By News 8 Reporter Jeff Zevely
KEARNY MESA (CBS 8) - For the first time ever, one of the most famous Yoga masters in the world is offering a San Diego seminar. In the past six decades the man simply known as "Bikram" has certified 8,000 instructors across the globe and it turns out our own Jeff Zevely is cousins with the very first.
The Town and Country Resort and Convention Center has specially built a 16,000-square-foot facility for Bikram and his booming Yoga business. If you're looking for the perfect pose delivered with confidence Bikram Choudhury is your man.
In the 1960's, Bikram was a world champion weightlifter on his way to Olympic glory when he blew out his knee. Bikram became so depressed he attempted suicide, but he says Yoga saved his life. He went from a wheelchair to walking in six months and he's been happy ever since.
Nearly 400 people from more than 40 countries came to San Diego to meet the man with soul and swagger: Bikram wears a million-dollar wrist watch.
"The most eccentric, funniest man I've ever met, I think," a student said.
For the next nine weeks teachers-in-training will put in 16-hour days learning from the master in a heated 110-degree room.
"It has changed me on all levels, 180 degrees," a student said.
The program costs $10,000, which Bikram calls an investment. He says the instructors can make up to $600,000 within six months of opening their schools.
Bikram's first certified teacher ever was my second cousin Conrad Zevely.
"Incredible human being," said Bikram of Conrad.
In 1990, Bikram trained Conrad Zevely for free.
"He didn't have money to buy the plane ticket. I sponsored him and he came and slept on the office on floor," Bikram said.
Conrad then taught my 65-year-old father Ed the famous 26 poses that fixed his decades of back problems.
Bikram says he taught his famous 26 poses to Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and Richard Nixon.
"President Nixon was my first student in America," Bikram said.
Elvis Presley, George Harrison, Michael Jackson, Kareem Abdul Jabbar and Dan Marino would follow. Bikram says he gives people hope.
"If ever in life nothing works, people give up. People don't have to give up," he said.
Despite the economy, Bikram's business is up 60 percent. There are nine Bikram studios in San Diego County.