Recently, one of the biggest Bikram Yoga studios in New York City, Bikram Yoga NYC, rebranded to BODĒ NYC after almost two decades. The name change sparked speculation from the wellness community: Was the goal to distance the business from the method’s founder Bikram Choudhury, who has been the subject of multiple sexual assault allegations and was issued an arrest warrant earlier this year—or was the cause something else entirely? Here’s the scoop.
Although the controversy wasn’t the only reason, it factored into the decision process. Co-founders Donna Rubin and Jen Lobo went to Bikram Method training almost a decade ago and had studios long before the allegations surfaced. After the news broke in 2013, they initially kept the name because they believed in the method’s health benefits. “We separated the man from the method,” Lobo says. However, as the allegations continued, they wondered if people might think the business had a stronger affiliation with Choudhury.
“The problem with having the name is that the average person walking by the awning might think that it’s a franchise and that it’s partially owned by headquarters, or that money is filtered through to headquarters,” Lobo says. She notes that Bikram NYC wasn’t a franchise and that they never paid to use Choudhury’s name; the only affiliation is that the trainers are certified in Bikram Yoga.
Although they didn’t know if the possible assumptions were affecting new business, they thought it was likely. And, as they deliberated, they noticed that their counterparts in the United States and abroad were changing their names as well. (Staten Island’s biggest Bikram studio, Bikram Yoga Staten Island rebranded to Some Like It Hot Yoga & Wellness last year, and Bikram Yoga Decatur in Georgia now goes by Still Hot Yoga, for example.) “It’s definitely been a trend,” says Lobo. “It’s hard to say if allegations are true or not, but I think the fact that it’s out there and, especially as a woman studio owner, you sort of feel like it’s the only decision to make.”
The choice was solidified when they realized that hot yoga was becoming a saturated market and that it would be beneficial to offer a variety of classes. “With a full curriculum of hot yoga, hot HIIT, hot vinyasa, Yin Nidra, sound baths, and more, we could no longer go under just one name and discipline,” Lobo says. In addition to new classes, the studio also offers reiki, sound healing, acupuncture, chiropractic services, massages, and wellness coaching. And if you’re a fan of hot yoga, don’t, er, sweat it—they’ll still offer a Bikram Yoga class.
The new name is a nod to tradition and the community they’ve served for 18 years. “BODĒ NYC was the perfect name because of the Bodhi reference—’enlightened one’ in the yoga tradition—and the cairns symbol in the ‘o’ marking the right path,” Lobo says. “It represents our approach and our mission to help New Yorkers get on the right path to health, happiness, and enlightenment.” Which, by any name, sounds sweet.