Bikram Choudhury on The Today Show

>>> from hollywood to middle america and dozens of countries around the world bikram yoga has developed a cult-like following. “today” correspondent jenna wolfe caught up with the man behind the fom nanphenomenon. i didn’t realize it was a man.

>> it is a man. this is the hot yoga. people will try to convert you. the reason for that? a man with a big plan. he’s been called many things, evangelical, egotistical, but with millions in the bank clearly bikram is doing something right.

>> you don’t look or sound like a typical yogi. so many people embrace you and this practice. why do you think it is?

>> that’s why i’m bikram. i’m the yogi. open your lungs and fill up.

>> reporter: he’s attracted quite a following with names like michael jackson, lady gaga, richard nixon and a former pope.

>> the pope came to learn from me. for one week i taught him all about india.

>> reporter: bikram started practicing yoga at 4 in india. he was crowned yoga champion by 13. and at age 27 he moved to the united states to start his dynasty.

>> it will be the best in the world.

>> reporter: we caught up with the 65-year-old yoga guru turg a recent bikram teacher training program in los angeles. quite a speech you gave.

>> oh, that’s nothing.

>> reporter: it’s here people come to get certified in bikram.

>> you won’t recognize your face in the mirror at the end.

>> reporter: jennifer lobo was a former graduate. she went on to teach and open her own studios in new york city.

>> it’s very healing yoga. it’s a beginning series yoga so anybody can do it.

>> reporter: with over 500 certified studios and a million people practicing around the world, almost anyone, anywhere can experience bikram.

>> take a deep breath.

>> reporter: what is bikram yoga? of the thousands of postures bikram chose 26 along with two breathing exercises. he took an ancient art form and copy righted it, branding the unbrandable.

>> i’m the only person in the history of india to create a system in bikram yoga.

>> reporter: then there is the heat. bikram calls it a torture chamber with class temperatures around 105 degrees and 40% humidity. he says the heat allows the muscles to loosen up and deeply stretch.

>> when the room is more hot you never hurt, never injury, never any problems.

>> reporter: ask him about the benefits of bikram and this is what you get.

>> ruscoliosis, osteoporosis, tendinitis. anything else?

>> reporter: his claims of a miracle cure also come with criticism.

>> the main medical risks with bikram yoga would be dehydration and heat stroke. as a physician i would be skeptical about trains that you can treat and cure all those disease states with one exercise regimen.

>> reporter: from someone whose practice is pure, his own habits seem less than ideal.

>> i work 24 hours a day, no food, no sleep?

>> reporter: you really don’t sleep much?

>> hardly. not 30 hours a month.

>> reporter: come on. you don’t sleep 30 hours a month? do you drink coffee?

>> never. you will never meet another human being in this earth more pure than me.

>> reporter: some may argue that bikram is a contradiction to his own brand. he sells yoga, the purest, most ancient form of spirituality. its wealth comes from within. bikram’s wealth — and he doesn’t hide it — comes from the outside.

>> reporter: do you like money?

>> yeah, i like money. why not? i’m 110% in what i do. i sell the truth.

>> reporter: perhaps it is that very truth that fills up his classes year after year.

>> every time you are in the room you learn something about yourself.

>> reporter: people come to my class. they give up everything from their life. the mind is gone, spirit is gone. those people come to me. i bring hope to them and give them brand new life.

>> reporter: we should mention bikram and his wife want to make yoga an olympic sport. they are trying hard to do it. i took this class. i take bikram regularly and have been for nine months now. i took the class from bikram. i don’t have a problem with the heat. if you can stand it — i know, ann, you take yoga. if you can stand the heat this pushes you to your edge and allows you to really stretch as deeply as you can.

>> and you relax.

>> if you call that relaxing.

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