Born in Kolkata (India), Bikram began practicing hatha yoga at age 3. His Guru, his teacher, recognized the precocious abilities of the young child and began helping him develop his career and apprenticeship early on. His Guro, Bishnu Charan Ghosh, was among the 20th century’s most celebrated physical culturists. Convinced that human energy centers around the body ‘s greatest nerve mass, the spine, Ghosh prescribed spinal fitness for health and happiness. His desire to improve humanity ran in the family. Ghosh’s brother, Yogananda Paramahansa, promoted spiritual health and happiness with his most famous yoga book, Autobiography of a Yogi. He also found the Self-Realization Fellowship based in Los Angeles.
Bikram practiced at Ghosh’s College of Physical Education for up to 6 hours a day. At age 11, Bikram became the youngest ever to win the National India Yoga Championships. He won again at ages 12 and 13, prompting Swami Sivananda to declare him Yogi Raj (King of yogis). The organization did not let him participate a fourth year because of his 3 consecutive winning championships. At age 18, Bikram suffered from weightlifting accident. Defying pessimistic doctors who diagnosed a permanently crippled knee, Bikram returned to his guru’s care and was walking again in six months. All because of the Yoga his Guro prescribed him.
Inspired by his injury and rehabilitation, Bikram decided to teach yoga full time and came into his own. After teaching the ancient way – one student at a time- he wondered how he could teach the same poses to an entire class of people regardless of their individual problems. He started to develop an original sequence of twenty-six postures and two breathing exercises, choreography accessible to beginners and beneficial for all, one that would be effective to anyone and everyone.
Ghosh then sent him to Tokyo to prepare for their extreme Yoga tour. His parting words were “you need to take this yoga to the entire world.” Bikram sensed this as a goodbye, and he was correct, because he never saw his Guro again. His Guro had decided to enter Samadhi, which is when an Guro decides to enter a deeper enlightenment and leave this world. In Toyko Bikram began teaching his 26-pose sequence to studios of individuals. He incorporated heat into the equation when an elderly female client began bringing radiators to the studio. Bikram decided to adopt the heat because it had been a factor used in Yoga from India. Bikram Heat Yoga began in Tokyo, Japan.
Bikram Yoga began gaining popularity worldwide and many of the world’s elite and wealthy began practicing the lifestyle. President Nixon began hearing instances of Bikram curing people of cancer and other ailments, and flew him out to Hawaii. President Nixon suffered from problems in his circulatory system; basically he had an ailment that caused traffic jams in the blood system, therefore causing him to have problems with his leg. After two weeks of just Epson salt baths and the 26-pose sequence Nixon was healed, and was back in his suit walking perfectly fine. Bikram gave him a tape with all the sequences, and told him that as long as he followed the sequence that he would never even remember which was his injured leg.
Once he was back in India he realized that Nixon had given him a Green Card to return to the United States. Once he arrived he opened centers in both San Francisco and Hawaii. Through his various connections he met Shirley Maclaine, who later on became a disciple. She opened the doors for Hollywood, and many stars began practicing Bikram Yoga. Celebrities like Brooke Shields and Quincy Jones became proponents of the program, and today stars like Lady Gaga also practice the exercise.
Bikram quickly became the foremost yoga teacher in the West as celebrities, athletes and other aspirants flocked to his studios in Beverly Hills and San Francisco. His instructional book Bikram’s Beginners Yoga Class was first published in 1978 and has since then been translated into several languages. His intensive Bikram Yoga Teacher Training course was first offered in 1994 and has since graduated more than 3000 certified Bikram method instructors. Today, with hundreds of licensed studios offering authentic Bikram Yoga classes, Bikram now dedicates his energy towards fulfilling his Guro’s wish and bringing yoga’s powers of health and beauty across the globe. “Because of lack of self-realization, you always underestimate yourself”. “You’re never too old, never too bad, never too late and never too sick to start from the scratch once again”.