Our response to the actions of Mr Choudhury
Where we stand
When Sarah first spoke out in 2013, our hearts broke.
At this stage, Bikram Yoga Oslo was run by two women from two sides of the world with the shared belief that the voices & safety of of all beings mattered. 6 years later, the studio is now run by one of us, Resh...the Indian Australian who was embraced by Norway and my beliefs remains the same. All Voices Matter.
After learning of Sarahs experiences in 2013, Bikram Yoga Oslo looked inwards, made some decisions and issued its statement across all platforms.. The key decisions were to begin teaching other styles of yoga and ceasing to send any students to the teacher trainings that were conducted by Mr Choudhury around the world.
The decision to stop sending our students to his teacher trainings was 100% motivated by the fact that we could no longer guarantee the safety & education of our students and this was driven by the responsibility that we had to them as their teachers. Naturally by doing this we also stopped financially supporting him, but the 100% motivation was the safety of my students. The monetary impact on him was a bonus.
We made it clear that we were and (have continued to be) in no way affiliated or financially linked to Mr Bikram Choudhury.
After the other survivors of Mr Choudhury's crimes felt ready, they too began speaking out.
What came as a nauseating shock is that one of the survivors was my friend and the whole matter became so close to home that I would literally shake with rage..
When Netflix released the documentary Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator in 2019 my heart clenched and tensed out of concern for the psychological welfare of my friend and the other survivors given the fact that their trauma was being raised up back into the light and their faces and at least in a few cases, challenging their process of healing.
It’s SO GOOD that Mr Choudhury’s actions are remaining exposed in the light- if only one could exist without the other and these women didn’t have to bring their pain back to the surface and become a hot topic again but it is what it is.
As an Bengali Indian woman, who is a long term practitioner of yoga (my father was actually a pupil of Ghoshs yoga college in Calcutta), I have seen more than my fair share of improper uses of power against women.
As a studio, a collective of men and women knitted together by our love of yoga, we stand with the women.
The women who were preyed on by Bikram Choudhury, the women who were preyed on by Patthabi Jois the founder of the Ashtanga Yoga Style, the women preyed upon by John Friend the founder of the Anusara style of yoga and countless other men who abused power within our industry and beyond.
It is empowering to say the least that the voices of women are finally being heard both within India, the world of yoga as well as in the mainstream media- particularly in light of the Me Too movement.
As a studio that teaches predominately the Bikram Yoga Style and as the woman who leads it, I am particular irritated that Bikram Choudhury named the style of yoga after himself. The reason for this is that this style works. It is incredible in fact.
My decision to not change the name of the company stems from the fact that the Bikram Yoga Style is still the primary style of yoga taught at my yoga studio.
Naturally I have had many long talks with my friend after she bravely stepped forward with her story. Not just to the authorities but to her friends and family. She and several others who have had similar experiences have stopped practicing the series all together. That is how they heal. And it’s an important part of their process.
Its my belief that continuing to teach and practice and simply re-naming the sequence after the Netflix documentary was released is actually quite reductive of the journey of the victims, as all Bikram Yoga teachers have known about this since Sarah first came out with her story in 2013. It becomes a reactive decision rather than a genuine thoughtful response. Reacting to something only when it becomes publicized (again by Netflix) in my opinion indirectly sends an awful messages to the survivors of Mr Choudhury’s crimes (I know of this through my friends sadness that “they just think that taking his name away fixes this” and agree with her completely).
It is my belief that making the man less visible by removing his name while teaching his sequence simply masks the truth of what has happened and facilitates the secrecy inherent to these types of crimes.
It is our belief that it should remain in the light and be easily accessible for students who search for the man who created the sequence. It is a part of the complete history of this yoga sequence and should remain transparent to all.
The real solution to this is a much longer and difficult journey than hopping on social media and changing the series or studio name. The first step of this journey is for women, men, girls and boys to feel safe in speaking their truth. It also comes from the dialogue that follows, much like we are having now after the documetary release. The next part in my opinion the cultural re-wiring that needs to take place about the rights and worth of all genders and gender combinations.
I have chosen to continue to teach this particular style as I believe in the power of the sequence. At Bikram Yoga Oslo, we have a multitude of students in fact who use this yoga series to calm their body and mind and become the very best version of themselves.
In terms of this particular series existing before Mr Choudhury named it after himself, my personal experience and knowledge disagrees with the Netflix documentary. Each asana has existed long before Mr Choudhury was even born, but the sequence which is sadly named Bikram Yoga was in fact of his own design. I know that Mr Dutta made an alternate claim in the Netflix program however I do not know him and my trust is with my family who have trained at Ghoshs college and what they have told me otherwise long before Mr Choudhury’s actions were brought into the light.
In terms of the name of my business reflecting the product that we sell, Bikram Yoga Oslo is quite succinct. We are the number one place in oslo to offer the largest selection of Bikram Yoga Classes.
The studio owns alternative business names/domains and we intend to change the business name as soon as the product is not primarily the Bikram Yoga Style however this style is still our main product. And it is our main product due to the demand for it...because it works...magnificently.
We remain hopeful that Mr Choudhury will be arrested and brought to face up to his crimes and think that his “running” is a ridiculous extension of the cowardice that led him to prey on women who trusted him.
We remain supportive to all beings...on and off the mat. All Voices Matter.
Your Voice Matters... Im here for you and am ready to answer any questions that you may have,