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Image / Editorial

Bikram Yoga Founder Facing Sexual Assault Claims

27th Feb 2015

bikram founder in front of many yogis

Bikram Choudhury, who founded Bikram or ‘hot yoga’ – the rigorous routine of exercises practiced in steamy rooms around the world – is facing lawsuits by six women who claim he sexually assaulted them.

The Guardian report that Choudhury has faced a whole plethora of accusations, from groping right through to rape. All women, as chronicled in Vanity Fair, share a similar story. February 13th marked the sixth case against the yoga guru. As explained in The Guardian, this most recent case, filed in the Los Angeles Superior Court, claims Bikram Choudhury raped a Canadian woman who had paid $10,000 from her college fund for a nine-week class so she could teach the 26-pose technique to others.

Reports detail how things quickly soured for the hopeful student, Jill Lawler. It’s been alleged that Choudhury’demanded that she massage him while watching Bollywood movies late into the night, along with hundreds of other students, and was sexually assaulted on several occasions.

Jill Lawler tells her story, as per the official lawsuit:

?Throughout the sexual abuse, defendant Bikram Choudhury offered multiple explanations and justifications for his behaviour… He would say ?I’m dying, I need to you to save me. If I don’t have sex I will die. You are saving my life, you are helping me.??

Conversely, Choudhury’s team of lawyers are rubbishing any claims made against the hot yoga founder.

?Their claims are false, needlessly bring shame upon the yoga community, and dishonor the health and spiritual benefits that Bikram Yoga has brought to the lives of millions of practitioners throughout the world,? their statement said.

From a Vanity Fair article, dated 5th December, 2013, other women (named here as Jane Doe 2) came forward to share their experiences with Choudhury. This is an excerpt from their article:

“Jane Doe 2 tells Wallace that at first she was flattered that Choudhury DH paid her special attention when she attended one of his twice-yearly teacher trainings in September 2010, for which her boyfriend had paid $10,900. Choudhury told her after one class, ?There were hundreds of bodies in that room tonight but you were the only one that listened to me.? But she says his advances quickly escalated: he held her back after class one day and asked her to move to L.A. to work at his studio. ?I can see something inside of you that no one else can,? he allegedly told her. ?You will be greater than Mother Teresa, but you have to follow me. You have to do everything I tell you to do.? He gripped her hand and stared at her. ?I am your guru,? he said. ?I am your god?. Without me, you will be a piece of gold undiscovered and covered in dirt.? Another night, according to her lawsuit, he again pressed his case for her to come and work for him, asking that she come up to his room to talk. He assured her they would not be alone, but as soon as they entered his room, she realized her mistake. They were alone. When she started to walk out, according to her suit, he began crying and begging her to ‘save? him, and forced himself on her.”

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