Bikram Choudhury is the founder of the Yoga College of India. Born in Calcutta in 1946, Bikram began Yoga at the age of three. Two years later he began to study under the tutelage of Bishnu Gosh.
Bikram practiced Yoga at least four to six hours every day at Ghosh’s College of Physical Education in Calcutta. At 13, he was the youngest candidate ever to win the National India Yoga Championship. At 14, he was named « Yogi Raj » (the king of Yogis).
At seventeen, a weight-lifting accident badly damaged his knee. Although he was told he would never be able to walk again, with the help of Ghosh, he fully recovered within 6 months. Ghosh was a celebrated physical culturist and the first to scientifically document Yoga’s ability to cure chronic physical ailments and heal the body. Bikram started to teach yoga and put together the 26 postures sequence, which work irrespective of age groups or fitness level. The naturally warm climate of India inspired the practice of his series of postures in a heated room.
Bikram has been teaching his yoga series in Los Angeles for over 30 years. Today, Bikram Yoga is considered to be one of the most successful yoga forms in the USA. There are more than 700 Bikram Yoga schools worldwide, teaching the series of 26 postures in 90 minutes in a heated room.
Rajashree Choudhury (Chakrabarti) was born in Calcutta in 1965. She started practicing yoga when she was 4 years old and in 1979 she won her first National Yoga Championship organized by the Yoga Federation of India. She later won the Championship four more times.
In 1984 Rajashree married Bikram Choudhury and moved from India to Los Angeles in USA. Together with Bikram she organized regular Bikram Yoga Teacher Training. She also appeared in many TV programs in the US promoting yoga. She organizes seminars about yoga and its health benefits. She participates in many charity organizations, like Karma for Kids for children suffering cancer, Uprising Yoga, helping children who are victims of sex trafficking and Parikrama, educational program for slum children.
In conjunction with the International Yoga Asana Championships, she has founded the USA Yoga Federation, a non-profit organization promoting yoga as sport. Since 2003 together with Bikram she organizes Bishnu Gosh Cup – international yoga championship. 75 competitiors from 75 countries participated in the 2012 Cup.
Rajashree is also an expert on pregnancy yoga. In 2006 she published her DVD with prenatal yoga classes ‘Rajashree’s Pregnancy Yoga’.
Emmy Cleaves was born in Latvia. She is Bikram’s most senior teacher. She started pracitising yoga in 1952, at first as a warm up exercise in her jazz dance classes. She liked the yoga part better than the dance itself, so she found a private yoga teacher. For many years, Emmy searched for any information about yoga but not many people in the 50’s and 60’s even heard about it. She refers to those years as her ‘time in the desert’. Everything she was able to find out about yoga left her even more curious.
In 1973 she attended a yoga presentation – as it turned out led by Bikram Choudhury. The next day she went to her first bikram yoga class. Since then, as she says, she hasn’t found a better method to preserve health, youth and vitality. Emmy has been practicing yoga for 60 years and bikram yoga for 40 years continuously. She strongly believes that this style of yoga has the deepest impact on human body and mind. The repetitive nature of bikram series is one of its most beneficial aspects. It helps gradual and steady improvement of the whole body until its physiology and biomechanics change permanently, healing and preserving health long into the old age.
Emmy holds a law degree from University of Bonn. She is over 90 years old and she practices and teaches the advanced yoga series of 84 asanas. As one of the most knowledgeable bikram yoga practitioners she travels a lot and attends seminars and workshops on yoga.