The Fall of Bikram, a Famous Hot Yoga Guru - Part I

Bikram Choudhury was born on February 10, 1944 in Calcuta, India. He is a yoga teacher and the founder of Bikram Yoga, a form of hot yoga performed in a series of 26 hatha yoga postures done in a hot environment of 40 °C (104 °F).

This week, a Los Angeles judge signed off on an arrest warrant for him, because in 2016, he was ordered to pay millions following a harassment lawsuit by his former lawyer Minakshi Jafa-Bodden.

Jafa-Bodden accused him of sexually harassing her and then firing her after she began looking into claims by other women that he had sexually assaulted them. In 2016, jurors unanimously found Choudhury guilty, and concluded that he had acted with fraud, malice and oppression towards her.

Today, the yoga-guru is on the run, having reportedly fled the United States after the warrant issued for his arrest last week, with bail set at $8 million. The hot yoga famous guru has risen to great heights, only to fall so devastatingly low.

Bikram grew up on the poor streets of Calcutta, India, and at the age of three began to learn Hatha yoga poses. He began studying the practice more intensely at the age of five and as a teenager went on to win the National India Yoga Championship for three consecutive years.

After a weightlifting accident he develop precise 90-minute sequence of 26 yoga poses and two breathing exercises, which he used in combination with Calcutta’s daily heat, to heal himself.

Within six months, he was back on his feet, having completely regained his health and vitality. Confident in the healing power of his unique yoga system, Bikram was ready to offer his teaching to the world, and in process, make a lot of money.

He immigrated to the US in the early 1970s and established his first hot yoga studio in a Los Angeles. Very soon he open his second studio in Hawaii and in a short time it become success. Then he started building his empire spanning 720 yoga schools in 220 countries.

The world loved Bikram yoga, which was supported by celebrities such as George Harrison and Michael Jackson, George Clooney, Ashton Kutcher, Andy Murray, David Beckham and modern-day and Lady Gaga, to mention some.

His yoga empire also earned him a fortune. Some reports suggest he had worth as much as a $100 million. So when hot-yoga proved to be a successful business, competitors also sought out opportunities to profit from the yoga craze. Bikram reacted by claiming his yoga sequence was intellectual property and filing aggressive lawsuits against them, which ultimately proved futile. In 2015, a court ruled that yoga poses could not be copyrighted, nor competitors held liable for teaching it.

Bikram is/was an eccentric, charismatic yogi adored by hundreds of thousands of devoted enthusiasts, many were young women who considered him as a spiritual leader. He started offering his famous intensive teachers training, twice-yearly the courses to certify instructors wanting to teach Bikram Yoga, he had no shortage of students willing to pay him $15,000 for the privilege of sharing his sweat in a hot room for nine weeks.

But on those teachers training many students witnessed Bikram being openly narcissistic, dishonest, racist and sexist behaviors.  In fact, it was in Bikram’s teacher-training courses where some of the worst alleged conduct was said to have occurred. He is currently facing six separate legal suits in California courts, with accusations ranging from sexual advantage, gender violence, intention to rape etc but, no criminal charges have been brought against him.

Bikram has denied all those allegations however he was found guilty of wrongful termination, sexual harassment and breach of contract of his lawyer Jafa-Bodden. He has failed to pay her 7 millions, and the court has ordered that all income from his studio franchises be awarded to her.