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Bikram on ABC Nightline: Like Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous with Yoga, Lawsuits, ‘Bitches’ and ‘Whores’

in YD News

“That man in a speedo has literally made millions off the sweat of others.”

Last night ABC Nightline featured a story on the great and controversied, sweat-soaked loose cannon yoga guru named Bikram Choudhury (video below). We know him for his hardass personality, outrageous quotes, lawsuits over copyright and oh yes, the yoga. Nightline took a closer look at the man who claims “half a billion people have benefited directly or indirectly” from his yoga, his lifestyle of the rich and famous and the lawsuits. He insists it’s all about following the American way.

Though his frequent lawsuits, competitive yoga spirit and shockmaster flex approach may not surprise most of us these days – for example, here are some befitting quotes:

“I am more American than any American. I am more Western than any Western person,” Bikram said. “I’m kind of a spoiled rotten boy.”

Bikram insists his form of yoga doesn’t just improve the body and invigorate people’s sex lives but that it also saves lives.

“I can make you live 100 years,” he said. “Say you have a bad knee, you want to fix your knee, come to my class… Do the same 26 postures with a woman who has a uterus problem. Same 26 poses, the uterus will be taken care of. Your knee will be taken care of.

“I’ve cured patients who have absolutely no hope, 98 percent of heart was clogged, they don’t even want surgery,” Bikram continued. “Send him to me and eight months later I send him back, brand new heart like a panther heart.”

-   perhaps the most glaring part of this news piece may be about the suit brought against him by former student Pandhora Williams who confronted Bikram bout his “bitches” and “whores” banter during the 7th week of the $11,000 training in 2010.

She claims that during class, Bikram made derogatory comments about women and homosexuals, saying, “Women are bitches and whores. They’re here for one thing, and that’s to make babies.”

After completing seven weeks of the nine-week course, Pandhora said she confronted Bikram.

“I walked up to him, and I said ‘Bikram, You’re breaking my heart.’ That’s what I said to him. ‘Why are you preaching hate when there’s already so much hatred in the world?’” said Williams, who claimed his response to her was, “‘We don’t sell love here, you f**king black bitch. Get out.’”

Bikram refused a comment to Nightline, but when they got a hold of his deposition, Bikram is seen denying ever using the word “bitch” in class and claims he felt threatened for his health and safety when Williams confronted him.

“He should not be allowed to spew so much hatred in his society and hide behind yoga, which is so beautiful and so pure,” Williams said.

But Bikram rejects Williams’ characterizations.

“I never lie, never cheat, I never hurt another spirit,” he said. “I’m the most spiritual man you will ever meet in your life.”

It’s true, Bikram can be good for a laugh with his outlandish drill sergeant antics, dozen Rolls Royces and bling obsession, and for sure his yoga has changed the lives of some people through the years, but how long will it be now before the lawsuits of sexual harassment disrupt and consume his cushy lifestyle behind the screen of a flagrant personality. That’s also very American, Mr. Choudhury.

Full Nightline video below:

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Earlier

47 comments… add one

  • “I am more American than any American. I am more Western than any Western person,” Bikram said. “I’m kind of a spoiled rotten boy.”

    and that’s something to be proud of?

  • Joêlle

    I don’t think a real practicing yogi is capable of such hate and hurt…Even though we don’t know the truth behind this accusation, it still is very unfortunate story to hear. I’ll be anxious to find out Bikram’s reality. Keep us updated on his news.

  • Andrea

    I recently read the book “Hell-Bent,” and if what is in there is true, I don’t know how much of a practicing yogi Bikram really is. It’s clear from the book that he doesn’t practice his own asana sequence, he doesn’t appear to have a meditation practice, and he doesn’t seem to subscribe to the principle of ahimsa.

    I highly recommend the book – it’s entertaining, and if even half the stuff in there is true, Bikram is quite a character.

  • C’mon now. Everyone knows Bikram says things like this and that he is “afraid” of no one. He’s lying. This is why I left his community, because while I LOVE the yoga, the leadership is sorely lacking.
    This man uses so many terms that most of society finds distasteful, words just as ugly as “bitches” and “whores” regarding women, LGBTs, people of every color and religion and race. He says hateful ugly things about everyone all the time because it makes him feel good about himself, I guess.
    I hated sitting silently in the communal circle of consent, consent by silence. Good for Pandhora for speaking her truth. I wanted my certificate more than I wanted to exercise compassion for those he hurt. She is a stronger person than I was and I support her.
    Now if only Bikram himself could learn from his mistake and change, become the leader he may well have been meant to be.

  • Luna

    This story saddens me a little. I feel that the word yoga is being misrepresented in this situation. It all feels misguided.

  • julie

    This is very disturbing. I knew he was a flamboyant character, but this is something else. Is there a way to continue the practice without being aligned with Bikram? Does anyone know of an alternative practice with simuliar type of design and focus?

  • Nick Mattos

    Luckily, Julie, there are many ways to practice this highly effective and transformative yoga series! Look into Evolation Yoga, as just one example — I’m a certified Evolation teacher myself, and as both a student and instructor I can attest that this practice changes lives. Just don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater!

  • julie

    okay I will. thanks.

  • Sue

    Nick, if only you knew a little more about mark drost who started evolation yoga….

  • Taylor

    Sue, tell us what you know about Mark Drost.

  • Sue

    I’d rather not. I think you’ve missed my point. I don’t condemn Bikram yoga because of Bikram’s flaws. I don’t think evolation yoga should be condemned because of Mark’s flaws.

  • You could also just get his book out of the library and practice it on your own — with or without heat.

    Barkan and Moksha are also growths from this series, so you could look there as well.

  • Locstars

    I found that after doing the training I felt as though Bikram is a very charismatic, interesting and eccentric person. In this world to be a free character and express your self, through the power of freedom of speech is a rare quality. Readers must realise much of his rhetoric is extremely ” tongue in cheek” and quite funny on other levels.
    If you don’t like what he says you are welcome to leave at any time. I noticed that he is actually testing people on many levels. His controversial actions are used as tools to attract more attention and interest to his teachings. For example Bikram swears a lot, similar to the TV, this is purely to get people’s attention and it works. I have seen him call people boring and think “wow very blunt” then watch the same people transform into confident, interesting people. People must always remember what freedom of speech means and not get lost in political correctness . Extreme characters should always be allowed in this world and be able to express them selves if they choose. No body is saying you have to like it or agree.
    His teacher training is designed to break you and create the strongest ,best quality teachers in the world, which it does. Bikram is quite a different person outside of teacher training always full of love and compassion. Yoga has many thousands of postures, just like there are many thousands of foods.
    To create an exact 26 posture series in a specific order, then copy right it, like a big mac and develop it into the greatest, most popular yoga series ever made is a very original thing. So many have stolen the series and exactly copied it without any variation. This is intellectual theft if you then use that for your own commercial gain. Why not make up your own and call it what you like you are free to do that. There are 100′s of different forms of yoga all different and nobody is stopping people creating more of their own. It’s like Hundreds of words in a particular order is a song and they are all copy righted.
    Blatant plagiarism is a crime on a commercial level. Everybody is always able to practice in their own homes. Our society is full of intellectual ownership so why should there be any difference in this situation? Remember it is the American way. Ideas are patented every day that involve a combination of things.
    Bikram yoga is the best and most accessible in the world. It’s Healing benefits are second to none. I have the xray scientific proof of the transformation of a friendss spine over 2 years who was suffering from hunchback and scoliosis. I know of no other thing that can achieve these health results. There are 10 00′s of personal testimonials from people about their health and injury transformations to back this up. Bikram is a Modern day Guru and they all attract a lot of attention this has always been the case in the west. Usually you will find that these people are not like the rest of us and this should not be a crime. So any body truly interested in the yoga should give it a go and see for themselves Get in the room and do a class and feel the difference it makes to your like. As they say “the proof is in the pudding.”

  • Abby Lou

    Is that you, Bikram?

  • Locstars

    Now thats funny, just some one who loves the yoga :) )x

  • It’s me! Me in my speedo with my bad hair! LOL.

  • bikrambabe

    Love the message, not necessarily the messenger. Everyone is focusing on the wrong thing. Bikram’s personality is over the top, larger than life… and so is the mission he was charged to do. And he succeeded wildly…he brought this miraculous, healing sequence of yoga to the Western world and made it famous! He succeeded because people DO notice him and he is controversial…would anyone have noticed him if he was not? Shame on everyone who loses sight of this, “the big picture” and gets distracted by personalities and some cultural, never harmfully intended remarks. Grow up.

  • bikrambabe

    I also happen to remember at the Spring 2011 Teacher Training Bikram expressed his admiration and respect for women saying we are more “refined and evolved than men are…why do you think this room has more women in it than men? Women understand the beauty and purpose better and seek/pursue this yoga and it’s enlightenment….” Soooo…if that comment, which I wrote in my notes, tells us anything, it’s he is an equal offender of both sexes! I like a guru who isn’t always so slick, packaged and politically correct. I accept that he speaks from the heart and occasionally does misspeak….

  • Lindsey

    Kool-aide

  • The way I see it, there is no “best yoga” or “best yoga teachers” in a general sense.

    There are lots of forms of yoga. When taught properly and practiced properly, these forms of yoga *work*. And, you know what? That’s all that they need to do.

    Nothing needs to be “the best” to be “valid.”

    You also say “give it a go and see what a difference it makes to your life.” I have taken bikram classes over the years. It’s made no more or less difference in my life than other forms of yoga. It was enjoyable, I learned a lot — I still practice the sequence, non-heated, on occasion because I feel inclined to do so. I do the same with other series and other styles of yoga. It’s all integrated in, really.

    The real proof of yoga is that yoga works. Style doesn’t matter so much as the diligent practice itself. Whether it’s bikram or astanga or yin or svaroopa or kripalu or jivamukti or whatever new style might crop up — yoga works.

    Perhaps it is better to say “yoga is the best” and not worry so much about the rest of it.

  • chard

    Bikram’s copyright days are numbered. The idiocy of the copyright will cause it to fall in court when challened enough times.
    Beyond that, according to this woman, the cursing was not just a few shits and fucks and graphic jokes. It was grisly name-calling that constitutes sexual harassment.
    If you’re not bothered by hearing that another yoga student got called a “black bitch” and that other yoga students are getting calls bitches andwhores, you are a misogynist racist. I hope, who ever you are,you never step foot in any yoga studio again.

  • Sai Kumar Reddy

    Maybe what he is trying to say in not to take him too seriously. It looks like he doesn’t censor himself at all which is what most people do. It can be good and bad. The good is you know what he is thinking most of the time and the bad is well a lot of times what we think shouldn’t really be said out loud. Another thing is that he seems to have very few inhibitions regarding his behaviour, perhaps no one taught him how to behave when he was a child. Another possibility is that he may be imitating the famous yoga siddhas who manifested colorful and shocking behaviour to help those around them to awaken from the conventional reality they are tied to.
    He is very unusual to be sure and his success in the Yoga business is mystifying to say the least. Yes the sequence is good, nice and simple that almost anyone can try. The hot room is some kind of innovation to be sure though not something I like but sure seems to attract a lot of others. All in all the only reason people seem to care about and will care about him is because of the success of his yoga business.

  • Lindsey

    Perhaps LOCSTARS is unaware but a Federal judge ruled against Bikram’s claims that the sequence is copyrighted this past December. And nothing is “funny” about bigotry and hatred toward women, a person’s race or homosexuals. Glad to see that not everyone is making excuses anymore. Cudos for Pandhora for having the courage to stand up for human decency!

  • whapaj

    Lindsey, so well said. There is nothing funny about this at all. Whatever his intentions were, they hurt a lot of people. No matter how healing his yoga sequence is physically or spiritually, it does not make up for this sort of behavior. There is nothing wrong in performing this yoga, teaching this yoga, or loving this yoga. What IS wrong is supporting a man who has done such distasteful things because you are afraid of the TRUTH tainting your practice. He is not the yoga, you are not the yoga, we are not the yoga. He is the figure-head of this movement, and he has shown himself to be unfit to lead. Pandhora is a true leader, speaking up for all of us, especially when her peers are all too eager to disregard his comments as an acceptable sense of humor.

  • Kim

    I was thinking of trying Bikram Yoga. However, if that’s the sort of personality who runs the show I want no part of it.

  • Parks

    It breaks my heart knowing he “represents” yoga in some people’s perspective. I hope this interview brings awareness to all those who support him and his ignorance by attending his “colleges” and tt programs. What a shame :’( Ill be praying for you Bikram!

  • Locstars

    No prayers necessary pleassse, lets not be silly:) By the way yoga is everything so get over it with your broken heart.
    Warm regards and best wishes x
    give it go or you never know

  • The moment already came

    I don’t know why anyone is surprised. Only one thing comes out of an asshole.

  • Sherry

    Bikram is an enigma but I know him to be a very compassionate and ever knowing man who truly wants the best for all…..My life has changed incredibly since I have done this yoga…The yoga works and I will always be indebted to Bikram for passing it on to me. Maybe all should remember…more prana less drama

  • Karma

    After meeting Bikram several times i have found him yes to be eccentric, but also full of love and compassion, with a lighthearted fun approach to life. He has devoted his life to the health of others and why should it be looked upon negatively that he has had financial gains from this? do you think your local gym and personal trainer are not interested in financial success too? there is no difference.
    All i know about the yoga is this.. for me it has changed my life and i will forever respect and be grateful to the man who designed this series.
    Since beginning practicing Bikram following the birth of my first child, 6 months ago, i have lost the 22kgs gained during the pregnancy solely through my daily practice of bikram yoga.
    My posture has improved , my body has transformed and reshaped , and after 5 years of being too unhappy/shy about my body to even wear shorts, i now can wear them daily with confidence thanks to bikram yoga.
    My husband and many others have said that i have never looked better and my mother told me last week ‘ i havent seen you look so slim and toned since your early teens” ( which was quite some time ago ).
    my focus throughout all areas of my life has improved and i face each new day with a sense of calm that i had previously never experienced prior to commencing bikram yoga.
    Whatever bikram does in his private life is of no concern to me, – he sells Bikram yoga, not anything else. This practice has truely changed my life and the lives of thousands, including many people i know .
    Thankyou Bikram.

  • Craig Kindel

    Well said. And there are thousands of more stories just like this one, but they are not talking, because they are simply doing their yoga.

    Thank you Bikram:

    for bringing authentic yoga to the United States, before most of the people, ‘talking trash on this website’, were even born.

    for showing us how to heal our bodies from the inside out.

    for building an empire, so that this powerful method, can heal more people around the world.

    for challenging ‘self-righteous’, ‘hyper- judgmental’, ‘politically-correct’ ego’s with your audacious personality.

    for weening these young, ‘spiritual materialists’, off of their concepts about what a spiritual teacher is ‘supposed’ to look like.

    for building a yoga empire so large, that like it or not, it is now talked about and implemented worldwide.

    for being willing to crack open egos like, Pandhora Williams, along the way!

    for showing the world that it is still possible to have ‘sex scandals’ at age 67!!!

    The world and especially the ‘yoga community’ has a lot to be thankful for, directly due to your work on this planet…whether they like you or not.

    And if all of the people on this website, do 1 millionth of the activity that you have, for yoga, and the health of others, this world will be a better place.

    Enjoy your cars!!!

    Rock On Bikram!!!!

    C

  • Wow! “I am the most spiritual person YOU have ever met”. Amazing statement.

  • sue

    So, do you all refuse to listen to Michael Jackson’s music because he molests little boys? Or refuse to put faith in your religion because select members have done the same? Do you refuse to watch movies because one of the actors is a racist prick? Do you refuse to cycle because Lance Armstrong doped? You probably know nothing about most of your so-called gurus. Maybe Bikram is flawed. Maybe he’s just trying to steal your peace. The job of the greatest spiritual teacher is to try to knock you off of your path. Only once you can maintain it without being thrown have you learned. For now, you’ve lost. You let him steal your peace. You have lost, not just because you refuse to practice a specific sequence of postures that may truly rock your world, but because you fail to learn the lesson and the value behind the sequence and behind the man. Yes; I drank the kool-aid. But I think Bikram only gave us the recipe for the kool-aid. He also gave us the gift to make that kool-aid whatever flavor we want.

  • maybe some of us don’t have gurus and aren’t seeking for them, so there’s nothing to be lost.

    likewise, bring critical of something (ie, being critical of using heat in yoga for example) is not necessarily a peace-distrubed action. It is simple logic, a process of questioning whether or not something is universally appropriate (as it is often marketed). Perhaps it is, perhaps it isn’t, and we can bring science and experience to bear in on that question. similarly, being critical of the personality on whom a style is named is not inherently problematic.

    but one activity where I do see peace has been taken? when a person feels the need to defend their style of yoga and their guru. certainly, it could be dispassionate: “I like this style of yoga, and I think Bikram is funny, and I’m not too worried about how outlandish he is.”

    but, more often than not it’s aggressive: You have lost, not just because you refuse to practice a specific sequence of postures that may truly rock your world, but because you fail to learn the lesson and the value behind the sequence and behind the man.

    you see, I’ve never refused to practice the sequence (in heat, no less, over 90 days straight, etc). I didn’t find the postures to “truly rock my world.” They were nice, yes, and all of that. But, overall, it was so-so. I mean, it isn’t my top pick. I dont’ think it’s *bad*, I just see no need to be so extreme about it. LOL

    Of course, this must mean that I have ‘failed to learn the lesson behind the sequence and the man.” I simply disagree with this. I don’t think there is a lesson behind the sequence or the man. I just don’t see yoga that way.

    For me, the practice itself gives dividends — and the practice is just practicing. The sequence isn’t relevant. Teachers aren’t even relevant ultimately. They just teach a skill — it’s really what the individual does with it that matters.

  • Poison

    You realize that ‘kool-aid’ is a metaphor for poison, based on a real-life tragedy of following a charismatic leader, don’t you?

  • Raihana

    I’m Bengali, like Bikram and I can tell you for a fact that the Bengali-Indian community do not like him very much. We know each other too well. He is considered to be a huckster who has come up with a new gimmick, fooled many people and is raking in the cash.
    He’s going to be nice to you as long as he can make money off of you. The moment he detects for even second, he may lose money or be seriously accountable for some of his remarks or actions which then leads to him losing money, that’s also the exact moment he’ll turn 180 degrees to be “compassionate” or “spiritual”. If he thinks he can get away with being a boorish, obnoxious, homophobic misogynist making outrageous statements and expressing ugly sentiments, he will.

    I would not be surprised if he did say ‘We don’t sell love here, you f**king black bitch. Get out.’” to Williams. He probably thought that she was some quiet, girl in too much awe of his charisma and would just shut up and go away. He wasn’t counting on her to speak up and now that she has, he’s singing a “nicer” tune.
    This guy is a total douche-bag. Like his yoga, he’s just full of hot-air.

    Bikram Bhai,
    আপনি একটি বাস্তব অজাত

  • A very interesting comment at the bottom of my article on bikram,
    ‘Thank you for your interesting article on bikram yoga. Is there not a fourth reason why Bikram is not good? Is it not so that yoga also has a profound effect on the intestines because the postures cause them to receive more blood, whereas during Bikram yoga, the heat causes the blood to be more on the outward part of the body? (I’m not sure about my theory myself, correct me if I’m wrong)…’

    Mmm I never thought about that! Yes it makes sense.

    http://www.bodhiyoga.net.au/bikram-is-bad-for-your-health/

  • Lucy

    Watch your thoughts, they become your words; watch your words, they become your action; watch your action, they become your habits; watch your habits, they become your character; watch your character, it becomes your destiny. — Lao Tze

  • fiona

    Bikram is a bunch of exercises done in a hot room . It is NOT yoga .He is a deluded spiritual being. EVERYTHING is spiritual. Yoga is a state of being where the ideational movements of the mind slow down and come to a halt..Yoga is a science of the mind the asana {exercises are a small part of yoga and where designed to keep the body strong so you could sit and meditate…still mind…It is stated clearly in the upandishads the second sutra…He is a con man and a sexist one at that..

  • mo

    Bikram is just a man and he is the first to admit this, never does he claim to be a guru or someone to be worshipped and mimicked!
    He has his own amazing way of getting right to your heart strings and during teacher training it breaks you down in order to build you back up with the sequence of yoga.
    Every single person is challenged in their own personal way through their practice and this is yogas blessing in disguise.
    You want a big change in your life, you have to make big changes in your life.
    Instead of looking for some sort of magical guru to follow and emulate, just do your yoga and whatever works, works.
    Many, many people will continue to thrive and transform their body, mind and soul with Bikrams yoga method. With all the challenges we face in this world, we need all the tools we can get to fully maintain a true path to self realization and to never let anyone steal our peace.

  • Craig Kindel

    Well Said!

    C

  • JC

    You hippie yoga guys are a bunch of idiots…get in the f*cking room!

  • Karma

    Thanks Boss:)x

  • I started with Sivananda Yoga in 1989. They are strict, old-school and fairly serious. Their dress code for teachers is a baggy shirt and white cotton draw-string pants. They ask students to present themselves modestly. I was once reprimanded by my teacher for wearing a black goth-style t-shirt to class. He asked me to consider what kind of energy I was giving out by wearing such clothes in a spiritual environment. He was so right, and that was a very enlightening observation. Sivananda teachers understand that they are teaching a spiritual discipline that, by the way, will make you more healthy. Their prices are very reasonable and they refuse to money-grub—which puts them in a precarious financial position sometimes. This is a shame, because they are the real deal. I have been made slightly uncomfortable by the “hot box” “tighten your butt” commercial yoga that seems to have sprung up everywhere like so many Starbucks. I mean, it’s great in a way that Starbucks and hot boxes are everywhere, because before you couldn’t get a decent cup of coffee or have a place to practice yoga in the suburbs…but the large-scale environmental impacts of such enterprises should not be overlooked. Hearing these stories and especially seeing his obsession with his collection of ridiculously opulent cars, his attempts to copyright asanas and his ultra-superior attitude has completely turned my stomach. Ahimsa much? Evidently not. Now I know why I felt uncomfortable competitive energy in the classes—comes from the guru. Gross. And dangerous for yoga as a culture. C’mon karma! Do your thing!

  • i like the post

  • Craig Kindel

    I was at the 2010 Bikram Teacher Training in San Diego and saw first hand Pandhora William’s effect on her class of around 200 – where she was complaining about this, and complaining about that, disrupting classes so everyone would notice her, and basically being the cancer in the event. To the point that everybody wanted her gone! The training was hard enough, then people had to deal with a complaining bitch, and an overall pain in the ass.

    And I was standing there when Bikram showed up to the training and had to confront her; and he got rid of her; as he should have. Everyone was relieved. And I’m not surprised that she’s ‘trying’ to sue him, in her post-having been kicked out of training- egoic rage she conjured up every racist, anti-Bikram, saying that she could find for her lawsuit. The problem is, I was standing right there, and witnessed first hand, that Bikram never said anything racist. But she was being ‘A MASSIVE EGOTISTICAL BITCH’, and Bikram was the only one who would deal with her in a straight forward, honest way. And now it looks like the world will have to deal with her for years to come. All I can say is I hope prospective employers will be able to access this information and see that this woman will sue you and pull out ‘the race card’ … on a dime. And SHE was the one being the uncontrolled bitch. And that’s the truth.

    C

  • Jackie Blue

    I am definitely NOT following Bikram, I just go for a workout. I already have a God!

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