26 + 2 = 32
  • August 5, 2015
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26 + 2 = 32

Everybody who practices Bikram Yoga knows that there are 26 postures and 2 breathing exercises. Everybody is wrong.

The confusion comes from what’s being counted. In typical Bikram Chourdhury fashion, the rationale for the claim of 26 postures and 2 breathing exercises is illogical and has more to do with marketing than actually representing the posture series. When he first introduced Bikram Yoga to us in the United States he wanted to be able to say the series was just like going from A to Z. When I heard him talk about this in 2001 he admitted that 26+2 was incorrect but he insisted that the marketing value was more important than the truth. Further confusing the issue he changed the numbering of the posture sequence from his first book to his second.

In Bikram’s first book, which is laid out with 26 chapters — one for each posture — he counted the breathing exercises and the first sit-up but in two instances he combined postures: Half Moon Pose and Hands to feet Pose are counted as posture #2 and Head to Knee and Stretching Pose are counted as posture #24. Less confusingly, he also failed to distinguish between the variations of Awkward, Wind Removing and Locust Poses. But in practice, the variations of at least two of these could rightly be considered different postures.

In his second book, he doesn’t number the first breathing exercise, Standing Deep Breathing, but he does count the final breathing exercise, Breathing in Firm, as posture #26. He does not count the sit-up and he continues to combine a few poses.

Does any of this matter? Of course not. The Bikram Yoga posture series is what it is and how we count the postures is inconsequential. But I was trying to organize some photos for our web site and wanted them to be arranged in the order in which we perform them in class for a gallery that was originally going to be called, “The Bikram 26 + 2.” Appending numbers to the beginning of the file names was the easiest way to have them sort properly and as I did so I ended up with “The Bikram 32.”

I did not count the sit-up because it’s not a yoga posture. I also separated a few postures that might arugably be considered variations on a theme: Half Moon (side bends versus back bend), Awkward, Wind Removing and Locust. The Half Moon and Awkward variations strike me as distinct enough to stand alone. The first Awkward and Locust variations could just as easily be considered warm-ups for the full expression of the pose but I decided the criteria for being assigned a unique number was if the variations required a unique photo to distinguish them from each other.

Here’s my counting, which I am not presenting as definitive:

  • 01 Standing Deep Breathing
  • 02 Lateral Half Moon
  • 03 Half Moon Back Bend
  • 04 Hands to Feet
  • 05 Awkward 1
  • 06 Awkward 2
  • 07 Awkward 3
  • 08 Eagle
  • 09 Standing Head to Knee
  • 10 Standing Bow Pulling
  • 11 Balancing Stick
  • 12 Standing Separate Leg Stretching
  • 13 Triangle
  • 14 Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee
  • 15 Tree 16 Toe Stand
  • 17 Savasana
  • 18 Wind Removing 1
  • 19 Wind Removing 2
  • 20 Cobra
  • 21 Locust 1
  • 22 Locust 2
  • 23 Full Locust
  • 24 Bow
  • 25 Fixed Firm
  • 26 Half Tortoise
  • 27 Camel
  • 28 Rabbit
  • 29 Head to Knee
  • 30 Stretching
  • 31 Spine Twist
  • 32 Final Breathing
Written by Eric

Eric Jennings practices and teaches yoga in the style and method originated by Bishnu Ghosh, acclaimed Indian physical culturist. He holds certifications from Ghosh Yoga College of India (2016), Yogic Physical Culture Academy (2013) and Bikram Yoga, Inc. (2001). He has studied with Muktamala Mitra, Jared McCann, Mary Jarvis, Tony Sanchez, Marlysa Sullivan, William Huffschmidt, Yoganand Michael Carrol and Bikram Choudhury. With a background in theatre and performance one of Eric's strengths as an instructor is his ability to offer clear and accessible instruction making all practitioners, no matter their level of experience, feel safe, supported and encouraged in their practice.