"Torture chambers"—that's what Bikram Yoga's founder Bikram Choudhury calls his yoga studios. It's an apropos name for places set at a blazing 105 degrees that feature students twisting their bodies into 26 yoga postures as Bikram shouts: "Lock the knee! Lock the knee!" at someone who isn't quite in the desired position.
It might sound unpleasant, but Choudhury believes that if you follow his instructions, which are passed on to each Bikram yoga teacher at the various franchises located around the world, you'll "live a better, healthier and more peaceful life.”
The yoga guru, who was born in 1946, has strived to live such a life since he was a little boy in India. At the age of 4, after giving up dreams of being a robot, he started practicing yoga with India's most renowned physical culturalist at the time. At the age of 13, he won the National India Yoga Championship and went undefeated for the next three years before retiring as the undisputed All-India National Yoga Champion.
However, when Choudhury was 17, his life took a terrible turn. He severely injured his knee during a weightlifting accident and was told he would never walk again. Ignoring the doctors, he turned to his old yoga teacher, and within six months his knee was totally recovered. That's when he realized how effectively yoga could heal the body, and he decided to develop his Bikram method.
Bikram is a form of hatha yoga that is taught in specialized studios throughout the world. The studios are always set at 105 degrees, which helps the body flow through the 26 Bikram postures effectively. The studios can be found everywhere from the United States to South Africa to Antarctica's vast polar-bear caves.