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He's been called "boisterous," "controversial," "charismatic" and much worse. That doesn't bother Bikram Choudhury.
The founder of Bikram Yoga College of India has, in his own words, "always had a big mouth." As a young man, Choudhury took an oath from his guru, Bishnu Charan Ghosh, to "help as many people as possible by sharing [his] Indian heritage and the wisdom passed down over the centuries." That meant Choudhury was to leave his native India and bring yoga to the West and America.
Since his first Bikram Yoga College of India studio opened in Los Angeles in 1973, he's been doing just that. He's also been explaining to Americans why they all have so many health and personal problems and how the practice of yoga can create balance and healing physically and mentally.
The 66-year-old Choudhury will make his first Utah appearance on Saturday, April 14, speaking at Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center.
Choudhury will talk about the challenges in America today obesity, depression and divorce, to name a few and how the practice of yoga can improve the body and mind. Choudhury's philosophy is all about using hatha yoga to empower oneself and "put you on the path to realize your true destiny, the realization of the godly potential we all have inside."
What is it? •Bikram Yoga is a form of hatha yoga. In Sanskrit, "ha" means sun and "tha" means moon. The word yoga comes from the Sanskrit word "yuj" which means "to join and symbolizes union a joining, or a marriage."
"Through the physical practice of yoga, you integrate your body and mind in a perfect union," Choudhury says.
Bikram Yoga is a sequence of 26 postures and two breathing exercises that take 90 minutes to complete. The yoga is performed in a hot and humid room (105 degrees and 40 percent humidity.
"A warm body is a flexible body," Choudhury says in his book, Bikram Yoga: The Guru Behind Hot Yoga Shows the Way to Radiant Health and Personal Fulfillment.
The heat also mirrors the practice as it would be conducted in the hot-humid climate of India.
Bikram in Utah • Bikram Yoga has three Wasatch Front locations in Salt Lake City, Sandy and Ogden. A fourth at Thanksgiving Point will open in September.
Jackie and Alex Wheeler opened Bikram Yoga College of Sandy in December 2003. Jackie Wheeler went to her first Bikram Yoga class with a pre-existing shoulder injury in 1996 and, through the physical practice of yoga, she was able to heal that injury while also discovering she had work to do mentally.
To become certified teachers and open a studio, she and her husband both practiced more than 500 hours of Bikram Yoga. They started with nine weeks of intense training under the supervision of Choudhury and then apprenticed for six months with senior teachers before receiving Choudhury's approval to open a studio.
They guide students through what Alex Wheeler says is a "vigorous, challenging and relatively intense practice."
"Everything you do in the yoga room is going to help you in life, whether it's sports, relationships, work," he said.
Adds Jackie Wheeler: "The physical practice of yoga concentrates on working on the different systems of the body, including cardiovascular, endocrine, respiratory, digestive and nervous."
Joanne Dehlin, certified instructor and owner of soon-to-be-opened Bikram Yoga College of India Thanksgiving Point, says Bikram Yoga "works from the inside out."
Seven years ago, Dehlin had just completed a half marathon and decided she'd "never do that again." In addition, she suffered from carpal tunnel and had a ganglion cyst.
At a fitness convention, she was introduced to Bikram Yoga. After that, she's never looked back, participating in a 30-day challenge Bikram Yoga 30 times in 30 days.
"As Bikram says, it's never too late, it's never too bad, and you're never too old or too sick to start from scratch once again," she said.
Bikram Choudhury in Utah
When • April 14, 5 to 8 p.m.
Where • Jeanne Wagner Theater, Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center, 138 W. 300 South, Salt Lake City
Info • Tickets are $52 plus transaction fees. For more information, visit arttix.org.
Bikram Yoga in Utah
Bikram Yoga College of India Sandy • 9343 S. 1300 East, Sandy; 801-501-9642
Bikram Yoga College of India Sugar House • 140 E. Wilmington Ave. (2200 South), Salt Lake City; 801-488-4681
Bikram Yoga College of India Ogden • 111 Historic 25th St. B, Ogden; 801-627-4688
Bikram Yoga College of India Thanksgiving Point • 3003 N. Thanksgiving Way, Lehi (opening in September) Bikram-isms
"It's never too late, it's never too bad, and you're never too old or too sick to start from scratch once again."
"Fire's got to burn, ice has to cool and Bikram's got to be Bikram."
"Our mission here on Earth is to fully inhabit or to realize the awesome potential of our true Selves."
"If someone steals your peace, you're the loser."
"The purpose of yoga is to heal. Fitness is merely a by-product of this health-building process."