Sven­gali flees as Bikram Yoga goes bank­rupt un­der wave of sex as­sault al­le­ga­tions

Ottawa Sun - - NEWS - BRAD HUNTER

Bikram Choud­hury’s cult­like yoga em­pire is suck­ing a lemon af­ter fil­ing for bank­ruptcy.

The guru, 73, fled the U.S. un­der a tidal wave of sex as­sault al­le­ga­tions by for­mer devo­tees and is be­lieved to be hid­ing in In­dia.

He built his em­pire bend­ing on the backs of trendy Cal­i­for­nia women ea­ger to em­brace the lat­est thing.

Bikram Yoga — based in Cal­i­for­nia — stated in court fil­ings it has about $50 mil­lion in li­a­bil­i­ties and as­sets of around $1 mil­lion. Court judg­ments against the yogi to­talled $16.7 mil­lion.

His brand of yoga — now more com­monly called hot yoga — fea­tures roast­ing rooms where prac­ti­tion­ers sweat pro­fusely.

But the le­gal ea­gle be­hind the down­ward dog had her day when Choud­hury was found li­able last year for sex­u­ally ha­rass­ing his own lawyer. Miki Jaffa Bod­den won an $8-mil­lion judg­ment.

Cana­dian Jill Lawler was the most re­cent woman to ac­cuse the yoga guru of sex­ual as­sault.

Just 18 at the time, she paid $10,000 from her col­lege fund to take Choud­hury’s nine-week course to be a Bikram in­struc­tor. But the Van­cou­ver na­tive’s ela­tion was soon shat­tered by the sven­gali.

She says Choud­hury ex­pected her to mas­sage him while he watched Bol­ly­wood epics un­til the wee hours of the morn­ing. She said he tried to grope her, later apol­o­gized, then tried again.

She claims he sex­u­ally as­saulted her in his ho­tel room weeks later. He has not been charged in any of the al­le­ga­tions and de­nies im­pro­pri­ety.

In an in­ter­view with CNN in 2015, he tried to ex­plain his ap­peal to women.

“Women likes me. Women loves me. So if I re­ally wanted to in­volve the women, I don’t have to as­sault the women,” Choud­hury said.

In 2016, he told HBO’s Real Sports that at least four women were driven to sui­cide be­cause he re­fused to have sex with them.

“Why would I have to ha­rass women?” Choud­hury said. “Peo­ple spend $1 mil­lion for one drop of my sperm.”

Other ac­cusers said he sex­u­ally ha­rassed them, un­leashed “racist tirades,” and fired one woman for be­ing preg­nant, and at least five other women have ac­cused Choud­hury of rape.


Bikram Choud­hury, front, cre­ator of Bikram Yoga, has left the U.S. amid sex as­sault al­le­ga­tions.

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