IT’S A STRETCH: Sometimes timing just works out. Bikram NYC, the yoga-based boutique fitness operation, was already in the midst of a major re-branding plan when an arrest warrant was issued for Bikram Choudhury.
Over the years Choudhury, the creator of hot yoga, has faced multiple sexual assault allegations.
Bikram NYC is not franchised in any way with Choudhury, nor has it ever been, according to co-owner Jen Lobo, a former IMG spokeswoman. “The way that the Bikram yoga world works is that we’re not a franchise. It’s just an affiliation so there is never any money exchanged with headquarters of Bikram Choudhury. In that sense, we’ve been on our own for 18 years now,” she said. “It was never the case that money from Bikram NYC was going to Bikram. We’ve never had to pay them a penny in 18 years, which probably wasn’t good business on his behalf because if he had set it up correctly at the beginning, it might have been a different scenario financially.”
Bikram NYC’s re-branding is expected to be revealed by July 1. In October, Lobo and her business partner Donna Rubin started working with a Chicago company to re-brand Bikram NYC to better reflect the wide curriculum of fitness classes that are offered. Both women are also certified instructors. “We’re not doing a name change for the sole purpose but the timing works out well. The news on him has been out for a couple of years, the real nail in the coffin came with the ’60 Minutes’ interview [in 2014]. I haven’t seen him in a couple of years. We’ve always kind of kept our distance from headquarters. We were never that involved with him or with the training staff when we opened our business.”
As part of renovations, Bikram NYC’s studios and lobbies, where various yoga labels are sold, are being updated. The retail space will vary from 300 to 600 square feet in its outposts on the Upper East Side, the Upper West Side, the Flatiron District and in Midtown. Noli, Shakti activewear and Yogabela are among the labels the company sells and more merchandise will be added once the redesign is complete. The upswing in the number of clients who are taking two classes a day such as Hot HIIT and Bikram yoga could help sales.
“Overall, we’re super energized that all our clients are loving Bikram yoga and mixing it with a core class. We’re incorporating a lot of new exciting classes, but it’s all surrounded with calming your mind — finding your calm in this city of chaos. That’s the whole vibe — we’re putting cold stones on the forehead at the end of class. Whatever we do moving forward is about finding your calm,” Lobo said. “You are so happy once you start practicing. Then you can’t imagine life without it. Certainly it’s a better addiction than a lot of things.”