Bikram Yoga Founder: Sued for Sexual Assault

Bikram Choudhury, founder of Bikram Yoga, better known as hot yoga, is facing six separate civil lawsuits from women who are accusing the founder of sexual assault or rape. Bikram is not facing any criminal charges; all charges are of a civil matter due to the time the women waited before coming forward with the accusations. Choudhury’s attorneys made a statement stating, “The women did not independently come forward to tell their stories of sexual assault after years of keeping them secret, instead, they signed on to become plaintiffs in these cases following a world-wide and lengthy period of solicitation through letters and social media seeking to convince women to sue Mr. Choudhury.” Los Angeles County prosecutors decided not to file criminal charges in several cases, saying there was no corroborating evidence. The lawsuits contain “stories told by plaintiffs in their lawsuits are near copies of one another; they are all authored by the same lawyer who recruited them,” according to Choudhury’s attorneys.

Bikram Choudhury is the founder of Bikram’s Yoga College, his yoga classes run for ninety minutes and consist of the same series of twenty-six poses. Bikram Yoga is ideally practiced in a room heated to 104 °F (40°C) with a humidity of 40% for ninety minutes. Official Bikram classes are taught by Bikram-certified teachers, who have completed nine weeks of training endorsed by Choudhury. It is at the training classes where women are claiming the abuse began. The rape allegations that sparked media attention comes from Jill Lawler. All of the women in their claims allege to being assaulted when they were training to be Bikram-certified teachers. Many people claim that Choudhury and Bikram Yoga is like a cult. People look to Choudhury as a savior-type individual. Women were afraid to come forward because of his power over them and they were ashamed. Some women sought out Bikram Yoga as an escape from other traumas in their lives, only to be traumatized all over again.

On Tuesday the women were awarded more than $6.4 million in the first of a series of lawsuits. There will be more suits to follow this one as each woman will come and likely attack Choudhury’s fortune as compensation for their suffering. Last year, Choudhury lost a legal fight to copyright the Bikram Yoga sequence. He had argued that only he had the right to determine who could teach his method, but the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that his yoga method was not protected by copyright law and that competitors could not be held liable for teaching it without his blessing. As for Choudhury’s remaining suits, one of the women who had filed a lawsuit alleging that Choudhury raped her filed court paperwork this month saying a conditional settlement had been reached; details are not available. Throughout his legal battles Choudhury has tried to claim that he doesn’t have the wealth people are alleging he does; however, his luxurious home and exotic car collection would suggest otherwise.

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