Jim Kallett and Bikram Yoga

Jkallett posterim Kallett – Lecture
Friday, January 4, 2013
Corvallis, Oregon

Jim Kallett was invited to town by my local studio to offer a posture clinic.  He also gave a lecture the evening before.  As a Bikram Yoga aficionado of 8 plus years, I was interested in what he had to say and looking forward to the Q&A.

The talk started out as I would have expected; a biographical review of Bikram Choudhury, his youth, his training and the history behind the sequence and bringing it to American.  As one who has read his books, I knew much of this and was a little impatient at the pace.  However, not everyone is as geeky about Yoga as I am, and lineage is a major element of Yoga.

The longer the lecture went on, the more I fidgeted and the more my patience was tested.  While Kallett appears to be a likeable person, he is not a great public speaker.  His delivery is slow and his stories lack punch.  He spent almost an hour talking solely about the man, Bikram Choudhury, before he ventured into the realm of Yoga philosophy, or other aspects beside the figurehead of the series.  Even then, he always seemed to return to Bikram, and not in a good way, more as a sycophantic infomercial spokesman.

I want to be careful here, because what I’m criticizing isn’t so much Jim Kallett, but the environment Choudhury himself seems to have willingly cultivated around him and the sequence he developed.

Kallett had interesting things to say.  His explanation of “hyper oxygenating your body through extension and compression,” struck a chord with me and improved my understanding of the postures.  Kallett is gentle and soft spoken, which made a line like “It’s not enough that you suffer, you have to watch yourself suffer,” in reference to the ever-present mirrors, all the more humorous.

Other explanations of poses he gave, outside of the Bikram dialogue, were fresh and things I used in my own practice and teaching in the weeks immediately afterwards.  He knows his stuff, and I’d love to take a class from him.  I’m sure he’d be supportive and offer insights that would improve my practice.

Despite this, the talk was a tremendous disappointment.  Jim Kallett spoke for over three hours.  There was no break, no intermission, no question and answer period.  It simply wasn’t that good.  He had enough material for an hour, tops.  I left after three hours and he was still going.  I left with a sense of relief that the non-Bikram people I talked it up to, couldn’t make it.

One Bikram certified instructor confided the same, “I’m glad none of the people I invited came.”  And, she reported, Kallett said just before finishing, words to the effect; “There’s really only one Yoga, Bikram Yoga.”  She was incensed.  “It’s the kind of statement that does no good for the yoga community; there was a teacher from another studio sitting behind me.”  I couldn’t agree more, statements like that are just plain dumb.  Yoga is not an all-or-nothing proposition.

kallett and bikramKallett was in one of the first large scale teacher trainings Bikram offered and owns and operates one of the oldest Bikram studios in San Diego.  He assists with teacher trainings and he’s one of the few teachers that have permission from Bikram to tour or offer presentations at local studios.  The more I listened to Kallett and his continual deference to Birkam, the more I lost respect for him.  It sounds so harsh.   I can’t help but think Bikram requires this from people he endorses.

I’ve heard that in teacher trainings Bikram his little patience for questions and will respond “Stupid fucking question,” to those he doesn’t like, and move on unceremoniously.  Bikram is not a great messenger.  His flamboyancy and ego are simply too much for many to get beyond.  It’s really too bad, many of the tenets that he espouses via his sequence and the manner in which it is taught, are spot on.

Bikram is frequently quoted as saying “In the west our minds are over stimulated and our bodies are under stimulated.”  I agree.  We are too wrapped up in our heads for our own good.  The physical, demanding series he developed works wonders for many, many people.  But Bikram is too wrapped up in his own cult of personality that he can’t find or won’t allow people who represent him to speak off the script.  This was a wasted opportunity, he’s got a gentle soul like Jim Kallett spouting his own drivel and maintaining the alienation many feel when the subject of Bikram Yoga comes up.

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3 thoughts on “Jim Kallett and Bikram Yoga

  1. I understand your frustration, what with Bikram’s personal affairs being dragged in to the light of the media as well. I am trying to stay focused on the practice and what it means to me. That’s what really matters

  2. Hi, thanks for stopping by! The sexual harassment allegations add a whole ‘nuther layer to Bikram. I see in your blog you’re going to Bikram Teacher Training? At one time I thought about it. I’m reminded of what one of my local teachers said over beers when I was considering it, “Don’t expect a personal experience.” I’d love to teach Bikram, actually. I love the series. I’m just not going to place myself in that environment to get “certified” to do so. Good luck!

  3. Wow I only just noticed this post now. Sorry for taking so long to reply! Must have slipped under my radar somehow. I’ve been on the back foot with going to the teacher training. Going to India and teaching ashtanga/vinyasa instead is currently under consideration. It will take me some time to get my head around everything as I do love the Bikram practice very much, as you can surely empathise with. However it does seem less and less possible that I would feel comfortable being under his thumb for the duration of the training… From personal experiences to my own ethical and moral values, it just doesn’t feel right to put myself there… thank you for the kind words and the good luck!

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