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
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
The full 46-page document can be viewed here.
The plaintiff and the defendent could not be reached for comment.