Bikram Philadelphia was the first studio to bring the Bikram style of yoga to Philadelphia in 1999. Popularized by Bikram Choudury in the 1970s, the 26-posture yoga series performed in a heated room for 90 minutes has become one of the trendiest ways to practice. Devotees attest to its healing abilities — improving flexibility, peace of mind and shedding toxins. Scientific studies haveshownthat practicing the Bikram style can improve range of motion and strength.
In recent years, however, Bikram’s founder has been mired in controversy with numerous sexual assault allegations and his damaged reputation cast a shadow on this beloved form of yoga, turning many away from the practice.
This was one of the reasons that prompted the owner of Bikram Philadelphia, Katelynn Ingersoll, to rebrand the studio as Hot Yoga Philadelphia.
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“There was an article in Vanity Fair about his sexual harassment of women at teacher training a few years back,” she says. “I would have done it sooner but it was a lot of work. After having that identity for so long, there are so many things you have to change.”
From websites to signage to social media handles, there’s so much to consider when rebranding a studio that’s been around for over 17 years — not to mention assuring Bikram purists that the traditional 90-minute series would still be offered, despite the name change. You see, Bikram doesn’t own the form of yoga under U.S. Copyright Law.
“Bikram lost the copyright court case because the yoga is just like the tango — no one can own a dance. That's another reason why I changed it,” Ingersoll notes.
Free of the Bikram label, Hot Yoga Philadelphia is now able to provide more flexibility to its students, by offering new classes that even include a 60-minute and 75-minute version of classic hot yoga, for those with a busy schedule.
“Bikram would make public announcements saying if you are teaching anything but his purest 90-minute yoga, you are not teaching yoga. He put a huge divide in his own community,” Ingersoll says. “Some studios look down upon those who have evolved but more and more are making the switch.”
Is variety the spice of a more fulfilling yoga life? Ingersoll thinks so.
“You respond to the needs of your community. I know I need to have other types of yoga to balance out my practice. I need that for my students. I want them to be able to do a pyroPilates class or a Vinyasa class or a hot yoga class with music. You need variety.”
Hot Yoga Philadelphia is located at 1520 Sansom St.