He has a stable of luxury cars and a Beverly Hills mansion

Uh oh – another celebrity star famous guy brought down by multiple accusations of rape.

This one’s a famous star yoga guy.

He has a stable of luxury cars and a Beverly Hills mansion. During trainings for hopeful yoga teachers, he paces a stage in a black Speedo and holds forth on life, sex and the transformative power of his brand of hot yoga.

Not to mention his black Speedo.

But a day of legal reckoning is drawing closer for the guru, Bikram Choudhury.

He is facing six civil lawsuits from women accusing him of rape or assault.The most recent was filed on Feb. 13 by a Canadian yogi, Jill Lawler, who said Mr. Choudhury raped her during a teacher-training in the spring of 2010.

The first complaint was filed two years ago. As more surfaced, and more women spoke publicly about accusations of assault and harassment, their accounts have created fissures in the close-knit world of yoga students and teachers who have spent thousands of dollars to study with Mr. Choudhury; opened studios bearing his name; and found strength, flexibility and health in his formula of 26 yoga postures in a sweltering room.

Deep rifts. Deep rapey rifts.

“A lot of people have blinders on,” said Sarah Baughn, 29, a onetime Bikram yoga devotee and international yoga competitor whose lawsuit against Mr. Choudhury in 2013 was like an earthquake among followers of his style of yoga. “This is their entire world. They don’t want to accept that this has happened.”

A statement issued by lawyers for Mr. Choudhury and his yoga college, which is also named as a defendant in the lawsuits, said that “Mr. Choudhury did not sexually assault any of the plaintiffs” and that the women were “unjustly” exploiting the legal system for financial gain.

“Their claims are false and dishonor Bikram yoga and the health and spiritual benefits it has brought to the lives of millions of practitioners throughout the world,” the statement said.

Maybe it’s not the claims that do that.

An August trial date has been set in Ms. Baughn’s case. In her complaint, she said Mr. Choudhury pursued her starting with a teacher-training she attended in 2005, when she was 20. She said he had whispered sexual advances during classes, and had assaulted and groped her in a hotel room and at his home.

In the other case involving a 2010 teacher-training, Mr. Choudhury’s lawyers argued that the woman had waited too long to file the lawsuit, beyond the statute of limitations. But the judge denied parts of the lawyers’ argument, saying the woman, known in court papers as Jane Doe No. 2, had endured so much damage to her life and psyche that most of the suit could move ahead.

It’s probably her karma.


  1. otrame says

    Sigh. Slightly OT: I recently found out that a man I worked with for 15 years was accused of sexual harassment.

    My gut level reaction was “bullshit.” My second reaction was “Hey, what about most accusations are probably true and should never be dismissed out of hand”? Hypocrite much?

    So then I tried to honestly think about it, recognizing my bias. The man had been my boss for 10 years and I really liked him (though at times he pissed me the hell off). The woman in question had been having a long series of battles with my boss’s wife, who also worked in a supervisory position (this is not especially unusual as she is both somewhat insecure and very confrontational as well as a stickler for doing things by the book–good heart and good intentions but not always the wisest person in the world). When my former boss insisted in one instance that his wife was correct (it was a matter of fact) after the accuser was flatly refusing to do what her boss (his wife) told her to do, she was heard afterwards to mutter about how they were going to be sorry.

    A few days later she started a campaign of “[my former boss] keeps talking to me and it makes me feel creepy” and “Does he ever, you know, like, come on to you?” to various coworkers.

    Then she filed a harassment report. The investigation was short and very incomplete. He was asked to leave. Of course, the fact that some campus politicians had been trying to do damage to the particular place he worked because it is too popular, and made quite a bit of money and was not really under the kind of control some wanted it to be might have had something to do with that. This whole thing played right into their hands.

    And, damn it, I KNOW the guy. I’ve worked with him, seen him interact with literally dozens of pretty young girls. He never once pinged my radar. True, he wouldn’t have tried to harass me unless he was a) blind; and b) suicidal–I am not the type to tolerate such and a predator would recognize that about 10 seconds after I walk into a room. But I always paid attention to body language and such because I felt those kids were so damned YOUNG and I felt very protective of them. I even once read the riot act to someone about inappropriate behavior. It was an older woman, harassing several young (and very pretty) men. It hadn’t gotten past remarks made, but I made sure she knew that if I heard or heard about any more of that crap I was going to report her.

    So now my former boss has a new job. Several of the “old school” have moved to to the same place. His wife ended up getting a much better and more prestigious job elsewhere. The place where I worked for 20 years, a place I loved, a place that was like a second home, has been gutted. Most of the really competent workers have left because they will not work with the accuser.

    And yes, I don’t expect you to believe me when I say my former boss was not guilty. You don’t know me and you don’t know him. And yes, most accusations of sexual harassment are true. And yes, such accusations should never be dismissed out of hand. But I think it is important not to forget that sometimes it really is a false accusation.

  2. opposablethumbs says

    Silentbob, if I have understood correctly there is only one accuser in the case otrame is describing. Not multiple.

  3. Ruth says

    @opposablethumbs, in that case otrame’s comment is not just ‘slightly’ off topic, it’s completely off-topic, and in fact a bit of a derail.

  4. sonofrojblake says

    Not necessarily a derail. Sure, it’s anecdotal, but it confirms the position I’ve come to having watched this kind of thing in my own career and in more public fora: if a man or woman is accused of interpersonal misconduct (a term I intend to mean anything from psychological bullying, through to sexual assault and/or rape) by a single accuser, my default assumption is that the accusation is false – but that position is easy to shift if they can produce evidence. If there are as few as two independent accusers, that assumption flips immediately to assuming the accusation is true, and it’s REALLY hard to shift from that position even in the absence of corroboration simply because of the recognisable social costs of making accusations.

    That system proves correct almost all the time, simply because
    (a) false accusations do occur, but they’re rare enough that for them to happen twice independently to the same person is a huge stretch on credibility and
    (b) someone who will behave inappropriately to one person is pretty much guaranteed to repeat that behaviour with another, and another, and another, because they believe they’ll get away with it.

  5. xyz says

    actually sonofrojblake, your method has a pretty major flaw, though I can see where you are coming from. By assuming a single accusation is false, you are keeping the social cost of reporting harassment awfully high. Imagine that you’re a possible second accuser of a serial harasser, and you see the first accuser told, “Well, your accusation seems questionable to me, if you were really harassed, why isn’t anyone backing you up yet?” or worse, the first accuser’s character, sanity, clothing, etc. is put on trial. Do you, as the second victim, come forward? Or do you see that you might be treated as a potential liar, and stay quiet?

    That’s not to say that your default position has to be that all accusations are true, but consider that accusations that go as you ideally mention (more than one “independent” accuser, etc) may be the tip of the iceberg just because of the social cost of accusations, or even because accusers may tend to know each other, share stories and make a group decision to come forward, potentially making them not independent in your eyes.

  6. sonofrojblake says

    I can see what you’re saying – but I’m not the police and I’m not the courts. That’s strictly my personal internal assessment I’m talking about. Authorities – be that police, employers, whatever – absolutely should treat EVERY accusation separately on its own merits and investigate properly with no preconceived ideas, for precisely the reasons you give. I was talking only about what I personally think when I hear about accusations against people, when I’m just an otherwise neutral observer.

  7. Vicki says

    “You’re going to be sorry” does not imply “I am going to lie about you”: it could equally mean “if you’re going to keep treating me this way, I’m not going to protect you anymore.”

    I know someone who was accused of harassment, but eventually said he is not disputing the charges. I also know that he has never said or done anything inappropriate to me. I don’t know if that’s because he isn’t a harasser; because I’m not the kind of person he harasses (the accuser was quite a bit younger, among other differences); or if he saw me as having enough status/connections that it wouldn’t be safe to bother me. I still don’t feel unsafe around this man, but I am not going to tell anyone “he didn’t bother me, therefore he must not be a harasser,” any more than the fact that I’m alive would prove a friend innocent of a hypothetical murder charge.

  8. Katydid says

    I’ve been doing yoga for a couple of decades, and it’s been an open secret that the really high-ups are creeps. Absolute power corrupts absolutely, and some people are creeps from the get-go, but can’t act on it until they have the power.

  9. John Horstman says

    @otrame #1: So… instead of discussing the case in question, we should all consider an unrelated anecdote about how one time you think a woman at a place you work(ed) filed a false report of workplace sexual harassment? That’s not so much slightly off-topic as it is veering wildly off the tracks and then ditching the derailed train for a rental car and driving to an entirely different destination. That people inevitably post things like that on every fucking story about rape/assault/harassment is part of a sexist social pattern to which you shouldn’t contribute. You might want to train that little warning voice you mention to speak up in such cases.

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