Bikram Yoga NYC rebrands to keep up with changing times

After 18 years, Bikram Yoga NYC decided it was time for a change.

This week, the hot yoga chain — which opened its first location in midtown in 1999 and now has studios on the Upper West Side and Upper East Side and in Flatiron — unveiled a new name.

Now called BODE NYC (pronounced bo-dee) — in part inspired by the Sanskrit word for enlightenment, bodhi — the rebrand reflects the studio’s growing offerings beyond bikram, the owners said.

amNewYork spoke with co-founder Jennifer Lobo Plamondon about the changes and the current fitness scene.

On the growing appeal of hot yoga

“Every studio’s putting panels in because they understand the benefits of heat now. But back [in 1999], it was like, ‘This is a little crazy. Why are you exercising in extreme heat?’ But I think quickly, the medical community, certainly physical therapists, were seeing the benefits. The benefits are so immense, especially for lower backs — it seems people have problems because of all the time they spend sitting in chairs hunched over.”

On getting over the hump

“I went to my first class after partying until 4 o’clock in the morning. And it was a 9 a.m. class. I felt like I was going to throw up the whole class. It was difficult dealing with the heat, but after I felt so amazing. I came back the next day. We always say, you need three classes to get over the hump.”

On branching out from bikram

“A lot of people aren’t [giving it three chances]. We felt, let’s get them in here with the Hot HIIT, which is a lot of core strengthening, and the Hot Vinyasa, which has a lot of upper body strengthening, and try to incorporate all of these programs with the bikram yoga and really give people what they want. We’re introducing sound bath meditation classes, and a whole 360-degree approach to health and wellness. When we decided to start adding these other elements, we thought the Bikram Yoga NYC name doesn’t represent all that we do.”

On the current challenges

“About three years ago, the fitness industry number one, got oversaturated. So that was hard. Number two, ClassPass has, I hate to say it, single-handedly devastated the industry because they preach, ‘Don’t get bored. Don’t commit.’ And most of us in the industry, especially in yoga, say you need to commit to your practice. You can come here on Monday and go to Barry’s Bootcamp on Tuesday and Flywheel on Wednesday, but unless you’re doing yoga at least three times a week, you’re not getting any of the mental benefits. … [ClassPass] also helps. It’s like a marketing arm. It’s the necessary evil, as a lot of people in the fitness industry like to refer to them. They’ve been really good to us, but it’s shifted the mentality. It makes our job harder.”