“Other studios were very unhappy about it because they didn’t want the carpet either — it’s pretty stinky,” said Ted Grand, 45, a Toronto-based environmental activist who with his partner Jessica Robertson, 36, replaced the required floor with sustainably harvested cork more in keeping with their beliefs. (Mr. Grand had first taught himself Bikram in the 1990s while living without electricity in the mountains of British Columbia, squinting at a photocopied fax of the 26 postures.)
Gregg Williams, a Bikram yoga spokesman, said that the founder Bikram Choudhury was a traditionalist and that the carpet, used in his first studio in 1971, was a branding issue.
“It’s like the guy at your corner McDonald’s who doesn’t want to use the M that way,” said Mr. Williams, a former studio owner. “What would McDonald’s say? They’d say absolutely not.” (Mr. Williams said wood floors plus sweat could lead to a lawsuit should someone slip. Besides, he added, wood is too expensive to require.)
So in 2004 Mr. Grand and Ms. Robertson left Bikram to create their brand of hot yoga, a reaction to all that frustrated them about their former discipline. There would be 40 postures and classes of varying length and format taught with no script, with the temperature set at just below 100 degrees rather than Bikram’s “torture chamber” (Mr. Choudhury’s description). Students are encouraged to drink water; Bikram suggests holding off as much as possible. And studios are to be of green construction from top to bottom. The selected name is Moksha, which is Sanskrit for freedom or liberation.
Moksha is not the first Bikram breakaway, but it is perhaps the most successful. Today there are 64 studios, and another 15 are to open next year.
In the United States, where the name Moksha already has been used by multiple Indian restaurants, a Las Vegas jam band and unrelated yoga studios, the studio owners in October voted to christen themselves Modo, a made-up word that stands for “the way or the path.” Bikram, whose founder publicly has referred to teachers of all other types of yoga as “clowns,” has some 500 studios worldwide. Mr. Williams said demand is showing no signs of cooling. (He dismissed years of published reports claiming at least 1,000 studios as “exaggerated.”)
Modo’s Manhattan location — students wearing recycled-bottle-cap capri pants can chaturanga on recycled-tire floors between vine-covered recycled denim walls — opened in a former D.J. school in the West Village in 2012. The freewheeling upstart yoga quickly has become a favorite of models, performers and fashion types, who praise its ability to strengthen, reduce stress and detoxify without the boredom (or time commitment) of Bikram.
Jenni Quilter, 33, said she had been to too many New York studios where “yoga just feels masochistic, like self-purification slash punishment, where no one’s eaten for five months and everyone’s in Lululemon.” She thought Bikram was too cultish, and was wary of Modo, but promptly bought a membership after her first class.
“I loved it,” said Ms. Quilter, an arts writer with a tattoo of a 17th-century pottery mark on her left arm. She said she was stronger from her practice, though she had yet to see the much-vaunted skin benefits of her now-daily sweat. “Maybe if I didn’t reward myself with wine so often,” she said.
The actress Katie Holmes has been spotted here, as has the hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons. Sarah Neufeld, 34, one of the studio’s four owners and the violinist for the indie rock band Arcade Fire, sometimes plays live for special Friday-night karma classes along with her childhood friend and a co-owner, Rebecca Foon, 34, a cellist for the modern chamber-music group Esmerine. The two curate music for classes where it’s offered and also teach, which Ms. Neufeld sometimes has done straight off a plane from touring (“I’m maybe not the most present,” she said ruefully). Music is forbidden in Bikram; it’s played in roughly half of Modo’s New York classes.