The Bikram Yoga Legacy

“What do we live for, if not to make life less difficult for each other?” – George Eliot

For clarity and in the spirit of Sesame Street… Either men are dumb, women deserve to be raped, or, capitalism isn’t working. Which one of these is not like the other?

I’ll give you a hint: you can hump capitalism all you want, but you can’t deny its efficacy. What exactly is capitalism’s desired result? Let’s talk about that.

First, let’s discuss what capitalism requires of us. Reliance on one another, to start; the hidden aspect of financial independence no one seems to think about. Independent wealth, of course, a different ballgame once you’re playing it. The latter of which many of us happen to be aiming for, understandably. To me, independent wealth means that I can live off the interest of my riches for the remainder of my life, whereas financial independence eliminates the need for employment insurance, social assistance or the bank of sugar daddy.

Hopefully we’ve established that you don’t accommodate psychopathy by giving it guns and CEO positions (or placing it in a bureaucracy), but I think considering mass levels of poverty, war, corruption, and exploitation we see crippling life on planet Earth, capitalism is missing the mark of “efficacy.” Who’s willing to deny that psychopaths are governing our world? We claim to be animals and use that as our excuse to pander to a misleading notion of competition, yet we also insist that we are the most intelligent creatures on Earth—creatures who indignantly refuse to cooperate, like cooperation doesn’t hinge upon intelligence.

The brain transmits and receives signals—that is, information. Not one neurosurgeon to date has ever discovered a thought hiding in the brain. Intelligence implies consciousness, yet we’re so jaded by the dogmatism of both religion and science that we deny the implications of dark matter (approximately 96 percent of our universe). Ask yourself… what is the field of intention and how does it operate? Note that ideas occur to you. Who’s moving the checkers on the chess board of life? What’s luck?

Capitalism’s desired result is reliance at the expense of balance, sustainability and the downtrodden. Capitalism (and by extension, competition) implies that the weakest links must die off, while Yoga insists that the most uncooperative links must die off; that is, malignant consciousness must die, or at the very least be integrated and therefore transformed. Read Swami Satchidananda’s translation of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. Capitalism feeds seamlessly into war culture, while yoga operates on the premise of ahimsa or nonharming; that is, nonviolence towards others. In other words, let nature run its course.

So, if you’re reliant on another human being to hire you and give you a job (or purchase your products and services…), then you’re not totally independent. You’re reliant on your job and generating revenue. The jig is up. Anyone who works has likely made peace with the reality. The problem isn’t so much that we have to work, but that the cost of living continually rises. Because with capitalism, demand (apparently) and reputation—rather than quality—dictate price, and prices continually rise because fallible humans fall prey to greed. Capitalism fosters greed. Greed is a sex chakra imbalance. We see shrinking wages pulling up the rear and wonder why in blue perfect hell anyone would require social assistance. Ten people need jobs, and there are eight jobs available. We bitch that we’re not being paid what we’re worth. Who values loyalty anymore?

On his rise to fame, Bikram Choudhury raised North America tenfold and lost everything. He looted his guru’s yoga sequence, named the liberated version after himself, and then proceeded to make millions. By all accounts, Bikram created his own reality—and this point of contention can piss people off.

The universal Law of Attraction states: You create your own reality.

Capitalism also states: You create your own reality.

The problem with capitalism is that it’s steeped in competition, which consequently elicits panic and greed (keeping fallen conservative ideology in mind). We can’t blame the workhorses willing to do whatever it takes to create their own realities when we’re living within a grander reality, which none of us seem to understand. Likewise, we can’t condemn the misfits willing to improve current conditions so that life is ultimately easier for everybody, yet these are the people we tend to ridicule, assassinate and hate. Indigenous peoples consider the effects of their actions on the next seven generations to come—the antithesis of ‘every man out for himself.’ Shamanism and Yoga are cousins and advocate for living in harmony with nature and the world around us. How do we live in harmony with capitalism? Apathy and delusion. Where did we go wrong? Too many perspectives to agree. We’ll never reach a brighter future focusing on what’s wrong. We’ll simply create more “wrong.” Look at our track record. Likewise, we won’t save our collective ass excusing corruption.

What is your purpose and why are you here on Earth, right now? To participate fully in the current reality, or to improve it? Employing brilliance effectuates both. Genius can exist without love; brilliance cannot. Brilliance is the higher octave of genius.

Capitalism expects us to keep up with inflation, which happens to be totally and completely imaginary. Think about it. Inflation is synonymous with “greed,” and mimics inflammation. You know what inflammation creates? Cancer. We can thank the incestuous rapists in suits—the real terrorists of our world—for perpetuating mass greed and our subsequent addiction to inflation. Please note that economists are not brilliant innovators; they are arbiters of what is. The next time you catch yourself standing up for a rent increase—or price increases of any kind—look in the mirror and know that you are contributing to the preservation of mass corruption. Catch the gold coins, sure. Ride the wave. But for Earth’s sake, stop standing up for greed.

In light of the conversation about energy vampires leaking into the mainstream, it could be argued that Bikram Choudhury is a narcissistic, borderline, antisocial, histrionic, pathological liar. Please refer to the five-part ESPN podcast series broadcast on 30 for 30 Podcasts for more information.

In the meantime, yes, a man who thinks that women would pay millions of dollars for his sperm, because he’s that great, is a narcissist. I have never once looked at that man and thought mmm. So, what does a woman do when she’s 18, and her parents are calling her lazy for not having her shit together, and society is calling her useless?

Bikram Yoga teacher training! Literally, it saved her life.

Granted, an 18-year-old would have to lie to be admitted into the training, since the legal limit is set at 21, and not all woman that young who’ve attended training feel pressed to make ends meet. But, let’s consider for a moment what women are willing to do for a roof over our heads.

First, there’s the age-old phenomenon of trading sex for the security of food and shelter. Next, women sleeping with their bosses to advance their careers. Think Harvey Weinstein. He’s one example. I suspect that the women who slept with Bikram at his trainings fall into one of two categories: 1) the young girls who were dumb and duped; and, 2) the older gals, who knew exactly what they were doing (and didn’t step forward during allegations), who were actually into him. I’m sure there could be some crossover, too. This conversation isn’t about judgment, though; it’s about information. I’ve known enough women who’ve attended Bikram Yoga teacher trainings, who’ve either admired him or scoffed at his sexual delinquency, who minded their own business. Who were these women everybody knew Bikram was sleeping with at trainings when his former wife, Rajashree, wasn’t around? Most of the people I know made it sound like they were women he flew in and were just there. I couldn’t help but picture Geishas. Not one person I know ever mentioned that he was sleeping with underage girls attending his trainings. Not one.

Now, of course a borderline narcissist would blame the victim and feed a woman lines to get her into bed (not taking “no” for an answer). Whether or not Choudhury hijacked his guru’s sequence is another matter. Gurus from India have been sending yogis to America to share the teachings of Yoga since the late 1800s… Swami Vivekananda in 1893 case in point. Taking Paramahansa Yogananda’s book Autobiography of Yogi into account, perhaps Choudhury’s guru knew exactly what he was doing? Now that the cat’s out of the bag, regardless, we know that Bikram Choudhury is a character-disturbed man. This, of course, could lead to a domino-effect of breakdowns in the community—crises of identity—but self-awareness and introspection are part of Yoga’s greater legacy (not necessarily Bikram Choudhury’s).

Let’s call a truce and say that men aren’t dumb and women don’t deserve to be raped. When Bikram first arrived to the States, it’s been reported that he was a quiet, timid man who didn’t collect an established fee for his yoga classes. He had been teaching celebrities, though, who understandably coaxed him into charging proper rates for his offerings. Then he began running yoga teacher trainings, decked himself out in bling and the accompanying American accoutrements, and the next thing you know we had a cross between a self-proclaimed sheep, pig and dog tainting the minds of all who came into contact with him.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Shifting into an enterprising society, that relies primarily on cooperation (not competition), is our only sensible segue out of a capitalistic society that exploits animals, man power and natural resources; a capitalistic society that relies on greed and is ultimately killing us; a capitalistic society that we are physiologically addicted to. Remember that we haven’t seen political and economic ideologies function effectively anywhere other than theory. We are already living within an enterprising society in which people work and pay taxes. The shift is in thinking, from a competitive to a cooperative mindset. Conservative ideals could actually bloom within a cooperative societal framework (i.e. writers and yoga teachers, for example, wouldn’t be told that what we do for a living isn’t real work). Look to the cooperative science of astrophysics for inspiration. You can’t rubberneck the world’s varying crises—housing, health, opiate, addictions, overdose, and yes, even war (etc.)—and tell me that imaginary inflation isn’t the malevolent ejaculate of corporate and bureaucratic lawlessness. Science tells us that we are on the brink of a sixth mass extinction. Capitalism clearly corrupted a corruptible Choudhury, and capitalism is clearly compromising the future of life on planet Earth.

If anything, we live within an inflationary, greedy culture that renders us all slightly dumb. Dumb as in numb. Who believes in love anymore? Who even knows what love is? I suspect that the biggest cock and bull story the pre-Socratic Greek philosopher Heraclitus told us is that the only constant we can rely on in life is change. The body moves through time; get over it. And sure, you can adapt to a hollow-hearted lifestyle (what else is a successful person supposed to do?), but stop standing up for greed! We can’t exactly rely on change anyways, but we can recalibrate, as well as navigate and anticipate it. The only constant we can rely on in life, however, is Love. You can pinch love off and bump up against people who are pinched off from love, but you can never stop love from flowing. Love flows freely and infinitely beyond the concept of universe.

Consciousness is not damnation; consciousness is love.

Stabilization, and consequently recovery, requires a generous degree of fixity (as well as detoxification) to take root. Stabilization and recovery require love. Brilliance wins amidst the hallucinatory confines of cooperation, and unlocks the gates of serendipitous freedom. Let’s allow natural death, the changing of seasons, and Earth moving along an ecliptic around the Sun to be enough change for us for now. Translation: With the exception of galaxies and stars merging, and planets, solar systems and universes coming to completion, we effect the speed of change, therefore the cost of living doesn’t need to escalate. Stop fighting it, stop complaining about it, and stop going along with it. Notice and acknowledge prices that don’t increase. Appreciate the thankless and neutralizing work of people who float around with their optimistic (and seemingly undereducated) heads in the clouds. Ring your bells and stand your ground.

Cosmic evolution (and thus, exploration), otherwise, is hereditary. Good news for energy vampires. Change is what we do, whereas love is what we are. This means we can slow down, take in the scenery. And, like it or not, Bikram Yoga is proof that energy vampires can share good work in the world. I may not have gotten into yoga without it (it was my bridge), and the heated series helped me shed thirty intolerable pounds. I will always have a soft spot in my heart for Bikram Yoga, which refers to the Ghosh lineage standardized beginning sequence of therapeutic postures and breathing exercises as distilled by Bikram Choudhury. Bishnu Ghosh (youngest brother to Paramahansa Yogananda, author of Autobiography of a Yogi) was Choudhury’s guru, while Bikram’s Hot Yoga was the original hot yoga. The original hot yoga generated some of the highest paying yoga gigs on the planet, or at least it did initially. Be in it, but not of it—you know?

So, we call it quits on excusing the corruption and unrelenting abuse spawned by capitalism. Certainly, let’s stop standing up for an enterprising world’s twisted sister, because we’re not going take it anymore.

Yoga Sutra 33, Book One, 4.4: Indifference Towards the Wicked

“I respect people who should be committed, and are committed.” – Michelle Visage

Before going any further, let’s clarify that this is a serious topic, and I’m not professionally qualified to psychologically diagnose anybody. I’m not a psychotherapist; I’m a yoga teacher with a certification in assertiveness coaching. Nonetheless, leading women’s health pioneer Dr. Christiane Northrup claims that what she calls “energy vampires” are an enormous public health problem that has gone undiagnosed and unrecognized until relatively recently. What do we mean when we’re talking about energy vampires? Psychopaths, sociopaths, and Cluster B personality disorders.

Renowned psychologist and expert in the field of personality disturbances Dr. George K. Simon has spent his 40+ year career attempting to figure out what factors affect character development. Family conditioning, upbringing and hardship can affect a person’s personality, sure, but Simon has discovered that indulged and pampered people hurt people, too. In other words, not all hurt people hurt people.

To genuinely understand why people hurt people (physical, emotional and sexual abuse, etc.), we must look at brain imaging. A team of German researchers using modern brain scanning technology studied the brains of 34 individuals, half of whom had been diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). These researchers studied the cerebral cortex—the outermost layer of the brain associated with higher social centers in humans—the part of the brain that regulates self-awareness, self-determination and self-control. The region of the cerebral cortex associated with empathy most notably allows humans to feel both emotionally and logically what others are feeling. Participants with NPD displayed unusual thinness in the region of the cerebral cortex associated with empathy and caring for others—the area of the brain associated with conscience. Interestingly, the degree of empathy missing matched the degree of thinness in the cerebral cortex. Simply put, the degree of empathy lacking is directly related to the malignancy of the narcissism. Functional MRI studies also show marked abnormalities in the cerebral cortex regions of diagnosed psychopaths.

From here it’s important to understand that the great yogi sages didn’t reject the notion that people can be cold, calculating and without conscience. This is why the touring swamis spread yoga around the globe from the late nineteenth and into the twentieth centuries. Notable figures of the movement who travelled to North America include: Vivekananda, Paramahansa Yoganada, Yogi Bhajan, and Swami Satchidananda (to name a few). As far as I’m concerned, the great composite teacher Patanjali addressed energy vampires in presenting the fourth lock and fourth key of Yoga Sutra 33: indifference, or disregard, towards the wicked. Who are the wicked? Psychopaths, sociopaths and Cluster B personalities. The vampire archetype that sucks your energy.

Cluster B personalities are a categorization of personality disorders as defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), editions 4 and 5. Cluster B personality disorders include: antisocial personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, histrionic personality disorder, and narcissistic personality disorder.

Starting from the top… Those with antisocial personality disorder (ASPD), or ASPD traits, tend to disregard and violate the rights of others. That said, it’s challenging to talk about society’s laws when the laws don’t apply to rich people.

The following excerpt from a short story by Charles Bukowski entitled “A Couple of Winos,” appearing in his book South of No North (published in 1973), eloquently illustrates the above point:

“Burkhart had fucked us from every angle. But we couldn’t holler law because when you didn’t have any money the law stopped working.”

So often we see formal diagnoses among marginalized populations who can’t hold down jobs. I can’t help but ask, however, what about the people who violate the rights of others who do hold down jobs? In the early days of 2019, for example, the world watched in horror as the Canadian federal government, on behalf of Coastal GasLink and with the approval of the BC government, send in busloads of militarized police to dismantle a wooden blockade on Wet’suwet’en territory and arrest otherwise peaceful Indigenous peoples—wielding feathers, not guns—for protecting their unceded (that is, not owned by the Crown) land and waters.

Article 10 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) states: “Indigenous peoples shall not be forcibly removed from their lands or territories. No relocation shall take place without the free, prior and informed consent of the Indigenous peoples concerned and after agreement on just and fair compensation and, where possible, with the option of return.”

Moving along the spectrum, we see borderline personality disorder (BPD), or at the very least BPD traits, acting up when Canadian citizens think that these Indigenous peoples (being forcibly removed from their unceded territories) should be paying for the associated policing costs. It seems to me that brainwashed and undereducated people believe the fairy tale about “handouts.” Why? Because Canada doesn’t currently own its own bank and propaganda is unfortunately convincing.

Vampires manipulate because manipulation works.

“It’s very easy to diagnose a borderline,” said Bob Palumbo, Ph.D. and psychologist with 35 years of experience. “They screw you over, rip you off, commit whatever transgression, and then they blame you for it.”

It’s like being called ungrateful every time you gas up your car.

Author of Dodging Energy Vampires, Dr. Northrup, adds, “Those with borderline personality disorder… operate with what is called intermittent reinforcement—the most difficult kind to deal with. The good men who have been in relationship with borderline women often end up like empty husks by the side of the road.”

Basically, the borderline abuses you by any means necessary until they get their way.

Sound appealing? Read a book called I Hate you, Don’t Leave Me: Understanding the Borderline Personality by Jerald J. Kreisman, MD, and Hal Straus for more information.

Next, histrionic personality disorder (HPD)—annoying and arguably the least abusive of the Cluster B’s—is characterized by excessive attention-seeking and loud, disruptive behaviour. The self-worth of those with HPD depends on the approval of others. Like narcissists, their energy deflates when they’re not the center of attention.

Like narcissists, Cluster B personality disorders can require a tremendous amount of energy to manage (and thus, drain the energy reserves of those around them), because those afflicted tend to lack self-awareness. NPD sufferers experience an exaggerated sense of self-importance, as well as feelings of entitlement. Narcissists are nonreciprocal and selfish in relationships, as well as envious and suspicious toward the motivation of others. Narcissists are driven by a need for excessive praise and attention, which brings us to narcissistic supply: you are the energy vampire’s life blood.

First introduced into psychoanalytic theory by Otto Fenichel in 1938, the term narcissistic supply describes the interpersonal sustenance siphoned from an environment to bolster the energy vampire’s self-esteem. Either love or lashing out will do the trick.

“Vampires will often pick a fight if things are going too smoothly, just to get a hit of energy,” wrote Dr. Northrup in her book, Dodging Energy Vampires.

As stated, brain scans have revealed that brain regions are affected dependent on level of psychopathy. Primary psychopathy indicates a total lack of empathy. No effective treatments currently exist for psychopaths to recover from the imposition. With secondary psychopathy, however, empathy is muted, and determining factors vary. There is some hope that change could be possible, although the learning curve is steep. Dr. Northrup recommends to assume that the vampire won’t change and to extricate yourself from the relationship. In the context of marriage with children or employment, mediate the damage of being stuck between a rock and hard place. An appropriate support group may help.

To understand brain wiring, an over or underactive frontal lobe is associated with difficulty learning from experience, impulse control and poor judgment. The corpus collosum is associated with acting out. The cingulate gyrus is associated with argumentative, vengeful, oppositional behaviour, and addictions. The occipital lobe, with difficulty learning from punishment, little to no empathy, little to no insight, increased impulsivity and irresponsibility (noting the connection to the frontal lobe). The hippocampus regulates (or deregulates) violence and aggression, and can impair the fear response. And finally, the amygdala is associated with an inability to bond, hypersexuality, irritability, as well as impulsivity.

Because reasoning with a character-disturbed person is as fruitless as reasoning with a 4-year-old, character-impaired people need experiential insight instead, which means they must consistently change their behaviour first. Secondary psychopathy must be moved to a different perspective slowly. Behavioural therapy (not usually couch time alone) with low-end character disturbances is what psychologists report results in a different mindset.

Dr. Simon asserts that, although uncommon, change in low-end character disturbances is possible, while Dr. Northrup says don’t hold your breath.

I once heard Marianne Williamson describe the term every day garden variety as “not special.” When Dr. Northrup refers to “every day garden variety vampires,” she’s referring to people with low-end character disturbances—people we know in our interpersonal relationships to have big hearts and mean well, but come bearing a few Cluster B traits. Nothing that can’t be handled by limiting your exposure to these people. Generous narcissistic people, for example (although an oxymoron), do exist.

I recommend watching Dr. George K. Simon in action as he has mastered what he calls the Art of Benign Confrontation, in which the character-impaired person doesn’t sense malice in the questioner’s heart. Think a nonjudgmental and dispassionate, versus a heated, approach. Personally, I struggle to talk about my feelings with people who don’t care about me or my feelings, and I’ve taken to playing the avoidance card. The biggest takeaway from the assertiveness training for me was to recognize what I was dealing with before it could hurt me (or, I suppose, in the event that it did). When you have a mouth that could be considered a registered lethal weapon like me, the last thing you want to do is give an energy vampire an angry hit of energy. Remember, any hit will do; sympathy, rage, resigned or apologetic submissiveness. Energy vampires literally guzzle the life force out of you, which can lead to all manner of consequences for your health.

Stated more abruptly, relationships with Cluster B energy vampires (including psychopaths)—that is, wicked people—can devastate your health. The immune system requires energy to function, yes? If vampires are stressful, and the body can operate in one of two modes (growth or stress) but not simultaneously, then what do you think that chronic, neurochemical stress response from dealing with energy vampires is doing to your body?

So, when we exercise indifference towards these wicked Cluster B energy vampires, they’re not getting a hit of our energy, our energy reserves aren’t being drained, and their behaviour isn’t being enabled.

Several years ago, as an example, I lived with an energy vampire who drank excessively, and I enabled the behaviour by encouraging the drinking—because it seemed to be the only way the person would settle down (and be nice to me). But, hangovers are ugly (a commitment, really), especially when feeding seamlessly into the next drinking binge.

Leaving a relationship is usually the best way to stop enabling substance abusers, as well as energy vampires. Note here that judgment and discernment originate from two different perspectives. With judgment, we label experiences as good or bad. With discernment, however, we’re aware of our preferences; we’ve sifted and we’ve sorted, and although we understand all experiences exist within the buffet of life (desirable and undesirable), we’re now choosing to focus on what we desire. We don’t need to eat everything at a buffet, right? Likewise, we leave toxic relationships once they’ve served a purpose in our lives, because they are ultimately destructive and undesirable.

Bottom line? You choose the parameters of your relationships, including setting boundaries with energy vampires. Read Dodging Energy Vampires by Dr. Christiane Northrup, or In Sheep’s Clothing by Dr. George K. Simon. In fact, read all of Dr. Simon’s books on the subject matter. And then read Yoga Sutra 33 from Book One of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, Samadhi Padi or Portion on Contemplation. And then after that read Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda. See how your mind synthesizes all of that information.

With neuroplasticity, humans have the ability to change neural connections (thoughts, beliefs, behaviours) in our brains based on one caveat: our willingness to change.

Bill Wilson, founder of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), said that willingness is the cornerstone of recovery. And the thing that energy vampires notoriously don’t have is a willingness to change. Vampire behaviour is typically egosyntonic, meaning that energy vampires don’t think they need to change.

Dr. Simon asserts that the burden always has to be on the disturbed character, and their willingness to change. Watch out for signs of contrition (genuine remorse), but be honest with yourself if you’re continually falling prey to “breadcrumbs of change”—or as I like to call them, fakethroughs. Breakthroughs, on the one hand, are transcendent, meaning you don’t snap back to old patterns. With fakethroughs (or breadcrumbs of change), on the other hand, the character-disturbed person nearly always snaps back to abusive and manipulative patterns of behaviour. You’re not likely having a breakthrough with the vampire; you’re more likely having a fakethrough. Understand that the character-disturbed person rarely changes, and don’t take it too personally. Instead, focus on your own growth and development.

Statistics claim that 1 in 5 people is affected by some degree of Cluster B personality disorder, while psychopaths represent 1/25th of the population. When you think about it, it’s one of the only statistics that might not be off its rocker.

Yogi Bhajan spoke of universal compassion in the fourth of five sutras he laid out for the Aquarian Age, while Dr. George K. Simon speaks of the art of benign confrontation. Yet Patanjali, father of modern yoga, called for flat out indifference—indifference, in my opinion, the compassionate response. Perhaps this is where we see purpose and destiny converge, and where we as humankind must work as a team.

Fortunately, leading edge scientific discoveries are beginning to conclude what yogis have known for millenia: consciousness is the epiphenomenon of matter. With very few cultures untouched by Cluster B personality traits—including yoga culture—what does this mean for Earth circa 2020?

Marianne Williamson said, “A cell in the body that forgets it’s here to collaborate with other cells is malignant. And that’s what has happened to humanity: we’ve been infected with a malignant consciousness, the thought that ‘it’s all about me.’ Awakening from that delusion is key to healing our world.”

This takes us back to Astrology (know your delusions) and Yoga (master your mind).

And for Earth’s sake, please stop enabling energy vampires.