help foster thinking about our practice of Yoga. Some of my most cherished preconceptions about Yoga have been smushed down flat by great teachers who flipped my ideas upside-down (literally). In order to keep evolving in our practice, we cannot take anything as set in stone. I will forge ahead and finish my list of Yoga blog trends I would like to see in the next year.

7) More blogs about the inward journey in addition to the outward journey.

One of the best blogs out there for this is 1979Darryl’s Contorted Strength. This guy has a solid daily practice! He is really trying to find the truth of Yoga among the Ashtanga, Bikram, and Iyengar methods. He is finding that the answers are not easy, but maintains his daily practice anyway. This is very similar to how I started Yoga 16 years ago. I finally settled on the Iyengar system, but this path made it clearer for me to see how the other systems are more alike than they are different. 1979Darryl reminds me that Yoga is Yoga no matter what “style” you call it with his adherence to classical texts and his Tapas.

8) More Yoga blogs authored by Men

I’m not saying this this to be sexist, but I feel the Yogic journey is different for men than women. As stated in a previous blog posts, men are barely taken into consideration by Yoga Inc. As far as Yoga Journal is concerned, men are just the stiff student in the back of the room no one pays attention to. As stated above, 1979Darryl, myself, and a few others have a unique perspective about Yoga as male practitioners, as well as many special issues.

9) More Yoga blogs authored by people over 50

Yoga and aging will be the next big trend in coming decades. There is a slew of new research coming out about how Yoga is assisting the aging process to facilitate more range of motion and mental alertness in the later years. All those pictures you see in Light On Yoga shows a “youthful” Iyengar in his late 40s. It would like to hear more anecdotal evidence by those who have practiced for decades.

elder yoga students

10) On that note…more Yoga research entries

It is fascinating the effects Asana have on our 11 bodily systems. I have written quite a few entries based on research about subjects ranging from inversions and eye pressure, yoga and mental health, to other medically related topics. In the early days of Yoga in the West, teachers would make claims that made Yoga sound like 21st Century snake oil. Now much research is supporting those claims. On the flip side, there is also a body of research that suggest that some Yoga may be harmful. Particularly in modern poses like “wild thing.”

11) Finally, more blogs from Iyengar practitioners

For my fellow Iyengar teachers, we have a beautiful system. We need to share it more with the world. I find it a little sad that me at my lowly Introductory II status is writing blog material that a more experienced teacher can easily expound upon. Luci at Yoga Spy who is also Intro II is the Iyengar teacher who inspired me to start this blog. Luci’s blog was “Freshly Pressed” a few years back and I have almost 40k views in my first year of blogging. Imagine the influence some of you Junior and Senior Intermediate level teachers could have…

Research: which style of yoga is most highly rated in the US?


I was disheartened to see some Yelp reviews that were critical of some of my favorite Iyengar yoga studios. This led to a bizarre obsession to see if all Iyengar studios were getting trashy reviews on Yelp.

I set up an experiment by using a random US city generator to get a list of 70 cities. Next, I set variables. Since I was looking for Iyengar studios, I might as well look for other styles as well for comparison. I chose styles that have a standard nationwide teaching curriculum. Those styles are Iyengar, Ashtanga, Bikram, and Corepower. Then the work began.

Yelp uses an ordinal scale with 1-to-5 star ranking. If you have every taken a survey that has a “extremely dislike to extremely like” Likert-type scale, it’s the same thing.

I spent a good part of three days collecting the data on my time off. The research was conducted on May 7-9, 2014. As very few cities had all four styles it took me longer than anticipated to get all the data. Some interesting challenges presented themselves during this process. For example, Corepower is primarily a West Coast-centric practice and I had to take measures from several studios in the same community to get enough scores. Also, finding is “pure” Asthanga yoga studio is very difficult, and I only tallied the studios who reported to teach the series’ with some degree of authenticity. There were plenty of “Ashtanga/vinyasa/hot flow studios which were not suitable to my parameters. Finding a “pure” Iyengar studio was a bit easier than Asthanga because it was easy to verify credentialing via the IYNAUS website. Lastly, Bikram studios are everywhere and outnumbers the other styles roughly 2-to-1. The three days’ work yielded 30 scores of each style.

Threats to internal validity from what I can see would be whats called position set from reviewers. Usually people will write a Yelp review if they are really happy or pissed off, corresponding in a 1 star or 5 star review. There are probably plenty of “fake” reviews which Yelp itself says it takes great pains to counteract with an internal algorithm. As I mentioned about the Bikram style, many of the reviews had markedly higher counts of reviews than the other styles which indicate that it may be the most well-attended style of the styles chosen. Another threat to internal validity is the bias of people who write Yelp reviews (or can write period) versus those who don’t use the review site or cannot write. One more would be that Corepower yoga tends to be in cities along the West coast and may not reflect nationwide attitudes toward this style. I  happily invite statisticians out there to point out other threats to internal validity that I failed to mention.

With all that out of the way, here are the results:


Iyengar = 4.61 stars

Bikram = 4.083 stars

Ashtanga=4.51 stars

Corepower=4.266 stars

Group average=4.34 stars

Out of 30 scores of each style from 70 randomly selected US cities, Iyengar had an an average mean of 4.61, Bikram had an average mean of 4.083, Asthanga had an average mean of 4.51, and Corepower had an average mean of 4.266. The mean of the whole group was 4.34.

What that “means”

My hypothesis that Iyengar yoga is favored poorly nationwide in the US was rejected in this study. That means that Iyengar was the highest rated style of the group, with Asthanga being a near statistical tie. Corepower was just below the group’s average mean. As far as Bikram, they got the lowest score of the group. Before you Bikram fans fret, Bikram yoga is easily the most practiced style in the US. So that means that their classes are best attended, but the students are more apt to complain about it.

One advantage about using Yelp as a measure is that respondents gave information on “why” they gave the rating they did. People who responded with a 5 star review of the Bikram style said that felt it was a “great workout” and stated they felt it had improved their health. For negative ratings of the Bikram style, most addressed poor sanitary conditions of certain studios, and also complaints of not honoring of Groupon discounts.

For the Iyengar style, many 5 star review respondents said they appreciated the detail of instruction and ability of instructors to work with injuries. Some respondents gave a one star rating for instructors who were perceived as “rude” and also for blankets that were not washed regularly.

For the Corepower style, reviewers who gave 5 stars remarked that they enjoyed the modern looking facilities, and the range of options for classes. A large number of one star ratings complained about the of locking doors too early. Others included complaints about Corepower being too “workout focused” and not addressing the more inward aspects of yoga.

Lastly, positive Asthanga reviewers cited “authenticity” often in 5 star reviews and often praised teachers who adhered to the Jois lineage. For criticisms, a one star rating came from a reviewer who said the instructor did not address his injury. Another reviewer gave a studio a two star rating because she said she did not know the primary series by heart and the class “left her in the dust.”

For teachers and studio owners, this research yields useful data on how to improve ratings. It appears as though sanitary conditions of the studio weigh heavily on one’s perception of the style. Also teacher friendliness and experience are major factors in a studios rating. It also appears as though Groupon users will decrease one’s studios ratings if owners have any type of perceived breach of contract (whether or not it is legitimate).

One last flaw I see in the Yelp review method is that many the reviewers do not appear to have enough experience in the style to make an informed rating of the style. As good yoga practitioners know, it takes many years of practice to truly appreciate the fruits of their particular style.

Again, if there are any statisticians out there, please feel free to hammer away at my findings. If anyone else wants to replicate the study, I can provide further data on which cities were selected. Now how do you spend your free time?

Is Your Practice Too Rajasic?


Now that I have more time on my hands during the holidays, I have been able to get to some leisurely reading. Among the books I have picked up are Benjamin Lorr’s “Hell Bent” a book that is critical of the Bikram Choudury teacher training program. The writer is in a seminar called the “Back Bending Club” with one of Bikram’s senior students. They are training for a “yoga competition.” Here is an excerpt:

“The women are doing backbends so severe their ribs are popping out of place. The chiropractor pops them back in and the women return for more backbends. I know this because as one of the only people with a car, I drive them to and from the studio when it happens.”

Excerpt From: Benjamin Lorr. “Hell-Bent.” iBooks. https://itun.es/us/jrm0E.l

If you are having to go to a doctor regularly for you to maintain your practice, my guess is that your practice is too Rajasic. Rajas are one of the three Gunas of yoga that corresponds to frenetic, firey energy.  Your practice may not so intense that your chiropractor is factored into your commute home from the studio, but if you have elements of recurring pain that you know is stemming from your asana practice, it is time to reevaluate.

Yoga practice should be intelligent. You should be discovering how your body works (Swadhayaya) instead of pushing your body until you have to visit a doctor just to function properly. Intelligent practice would be recognizing that your ribs are being damaged, questioning yourself why you are doing poses to perform in a competition, and realize that your true nature is to do yoga to gain health to help others, instead of boasting in a contest.

When you are injuring your body for the sake of a yoga competition, you are not adhering to the Yamas and Niyamas. The rib-maligned students from the excerpt were not practicing Ahimsa (non harming), Aparigraha (non greediness), and Santosa (contentment). They were mired in the Kleshas or the obstacles to yoga because their intent was to win a contest, rather than to remove the fog that is covering their true being.

A good way to bring your practice from Rajasic to Sattvic (balanced) is to focus on one clan of poses every week. For example, the first week of the month do Utthistha Sthithi (standing poses), the second week do Paschima Pratana Sthithi (forward bends), the third do Purva Pratana Sthithi (backbends), the fourth miscellaneous poses, and the fifth week Visranta Karaka Sthithi (restorative poses) and Pranayama. In many ways you satisfy Rajasic tendencies by getting deeper into poses that you avoid or don’t have time to do in your practice. By changing the type of poses each you do each week, you move towards Sattvas by having a sense of balance in your practice.

An important part of this cycle is the restorative week. This is where you can move toward the higher limbs of yoga aside from asana. By doing Pranayama (regulation of prana via the breath), you can cultivate Pratyahara (detachment from the senses), and Dharana (concentration).

In restorative week you can also hold poses longer which cultivates other parts of your practice, mainly patience and forebearance. You can work at “building time” in Sirsasana (head pose), Supta Virasana (reclined hero pose), and Baddha Konasana (bound angle pose). Working to build time is very different than trying to attain a backbend at the expense of your ribcage.

There is a time and a place for Rajas. During the holidays, we tend to lean towards Tamas, or dull lethargy. The reason why I am posting this topic is because once the New Year celebration is over, many people will return to the gyms and the studios with zealous enthusiasm. Just remember that jumping into a Rajasic practice after a period of Tamas is a good recipe for injury.