Wellness Wire
Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Bikram sex scandal: What you need to know

(Photo: Boston.com)

(Photo: Boston.com)

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Yoga is no stranger to sex scandals, and just a year after the John Friend affair, another star yogi is being accused of abusing his guru status by systematically engaging in sexual harassment.

It’s the super-litigious Bikram Choudhury, who’s now being served with a lawsuit, and while he’s been sued before (at least once last year by another former student alleging sexual harassment), this appears to be the most serious set of allegations brought against the strange, Rolls Royce-loving guru t0-date.

We got a copy of the summons filed in Los Angeles on March 7 and here, break down what you need to know about the case.

WHO

Choudhury is being sued by West Coast yogi Sarah Baughn, a young Bikram star who won lots of competitive yoga championships and was super close to the guru for several years. Baughn dropped out of college in 2004, at age 20, to start her Bikram teacher training and dedicate her life to the practice.

She’s suing Bikram Choudhury, his wife Rajashree (who is the president of USA Yoga, the organization that governs competitive yoga), and Bikram’s Yoga College of India, whose staff, she says, repeatedly urged her to keep quiet about Choudhury’s behavior.

WHAT

Baughn is suing Choudhury on multiple counts, and this sums them up well:

“This is a sex-based discrimination and sexual harassment case where Plaintiff is being discriminated against as a woman, because she did not and will not submit to Defendant Bikram Choudhury’s repeated demands for sex, and because she successfully fought him off when he sexually assaulted her. As a result, Plaintiff was punished and threatened, including with implicit economic reprisals if she were to discuss or report the sexual assault, and was not permitted to reach the highest levels of her profession.”

To elaborate on some of the awful details, Baughn says Choudhury picked her as one of his favorites early on in her teacher training, saying he knew her from a past life and presenting her with a diamond-studded Rolex.

Later, he allegedly gave her inappropriate adjustments while “whispering sexual things to her,” urged her to have sex with him multiple times, and physically assaulted her during a sexual advance. After he found out she reported his behavior to others, she says he found ways to to punish her via alienation and pulling on her leg so hard during an adjustment that she tore her hamstring.

Professionally, Baughn says he continued to punish her by robbing her of the International Champion title in 2008, after she delivered a near-perfect performance and her competitor, who stumbled during her performance, won.

And the biggest scandal stems from the fact that Baughn says it wasn’t just her—that Choudhury’s behavior was widespread, accepted, and kept quiet in the Bikram community. During teacher training, she says that “some of the women were chosen to brush his hair and massage his body,” and that two other female yoga champs had slept with him before winning their titles.

Whatever the outcome of the lawsuit, these allegations certainly have a lot of people—and yogis of all stripes—talking. How do you think this will affect the Bikram community? Tell us in the Comments, below?

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