Q: Who are the three cross-legged guys hanging on the wall in your Bikram Yoga studios?
A: We thought you’d never ask! On the left (in the photo above, taken at our Kits Studio), sitting serenely in front of those rolling blue waves, is Paramahansa Yogananda – the brother of Bikram’s guru, Bishnu Ghosh, and author of Autobiography of a Yogi, through which many Westerners were first introduced to the practice and teachings of Kriya Yoga, which uses various breathing techniques to accelerate spiritual development. Yogananda also founded the Ranchi School for Boys in India, where he taught students (including his brother) the yogoda system, which “combines the basic laws utilized by the ancient yogis with the discoveries of modern physiological science.”
In the middle, sitting on a ferocious-looking tiger pelt, is Bishnu Ghosh (full name: Byamacharya Bishnu Charan Ghosh), who, at age 14, was one of the first students to attend his brother’s school. Ghosh, who went on to train in physical education at Calcutta University, believed that, by combining weightlifting/bodybuilding with Hatha Yoga, one could improve the health and wellness of body and mind. He demonstrated his theory by performing feats of strength: running a car across his chest, allowing a man to jump onto his abdomen from 12 feet above and twisting an iron bar into a coil. Eventually, he opened his own Ghosh College of Yoga and Physical Culture, where he taught his unique program, founded on the 84 Hatha Yoga postures codified by his brother, to thousands of practitioners, including Bikram Choudhury.
Which brings us to the photograph on the right. Sitting on, seemingly, the same tiger skin as his guru is Bikram Choudhury, founder of the worldwide Yoga College of India. Bikram started practising yoga at the tender age of four, quickly emerging as a star pupil at the Ghosh College of Yoga in Calcutta. Through the rehabilitation of a knee injury suffered by Bikram at age 17, Ghosh was able to scientifically document yoga’s ability to cure chronic physical ailments and heal the body. Bikram was then asked by Ghosh to start several yoga schools in India, in order to perpetuate the tradition. The schools were so successful that, at Ghosh’s request, Bikram travelled to Japan and opened two more. While there, he worked with doctors at the Tokyo University Hospital to prove the medical benefits of his yoga system.
Bikram arrived in the United States in 1973 at the invitation of Richard Nixon, after helping to cure the president’s phlebitis (an inflammation of a vein) with his 90-minute system of 26 postures and two breathing exercises performed in a room heated to 40 C. Bikram quickly became the most prominent yoga teacher in North America as celebrities like Madonna and Lady Gaga and athletes like David Beckham and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar began to flock to him. Since then, he’s turned millions of people around the globe onto Bikram Yoga, bringing them its many physical, mental and spiritual benefits through thousands of studios, just like our own, worldwide.