≡ Menu
YogaDork

Bikram Choudhury Sued for Sexual Harassment, Sex-Based Discrimination

in Lawsuit-asana, YD News
Bikram teacher Sarah Baugh sues Bikram Choudhury

Bikram teacher Sarah Baughn. | image via www.bikramyogasf.com

Bikram Choudhury has been sued for sex-based discrimination and sexual harassment, YD has learned and we have obtained the court documents. Because of his perpetual state of sued-ness it’s easy to brush off yet another lawsuit against Bikram with an eye roll. And we’re tired of hearing bad news, too. But this one sounds more serious, and maybe we should take it that way.

We acknowledge the gravity of the situation and our intention in reporting is purely to inform the community. We also acknowledge that at this time there is no ruling on innocence or guilt, and therefore we present without comment.

The lawsuit dated March 7, was filed in the Los Angeles Superior Court by the plaintiff, former Bikram student and currently prominent SF Bikram teacher Sarah Baughn, who is suing defendent Bikram Choudhury et al. (also including Bikram’s wife Rajashree and the Bikram Yoga College) for actions that stem from 2005 and that are “continuing.”

The complaint describes Baughn’s introduction to Bikram Yoga in 2004, her decision to drop out of college, take out loans and enter Bikram teacher training in 2005. It details her account of Bikram’s favoritism amongst students, his sexual advances, sexual assault, his threats made to Sarah if she were to discuss or report the sexual assault and conspiracy to prevent her career from progressing.

Over the years she was repeatedly told by Yoga College employees and volunteers that she should “separate the man from the teacher.”

The only thing Sarah ever heard from anyone she confided in was “Oh that’s terrible, BUT…. You know how he is?” or “…BUT his whole life he’s been taught that he only deserves the best, so of course he is going to try to be with the pretty, flexible girls,” or “…BUT you have to separate the man from the teacher,” or “…BUT he’s innocent, you know, like a child,” etc., etc.

Baughn’s suit alleges, at one point he pushed her “down toward the floor after pulling her arm and leg apart and opening her body” where he “pressed his body into hers and began whispering sexual things [until] she collapsed into sobs.”

The suit also describes Bikram as rigging the 2008 asana competition in which Baughn was a contender and was expected to take first place but instead placed second to another student who was sharing Bikram’s hotel room, according to the lawsuit.

The full description of the complaint and “Nature of the Action” is as follows:

1. 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.

2. To this very day, Defendant Bikram Choudhury and others have engaged in a
campaign of civil conspiracy, unfair competition, and tortious interference that began when Plaintiff
was denied her rightful, judge-determined title as International Champion in 2008 because she
refused Mr. Choudhury’s demand to have sex with him. This conspiracy continues to the present
when she has been prevented from teaching seminars or advanced classes because of her past and
continuing refusal to have sex with her guru. Other people who have either submitted to Mr.
Choudhury’s sexual advances or provided him with women for sex have been permitted to teach
such classes.

3. As a direct consequence of these unlawful acts, Plaintiff has suffered
economic, consequential, and other damages, all to her detriment. Defendants’ actions forced
Plaintiff to hire attorneys and file suit and she, therefore, has incurred substantial attorneys’ fees and
costs.

The full 46-page document can be viewed here.

The plaintiff and the defendent could not be reached for comment.

——

Earlier

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

43 comments… add one

  • haridas

    in india a woman is a thing and being treatend as such
    indians know that western women are very ‘flexible’ open in sexual way
    and take advantage of this being “a guru”

  • JC

    perhaps you need to read this article:

    http://in.reuters.com/article/2013/03/21/india-rape-law-women-protection-idINDEE92K09U20130321

    Women are not objects and you are fool for thinking that to be the case.

    American culture may be a lot more overtly sexual but, I promise that men and women alike, regardless of their nationality are constantly dealing with their sexuality.

    What you see in the movies and in magazines is not how people actually act. I know for a fact that Indian people tend not to break into song and dance when dealing with major life upheavals.

    NO man OR woman has the right for force themselves on another person.

  • Mike

    Perhaps YOU need to read this: http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2013-03-19/delhi/37842681_1_chamber-husband-divorce-petition

    Rape culture is not only alive and well, but thriving and encouraged in India.

  • Honomann

    Fitting karma for a man driven to ruthlessly sue others. From a PR standpoint just the acusations alone are worse than any verdict. Can’t say I’m feeling any sympathy for ya Beek.

  • glamyogi

    This is so sad. Reading the entire suit, some of the actions she is claiming are so beyond disgusting. I’ve been in class with Bikram and dismissed so many of his actions and words, too. Chalked it up to “cultural” differences… and also everyone said “separate the man from the teacher”. But get real! This is not yoga. I hope she wins big time and isn’t discredited because of her tumors and expensive surgery. Lots of prayers and positive energy.

  • I have a hard time chalking things up to cultural differences when the man has lived in the west for so long. He is old enough, experienced enough, and capable of knowing better. Particularly if he’s the ‘genius’ that his students claim him to be.

  • tinyyogini

    Exactly. And since he lives in the west now, he can deal with western consequences for his actions.

  • brian alexander smith

    Bikram Choudhury is UGLY and probably has bad breath with a small penis. He reminds me of John Friend. Full of ego and lies. Why are women so damn gullible with these ugly freaks? Who in their right mind would ever have sex with these ugly filthy men? My whole experience of dealing with “yoga” people makes me want to puke!
    Everyone is saying “namaste” and then they get in their cars and drive like a bunch of dumb American Sheep. BAAAAAAAA BAAAAAAAA Sheep hahahahahahahaha! All in the name of money!
    They love their iphones, ipads, and yoga pants made in CHINA in SWEAT SHOPS. BAAAAAAAA BAAAAAAAAAAAAAA Sheep!

    http://youtu.be/MHRcKjvX1xE

  • tinyyogini

    It’s not that women are gullible, but rather, it’s a matter of the teacher taking advantage of the teacher/student or guru/disciple relationship. It happens all the time. In business, education, politics, etc…

    Clearly, she has refused his advances, which is why she is suing.

  • LarsBoga

    It’s both.
    Women can be gullible and the gurus take advantage of it.
    There are plenty of women though who want to have sex with the so-called guru.

  • Victoria

    Anyone surprised by this has not read HELL-BENT by Benjamin Lorr. A completely fascinating book, but one which makes me think this is just the tip of a very large iceberg.

  • That was an entertaining AND informative book!

  • Paulette

    I’m surprised by the small number of comments. Are we suffering from scandal fatigue?

  • I’m disappointed (too?). I think the problem here is that it was so expected.

  • Me

    When a person realizes they are dealing with an a-hole, they have to cut their losses and leave, not wait until life is so bad they have to try to take revenge in court, I say.
    A-holes will be a-holes. There plenty of fine people doing yoga to avoid those who are sub-human-ish.

  • Cyndy

    As the Maharishi once said when asked if mediation would make a selfish jerk a better person…he took a long pause and replied ” No, still a jerk”.

  • tinyyogini

    Awesome!

  • Matt

    No one would no better than he, but still true.

  • Nc

    Yawn

  • Katey lee Wright

    In no way does yoga justify this arrogance. i know in the USA, his style has taken the public by storm, and lots of people now think doing Yoga is equivalent to participating in a “Bikram yoga” class. Very sheep like. indeed. It is media driven and gobbled up by the uninformed and the ignorant, yet the people come. The good news is that a huge percentage of practitioners and teachers are in it for the core values that the 3000 year old discipline offers. This guy is making his own karmic hell, which is sad, but not to be confused with pity.

  • nadine

    Bikram, his wife, and Bikram college are unhealthy. The sequence of yoga postures are healthy. Healthy Students and teachers who like this practice need to stand up and ask for Bikram to resign. The college and Bikram have abused and took advantage of the Yoga practice, students, teachers, and studio owners. I spent three days around Bikram last year, and I found him degrading, belittling, all about himself, not compassion, pregidist, and more.(I could not imagine what it would be like to be around him for 8-9weeks) Also Rajershee should also resign from International Yoga Sports Federation, because she did not stand up for the competitors. She is promoting Young Girls to come to the championships, and to take Bikram’s teacher training where than Bikram can take advantage of the as young ladies. …. I will continue to practice at our local studio and look forward to the day that the name “Bikram” is taken off the studio.

  • I think it is an embarrassment to the yoga community at large that these leaders (Bikram and Friend) would conduct themselves in such an inappropriate way at all. And to their trusting students none the less! How can these individuals degrade the sacred practice of yoga with sexually inappropriate actions such as these? Don’t the Yoga Sutras and the Bhagavad Gita both ultimately encourage the purification of our intentions as one of our priorities in yoga practice? Are these people supposed to be our leaders?

    I wish Baughn all the luck and love in the world. What a brave person she is to stand up to this BS!

  • papi chulo

    do u have any idea of hindu religion and bhagavat gita? do u know hindu god krishna has 16000 wives? do u know hindus worship penis of their lord shiva known as shiva lingam and pour milk and honey over it, all these things are quite normal in hindu religion and yoga. i wonder what all the western and white skinned brainless folks think about hinduism and yoga as some great tradition yo purify our intentions.learn more about hinduism and yoga before making such stupid comments

  • nadine

    thank you for the additional information on Hindu religion and yoga. It is amazing what happened in Hinduism history, Christian history, and other religious history. But are we not supposed to learn from our history and grow? Can we not separate the Hindu religion from the Yoga practice(if we want)? Can we not glean from the health benefits from the poses? As “a western who is a whited skinned brainless folk”, I respect other cultures, and understand their foundation, but if you want to live in North America you need to respect us as we respect you. I am not interested in blaming Bikram’s actions on his religions or cultural back ground. And I am sure you would not expect my bad behavior if I blamed it on my God or country or culture.

  • Chris

    Nadine,

    Please don’t get your learning about Hinduism from “Papi Chulo”, for he does NOT appear to be a scholar on Hinduism !!!

    Do your own research on Hinduism.

  • nadine

    thanks Chris.

  • Honomann

    Well, let’s see.

    Yamas:

    Ahimsa = non violence. (Bikram violated this with suing ruthlessly)
    Satya = truthfulness. (Bikram not honest with his intention towards students.)
    Asteya = nonstealing. ($10k + for teaching a script, or “dialouge”).
    Bramhmacharya = chastity. (This lawsuit is all about the violation of this principle).
    Aparigraha = non greediness. (How many Rolls Royce’ does this joker own?)

    Don’t pull the “I’m Hindu and you’re not card” unless you’re willing to back up your facts. Krishna had 16000 wives. Bikram is not Krishna. He is barely human.

  • papi chulo

    first of all im not a hindu.if krishna can then y cant bikram.hindu religion and yoga cannot be seperated.if yoga is just an exercise why cant be it named as aerobics or gymnastics.yoga is a failed system in the eastern world and no one follows it in india. some wily people have repackaged this failed system and sold it to the western world which is lapping it up.

  • Chris

    Papi Chulo ( you sound like you’re a Pakistani or an Indian non-Hindu, for sure), if you’re so down on Hinduism, what are you even doing on a Yoga website ?

    Get back to your job of camel-loving, and leave the Yoga to the seekers. Your male camel is missing you already !

  • papi chulo

    chris im sure u are one of those preverted yoga guru/god man out there to cheat these non suspecting americans. i know u pervert has an insatiable hunger for white girls that is why a whole lot of them have been caught in molest and rape. have u all become tired of molesting and raping indian women that u have shifted base to america or is it the lure of quick money fooling the gullible whites? im sure your ass is burning when the hard truths are shown at your face

  • David

    This is pretty rude and unnecessary and reflective of the very attitudes and comments for which BC is being criticized. Your comments would be far more well taken without the racist insults. This smacks of brahmanic arrogance.

  • thirdeye

    The posing yoga photos are so full of ego and pride. Totally turning me off to the teachers. Really, stop it.

  • Thank you so much for this. I wish Sara all the best and hope she wins big. Very similar things happened to me as a trainee, but I was not a star like sara and Im old and dying at this point…so sad everyone in the “community” has just sat back watched, thrown fule on my fire, watched me crash and burn…..yoga schmoga. Thanks Yoga Dork It makes me feel happy that someoen is going after his but.

  • After reading the 46 page account, and all the many people she shared her stories with, they all made excuses for his behavior. I am glad to see that not only are her allegations toward Bikram, but all those conducting business at the Yoga college of India, on accounts of failure to prevent abuse and harrassment. The allegations are not only sexual, but interfere with her career, bullying and humiliation. I am so grateful for the men in my life in this field who have never been anything but completely supportive, professional and honoring of our professional relationship. The vulnerability that one experiences in the yoga practice needs to be honored and protected not exploited and misused. I only wonder how often this goes on everywhere, young women with dedication and skillful action being taken advantage of by men in “higher” positions. I am so grateful this woman has the courage to tell her story, may it serve her well.

  • Sarah

    Where can I read the full story Nicole?

  • sweet

    Sara Baughn went to Bikram’s teachers training back in 2005, so that’s 8 years ago. She claims that Bikram sexually assaulted and harassed her and she didn’t reported Bikram to the police back in 2005.
    Yet, Sarah Baughn continue to go back to Bikram after he sexually harass and assaulted her.
    In 2008 she didn’t win the asana competition. As far a I know Bikram told Sara Baughn she wasn’t ready to conduct master Bikram yoga classes and seminars. Sara is all pissed off and decided to sue Bikram for sex-based discrimination and sexual harassment.

  • nadine

    Sweet,

    If Bikram , his wife, and the college are not guilty of the statements that are in the Lawsuit, why have they not responded to reports request for a comment?

  • Sam

    I’m sad to see so anyone blaming Sara Baughn for not leaving Bikram and dismissing her claims as those of a woman who is simply ‘pissed off’ or ‘gullible’. Why should she leave rather than stay and try to fight this injustice? Why should she be punished professionally and economically in order to allow Bikram’s bad behavior to continue? Should Sara and every other woman who has been abused and/or discriminated against by Bikram or another Guru- just quietly pack their things and leave…abandon their investment of time and hard work and start over somewhere else so as not to disturb anyone? That’s absolute crap and I’m disturbed to see so many people with that attitude in 2013. No sensible person-man or woman would or should sacrifice what they’ve worked so long and hard for simply because the majority are ready and willing to turn a blind eye for the sake of not rocking the boat. It’s appalling to dismiss and or blame Sara for what happened -and I don’t think it matters how long it took her to gather the courage to face her tormentors-she’s doing it now and I applaud her bravery.

  • Sally

    When the hell is this male power/gurus gone wild/sex thing going to finally stop?

    Do these male instructors and their stupid enablers, men AND women alike, realize how much they are discrediting the community and making the yoga scene into one giant cliche at this point?

    Simple solution: These “gurus” like Bikram and Friend only understand money and the lack of it. That’s what inflates their flaccid penises along with girls who either may or may not be gullible as whatever the case may be.
    Stop giving your money to them, join more ethical studios and give your money, attention and practice to those instructors and studios who have a history of ethical practices in business and otherwise.

  • Morning Star

    Don’t turn this into a male bashing thread. There are still ethical male teachers out there.

  • Stewart J. Lawrence

    And tons of unethical female ones out there, too. More, in fact, because 90% of the teachers are females filled with untreated neuroses and just flat out emotionally immature. Ultimately, it’s not about gender….it’s about the PATHOLOGY OF POWER…..Men have no monopoly on vice or virtue. This seems really obvious — unless you’re a woman, apparently….

  • Ash

    How do we find instructors and studios with the history of ethical practices?

  • David

    The “yoga scene” is one giant cliche. That is what happens when you inject $8billion/year into a practice that is essentially personal and ultimately spiritual. The physical practice is supposed to lead to the spiritual awakening.

    As far as how to find “ethical practitioners”. Follow your heart, listen to what is being done and said, measure how it fits with your life experience and needs. You are literally placing you health and your life in the hands of these persons. Take responsibility for yourself and what feels right to you. If the studio and the teachers appear to be “striving” for yoga consciousness… quietly leave.

Leave a Comment