This just in…Two women filed separate lawsuits earlier this week claiming they were raped by Bikram Choudhury and that Bikram’s inside circle actively recruits women for him.
We know, there are so many Bikram-related lawsuits it’s hard to keep track. This is where it gets real.
“Jane Doe No. 2 sued Choudhury and Bikram Yoga College of India in Superior Court on Monday, alleging sexual battery, false imprisonment, discrimination, harassment and seven other counts. Jane Doe No. 1 filed a similar complaint Tuesday against the same defendants in the same court,” Courthouse News Service reported earlier today.
Note, this is in addition to the lawsuit from March that rocked the house that Bikram built filed by former student and Bikram Yoga teacher Sarah Baughn alleging sexual harassment and sex-based discrimination, all of which Bikram denied. We thought there might be more. This time, it’s rape. And it is incredibly ugly, contemptible and beyond disturbing.
This is the information we have so far. Via courthousenews.com, a nationwide news service specializing in civil litigation:
In her complaint, Jane Doe No. 2 claims that Choudhury raped her in November 2010 after her boyfriend gave her a gift to be trained as a teacher at Choudhury’s Bikram Yoga studio in San Diego.
Doe No. 2 says in the complaint that defendant Does 1-25, “other persons in defendant Bikram Choudhury’s inner circle, were aware of defendant Bikram Choudhury’s pattern and practice of causing, inducing or persuading young women to enroll in teacher training classes to become yoga instructors only so he can sexually assault and/or rape them.” She claims the Doe defendants knew this was in the cards, but “did nothing to prevent this from happening to plaintiff or to protect her.”
Her 36-page complaint claims there is a disturbing cult-like environment in the studios, where studio owners and instructors enroll attractive, vulnerable young women for Choudhury to sexually assault or rape.
There is more detail in the complaint of brainwashing, abuse of power and the description of Bikram as a ‘combustible tyrant who orders students during classes to remain mute, and treat him “with unquestioning obedience.”‘
“Students are also often required to attend evening lectures, where defendant Choudhury rants on subjects including his negative views on certain races; negative views on homosexuality; the moral lassitude of Americans; his guru; his views on sex, marriage, and relationships; and whatever else he should care to talk about,” the complaint states.
Bikram’s rants and outrageous antics are something we’ve grown accustomed to in the yoga community and have even made light of in the past, and for which he is largely unapologetic, but after reading this you may never think the same way about him again.
Flattered at first by the “special attention” she received in class, Jane Doe #2 says that changed when he made sexual advances. She alleges that Bikram Choudhury raped her on November 18, 2010 in his room at the yoga studio.
Doe claims that on the night of the attack, Choundhury told her he wanted to discuss a job offer in his room.
“Defendant Bikram Choudhury said he saw himself in plaintiff (he had said that to her before) and that, ‘I need to spiritually enlighten you. In order to do that, we need to become one.’ Then, without warning or consent, defendant Bikram Choudhury forcefully pulled plaintiff towards him and had one hand around her and the other was unbuttoning her jeans. He hooked his hand at the top of her pants and tried to pull them down with force,” the complaint states.
Though in a “weakened state” from her training, Doe says she pushed Choudhury away, but he threatened her, grabbed her by the wrist and forced her into his bedroom.
“Defendant Bikram Choudhury pulled her pants down and forced her onto the bed. Plaintiff Jane Doe No.2 could not stop crying and kept begging him over and over to stop. He forced his unprotected penis in her vagina. Within moments it was over. The only thing defendant Bikram Choudhury said was, ‘How many times did you come?’ Plaintiff Jane Doe No.2 was in pain, in shock and could not speak. Defendant Bikram Choudhury then ordered plaintiff to watch him until he fell asleep,” according to the complaint.
Doe adds: “The next day during lecture, defendant Bikram Choudhury made offensive sexual comments to the whole class. It was demoralizing and humiliating. He told the plaintiff and rest of the class that when he first moved to the U.S. women raped him all the time and taught him how to have sex. Defendant Bikram Choudhury said he would have sex marathons. Then he started talking about women’s bodies and how he liked ‘pussy’ without hair on it. Defendant Bikram Choudhury said, ‘I can’t stand fat unattractive women.’ As he spoke, his voice was becoming more and more intense and his language more vulgar.'”
As in the case with Sarah Baughn, Doe says no one wanted to help her.
Doe claims that when she told Choudhury she planned to leave the studio, he told her, among other things, “‘If you fuck with me, I’ll fuck with you.’ …
“Plaintiff Jane Doe No. 2’s life unraveled after she returned home. Her long term relationship fell apart, she went into a severe depression, attempted suicide, started drinking, doing drugs, engaged in uncharacteristically impulsive behavior, quit her job and cut off communication from almost everyone in her life,” the complaint states.
She says she “lived in constant fear” that Choudhury would come to her home and attack her.
She was a “volunteer” in the program and these individuals (some of them brought into the country illegally) are required to serve Bikram. If you read any of Benjamin Lorr’s Hell-Bent which helped get the ball rolling on bringing these stories to light (as well as aid in the YTTP copyright lawsuit), or have a friend on the inside you may already be familiar with these tales of servantry and have maybe even witnessed it yourself. Though, this may be the first time you’ve heard about forced sexual assaults and rape.
“Once in the United States, these ‘volunteers’ are required to serve defendant Bikram Choudhury for zero or little pay. Their duties include grooming him, massaging him, making his tea, bring him food and being forced to submit to sexual assaults and rapes against their will,” according to the complaint.
Doe #2 is seeking “punitive damages, lost wages, and costs.” We don’t know further details about Jane Doe #1’s complaint at this point, but we are told it is “substantially the same” and that she claims Choudhury raped her twice.
We’ve reached out to Shea Law Offices defending these two individuals and Sarah Baughn. We will update as we learn more.
Update 1: We have confirmation from Sarah Baughn’s lawyer that Bikram has been served for her lawsuit. They are in the process of service for these two recent suits.
Update 2: Both of the complaints can be viewed online in their entirety. Thanks to commenter ezekieldas for alerting us.
- Bikram Choudhury Sued for Sexual Harassment, Sex-Based Discrimination
- Bikram on ABC Nightline: Like Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous with Yoga, Lawsuits, ‘Bitches’ and ‘Whores’
- Big News: Federal Court Rules Bikram Can Not Copyright Asana Sequence
- Kausthub Desikachar Returns to Teaching, Prefers We Forget Sexual Abuse Allegations
Hey Bikram,,,”How many times did you come?” Good Bye and Good Luck you Feckless Chump
Has he been arrested? So sad. I feel for those women.
Of course, not. They never reported the alleged incidents to the police. So, this is a civil matter only. Very hard to prove, unless the co-defendants, the alleged procurers– actually, procuresses, I suspect, all Bikram yoginis presumably —
I would withhold judgment until you know more. Of course, many people would like to think the worst of Bikram. He inspires a lot of jealousy. However, it’s just very hard t prove and the mere accumulation of testimonies of this kind are simply not legally dispositive, without corroboration.
What are the women seeking, in terms of damages? Who is paying the lawyers?
Are there any supporting statements in the suits? Anyone who can say, “She told me about it right after it happened,” etc. All basic questions.
It’s also hard to prove even if they did go to the police.
We forget that a lot of victims of this sort of abuse are vulnerable to begin with (naive, usually), that they are groomed over time, that their communities are often groomed as well (in the case of parents of children who are abused by non-family members), and often the individual feels that she has a lot to lose by going to the police, certainly much more than she already has lost by dint of the assault itself.
In communities of women where we have discussed these things (I haven’t been privy to men speaking about it), most of them quietly leave the community, keeping key friendships within the community as part of their support network.
In terms of going to the police, even in “good outcomes” such as Stuebinville, victim and whistle-blowing blaming as well as basically ex-communication of those individuals is extreme. Women know that speaking up will lead to these sorts of outcomes, and ultimately, they have to weigh whether or not it’s worth going through that *on top of* going through the rape/assault itself.
Most are so focused on basic self preservation, that the idea of taking on the abuser is too great. And by the time they do feel that they are strong enough to do so, the evidence of the situation is long gone.
Beyond this, even if a person *does* go to the police right away, the police often discourage the woman from going through the court process simply because there is either very little evidence (ie, no rape kit, no witnesses, no other victims that you are able to bring with you for corroboration, etc), and sometimes they blame her for what happened anyway.
I mean, look at the photos of a bikram yoga class — where most women are in bikini clothing — and how exactly would peopel behave? The same as they did toward the victim in Stuebinville — ah, she must want it and have asked for it. What about why she went into his office alone when she felt “weak from training?” Etc.
I’m not saying that these claims are 100% true or whatever. But, it certainly walks and quacks like an assault situation.
edit — instead of “certainly walks and quacks” it should read “it seems to walk and quack. . ..”
Thanks for the victim-blaming. I love how you refer to women as ‘naive’ but don’t mention that the attacker was violent and unrepentant. Why does it matter that the women are wearing bikinis? #1- that’s the uniform for Bikram #2- if you wear a nice watch is that an invitation to be robbed? START THINKING ABOUT HOW RAPISTS SHOULDN’T RAPE, NOT ABOUT HOW WOMEN SHOULD OR SHOULD NOT ACT.
You should just stop talking. Seriously.
Victim blaming is really ugly. Think before you type.
He is not at all blaming the victim, he was commenting objectively on the legal situation. Even if Bihkram has assaulted and even raped other women- we do not know if he did what he is accused of to these particular women.
I would also say Jenifer has not ever been (nor will ever likely be) in the position of being falsely accused of assault or rape and how horrific it is for the men who are so treated. We pretend false rape reports never happen and that all the accusers are always truthful. That is incredibly insulting to those of us who have been put in that position. As much as I despise Bihkram, and in fact suspect he is guilty, the man is entitled to Innocence until he is found guilty! Do you really think you should be telling other people to think before they type. Think some more.
I used to like this website.
Are these comments not at all moderated? First the article with J. Brown dissing pretty much all forms of meditation, then allowed this Stewart Lawrence troll to proliferate.
Stop being such a yoga fascist — in the model of Bikram himself, I might add – and let free speech reign, Witch Doctor. Got it?
And I am using my real name. What’s yours? If you can’t use it, you shouldn’t be posting at all. That’s kind of the very definition of a troll?
Grow a brain, dude.
There are real issues to be explored in any case of this kind, and nothing can be taken at face value, even lawyer-coached plaintiff statements. I am simply raising a few of them; there are many others.
You are assuming, of course, that Bikram is guilty because you have already judged the man — and that’s fine. America – and yoga – have a long history of God-that-failed lynch mobs.
I just want no part of yours. No one’s blaming victims. We don’t know who these people actually are. They are alleged victims, I get that.
By the way , are you also rushing to the defense of the guy who is suing Hilaria Baldwin for getting injured in class?
I mean, in the true spirit of the yoga lynch mob? or just to be logically illogically consistent I guess.
And which institution could possibly have awarded you an MD degree? Phoenix University?
SJL – the fact that there are two sides to every story doesn’t give you the right to opine on something you can’t understand.
An alleged injury in class is nothing like an alleged rape, even just speaking logically.
I see from a bio online that you’re over 50. Yup, sadly for men like you, rape is taken seriously these days. Maybe you could mourn the end of your golden age privately and spare us all the contempt?
Yr best – What an incredibly sexist and age-ist comment – you win the two-fer. This is really the kind of stupid, reactionary commentary that makes free speech in the yoga community so difficult and the environment so insufferable environment for so many people, male and female both.
No right to speak, I love that! Please take take your yoga fascism somewhere else? Back home to your community where you learned it? Seriously…..this is why people get abused ion yoga, because people like you, your protestations to the contrary, help foster such an undemocratic spiritual culture that engenders such abuse.
Which demographics do you allow to speak? Women under 25 who act like teenagers?
did your mama used to spank you too much??
I agree with you, Stewart. I personally am not using my name because I do not want to be on the receiving end of verbal attacks like these again. However, I have to say, you are only feding the trolls by responding. Obviously the hypocrisy of these people, both men and women, who attack in the name of defending the helpless, is overwhelming. All the more reason to not respond, unless you have to in a court of law, which unfortunately happens to some of the innocent.
I’m going to give you a little insight before you just think this is a case of rampant jealousy. As someone that has been to his training, I will tell you first hand that everything that was written has happened. And happens on daily occurrence during these trainings. There is daily mental and sexual abuse. There is not one thing you can do while you are there, because once you are in it, you can’t get out without walking away from your financial investment. Most likely this women spent upwards of $10,000 to attend this training. There is no one to talk to there, because his staff work for him, and turn a blind eye to all of it.
I’ve personally witnessed girls be coerced into brushing his hair, massaging him during lectures, and being invited back to his room after classes or lectures. If you refuse, he will make your life a living hell. He can deny your teaching certificate, kick you out, or will verbal harass you for the rest of your ten weeks there.
The comment about it being a cult like environment is 100% true. You are sickeningly stuck, and the worst part is you have paid to be there.
The women bringing suits are brave. So are you for speaking out in these comments.
The denial/disbelief articulated in some of the comments here (and elsewhere) is absolutely a component of the backlash that follows any survivor who speaks out about trauma. That is precisely why people do not speak out.
The court can decide what is legally actionable. For millions of women who have been there in similar situations, we know all too well that the description of these incidences rings true.
Again, I commend the bravery. For every person retreating into their intellect to find “logic” to discredit and dispute these stories, I hope you and these other women know there are so many of us who believe you.
“The denial/disbelief articulated in some of the comments here (and elsewhere) is absolutely a component of the backlash that follows any survivor who speaks out about trauma. That is precisely why people do not speak out.”
Speaking out in these comments is anything but brave. It’s the easiest thin g in the world to do – to play into the crowd mentality. Far harder to challenge the conventional wisdom and to wait for the case and the trial to play out, and to question why women volunteer — yes volunteer — to join these cult environments knowing full well what they are. What combination of low self-esteem and ego-driven ambition leads them to get caught up in it. Many many women are with Bikram of their own volition. They love it. It must be painful to admit that, but it’s true.
Also, there is a big difference between ding Bikram becoming a Bikram devotee, and wanting to be a teacher. It’s like two different cultures.
Somebody mentioned “denial” in the comments here — it’s not denial, it’s respect for the law, the rights of the accused, as well as the plaintiffs etc etc etc. A lot of you guys need a basic civic lesson. Thank God you’re not in charge of anything that really counts. At least I hope you’re not.
I suspect where there is smoke there is fire here. However, talk t law enforcement anywhere. Talk to judges anywhere. The level of false reporting in this area is now astronomical. Unfortunately quite a few women have ruined it for other women. Sorry. It’s true.
When I was menaced by my landlady in her car last year, the police insisted that I report it — right after it happened, not two days later, let alone three years. And guess what? They were right.
Right on Carol,
Now is the time to support these women and encourage the facts to come forward. I attended the same TT as JD no 1 and I can verify the public abuse described in the lawsuit. It happened and we all saw it. And these women are heros to come forward and face the “devotional wing” of the Bikram community.
But there is another side to the Bikram community, the reasonable ones who see Bikram for what he is. A questionable man with a great exercise class. And for the most part, we support these women.
I’m sure Bikram will do relatively well in court. He has a well tuned legal team and they have been to court multiple times in the last decade. They’re good. But this is the 4th one in about a year and I believe there will be more. The court of public opinion will be decided by things Bikram can’t control. Could get ugly.
“When I was menaced by my landlady in her car last year, the police insisted that I report it — right after it happened, not two days later, let alone three years. And guess what? They were right.”
No Stewart. Your landlady was right.
Again, I commend the brave women who have spoken out. Their courage will create change.
I have a strange feeling about the person posting as Stewart J Lawrence. “He” is posting like a troll, which means he is only trying to get a rise out of the other people commenting.
If I am mistaken about that, then I believe I’m reading the comments of someone who has retreated into the intellect (which is not to say “intelligence”) by way of creating safety for himself. It’s actually sad. But that kind of emptiness can certainly be destructive to others by taking on various forms of judgment and nastiness.
If, Mr. Lawrence, you are interested in opening your heart by first educating your mind, I suggest reading the book “Trauma and Recovery” by Judith Herman. It’s easily purchased through Amazon. Perhaps you will find some relief for your own anguish in its scholarship.
As for your comment that I need a civics lesson, I thank you for the suggestion but I assure you I am quite familiar with the the courts, criminal and civil, as well as perpetrators, victims, lawyers and litigants. I wasn’t always a yoga teacher. 🙂
I look forward to reading your subsequent replies to this and other comments since I have no doubt you endeavor to have the last word and you appear to be very invested in making a point. I humbly acknowledge that I will learn something from you — although not likely the lesson you desire to teach.
I did his training and can attest: He says everything you have heard quoted and more. If you research the methods known to be employed by cults, they are all present in the BY Training Culture.
“If you read any of Benjamin Lorr’s Hell-Bent which helped get the ball rolling on bringing these stories to light (as well as aid in the YTTP copyright lawsuit), or have a friend on the inside you may already be familiar with these tales of servantry and have maybe even witnessed it yourself. Though, this may be the first time you’ve heard about forced sexual assaults and rape.”
If you actually read Benjamin Lorr’s book, as I have, and reviewed it for publication, you will know that the book did no such thing.
Totally ridiculous. If anything, what Baughn says in the book will be used against her. Did you even read the book?
Dear Stewart – I wrote Benjamin Lorr’s Hell-Bent and I can promise you that nothing Sarah said during her interviews with me contradicted her lawsuit in the slightest. Instead, although very open about what happened, she was extremely worried about being blacklisted from the community where she also made a career. Accordingly, I agreed not to include things she told me but was unwilling to say publicly for fear of reprisals.
Furthermore, the Bikram Choudhury depicted in the book is a sexually manipulative predator suffering from narcissist personality disorder. A man who has built an empire around the need for control and domination. I would have loved to go into more detail in the book, but none of the women I interviewed would go on record for fear it would hurt their career as yoga instructors.
The fear that led to this silence in the Bikram community is slowly lifting now — and while I think it is important to keep an open mind as it lifts– I know that personally, I have nothing but pride for any contribution Hell-Bent might have made in that direction.
I really disagree, Mister Lorr. I read your book, and wrote about it, as you may know. You may have “protected” her far too well. Her characterization of her relationship to Bikram is quite different, even reading between the lines. She really should have said more, if she planned to sue anyway. best, Stewart
And I also stand by everything I wrote in that review, by the way. For the most part, I was merely representing what you wrote, about the nature of this kind of environment, which I am also familiar with, and have researched in other settings. It takes a lot of willing accomplices and dupes to create an NPD-based empire. It’s not one man simply imposing his will with enforcers. It doesn’t work that way, and unfortunately that makes many cults seem more “consensual” than they really are. However, people who join them, in the final analysis, are responsible for their choice to be there — and to stay there. They’re not responsible for everything that happens there, and in this case, that may become crystal clear. I rather doubt it, myself, unless there is sufficient “corroboration.” I guess we’re going to find out.
“Career as yoga instructors” Pretty much sums up the whole problem.
Seeing as it is a long standing, traditional career in india, I don’t see it as an inherent problem.
Krishnamacharya made a career as a yoga teacher. So did his student Iyengar, whose whole family makes a career out of it.
It’s not a new idea to yoga. This is simply part of the work. Granted, there is also the swami/guru tradition, but that’s technically a “career” (or do you prefer “vocation?”), too.
“Krishnamacharya made a career as a yoga teacher. So did his student Iyengar, whose whole family makes a career out of it.”
You can hardly equate their lives and training with the training that young men and women in this country get in “teacher trainings” and then venture out to cash in on an $8 billion industry because “its cool”.
I don’t know that it is “a longstanding traditional career in India”. I think it is actually rather rare and limited to Brahmins and people with familial connections. I would love to see some data on that.
I have never seen “professional yoga teacher” at a job fair.
Guru BKS Iyengar runs his Yoga Institute in Pune, India on a quasi-not-for-profit basis. Thus, the tuition-fees at the BEST Yoga-Institute in the Universe, are also the LOWEST in the Universe.
Baba Ramdev gives away Yoga-instruction for FREE, through his daily shows on Indian TV.
Guruji BKS Iyengar, Baba Ramdev, and other noble Yoga-teachers are following the 5000-year-Hindu tradition (Parampara) of Guru-Shishya.
Under this tradition, the student (Shishya) would be sent off to live on the Guru’s Ashram, where the Shishya would be imparted a comprehensive, well-rounded education over a period of several years.
The Shishya was not required to pay the Guru any tuition-fees, but was expected to perform service (Seva) at the Guru’s Ashram. It was this selfless-Seva from the Shishyas that kept the Ashram self-sustaining, in terms of all resources such as food, clothing and shelter. ( An example of Shishyas performing Seva at the Guru’s Ashram may be seen in the Kung-fu movie “The 36th Chamber of Shaolin” ).
At Graduation, the Shishya was expected to give his Guruji a token meaningful Gift (Guru-Dakshina), in the form of a pledge, or a special service, which, while having little commercial value, would have a great deal of spiritual-value for both the Guru and his Shishya.
Meanwhile, out here in the West, we have Yoga, Inc., with its $20/hour tuition-fees, designer Yoga-pants, Yoga-lawsuits, Yoga-Patents, etc. Yikes !
Can you hear Rishi Patanjali groaning ?
Thanks for the enlightment Chris. Spiritual practice is a vocation and is often connected with some kind of service. Attaining physical and spiritual well being should not involve the surrender of large amounts of cash and the aggrandizement of the guru. That is cult behavior and we have seen its result time after time. I found Bikram’ s practice to be highly beneficial to my health as a mid-thirties man who never paid much attention to his health, especially not breathing and flexibility. The practice caused me to want to look deeper, it was a door to a new world. I learned fairly early that turning off Bikram’s constant flow of sometimes outrageous bullshit was a key to going inside one’s practice. I actually assumed that this was his purpose , as how could an intelligent rational being actually listen to this blather. I never ever heard Bikram profess to be a spiritual teacher. He was always about money, power and glamor. If anything he was quite cynical in his statements about how faddish and foolish our culture was and how easy it was to get us to give to him or other gurus to try to satisfy our soulless and purposeless selves. He would rail constantly about how stupid and shallow we are while at the same time reaching more deeply into the very superficiality and materialism for which he criticized us. It is an interesting split in his personality. He could also be quite charming and compassionate. Perhaps 33 years of getting exactly what he wants in this materialistic culture has removed him from his own real message of health and a better life. Money and power are not just seductive, they are narcotic…seeking sexual favors and power over others is not about sex, it is is about power. It is an ancient story that we see in the sacred literature of the East and the West. The Gita and the Bible are both violent tales.
Actually, there is a tradition in India of yoga as sport-similar to wrestling or gymnastics in the west. Bikram, iirc, is part of that tradition-competitions that show prowess and skill. He is not part of any kind of spiritually uplifting organization. And yoga as we know it is actually simply asana-the poses that are meant to prepare the body to be able to sit in meditation for long periods of time. Obviously, all of this has morphed and evolved/devolved over time and across cultures and there are different lineages/traditions/approaches. Just not really a ‘long history’ of yoga being a viable ‘career’ in India.
Bikram was featured well over a decade ago with his many rolls royces and his business model-I cannot remember in which magazine I read the article-but it was clear that his was a business and not an altruistic attempt to help humanity. I think confusing these two is where people in the yoga community go wrong. And westerners looking to eastern spirituality in particular often assume that spirituality and morals go hand in hand.
Cognitive dissonance arises in such students, when human nature presents itself in people who may be able to ‘teach’ certain skills or tools [even spiritual ones ie meditation], but are not meant to be worshiped. It has long been known that Bikram did not really train teachers to do the poses, but to instruct others in them. I’m not sure how accountability has changed with the proliferation of new studios and hot yoga, internet, etc., but this was already his reputation from 2 decades ago, in my experience.
To those who say it’s someone choice to enter a cult, you need to read more on the subject. Who knows where the will to leave a cult comes from, but preying on vulnerable people and drawing them into a web of manipulation, deceit and mind control in subtle forms means that it is not so easy to get out, and all too easy to get in.
While ‘ego’ may have drawn the person there to begin with, this does not mean it is what keeps a person in such a situation [And hey, far be it for someone. who may be without hope, support or who may have been previously abused and traumatized, to succumb to affection and caring from a ‘community’, right? geesh. Do you seriously read what you write sometimes? Ego means many things-from a child who needs emotional and psychological care to adults who need support and friendship to the over the top spiritual criticism given to ‘ego’].
I also recommend the book Waking the Tiger, by Peter Levine, phd. for a greater understanding of healing trauma, the nervous system, immobolization, etc.
I hope the law will put an end to his reign of terror since the people all around him have been accessories to his illegal and immoral activities instead of stepping in and stopping it.
And I’m disgusted that a 67 year old man would push himself on 20-something, vulnerable women in the name of Yoga and act so self-righteous about it. I would love to sit down with one of his devotees and find out what they find so spectacular about this man because I can’t find a single thing about him deserving of praise or honor.
Ask the 1 million devoted Bikram practitioners — most of whom don’t even know a founder with that name even exists — but who apparently love the practice. They are the real “devotees.”
Attending yoga classes does not make one a devotee. That’s an extremely loose interpretation of word. And how could they not know who Bikram is? If they’re that unaware and blind to the empire they engage in and actively contribute to then theyre just ignorant.
Its just Yoga. I’ve been doing it for ten years and hey, if you don’t want to consider me a devotee that is your business.
This practice outgrew the man a while ago.
Of course, as did Anusara, at least in the minds of the Anusarans, which is why they are still raging on, as always, Johnnie or no Johnnie. In fact, they still proudly extol his virtues, his genius, and his legacy, as any Bikram organization that might no longer have Bikram at the helm will do as well.
“And how could they not know who Bikram is? If they’re that unaware and blind to the empire they engage in and actively contribute to then theyre just ignorant.”
To be fair, many people who take yoga classes don’t know much – if anything – about the background to the traditions they’re engaging with. They may be novices. They may just consider it a physical practice like weight training or running, in which they participate without caring who started it.
Yes, that’s ignorance.
It’s the same ignorance that lets me use a ballpoint pen every day without knowing anything about whoever invented it or the company that made it. I ought to be aware of the ethics of each company that makes the things I use in my daily life, and I do make an effort in that direction. Still, until I typed that sentence, I really never gave the origin of ballpoint pens any thought, never mind the background of the company manufacturing the one on the table next to me.
But people who get into yoga on a deeper level will take to looking things up about the traditions they engage in. And then they need to consider how the money they spend on that practice is used, who it goes to, and what their ethics are.
I can say the same about a lot of arrogant yoga teachers and the unwarranted attraction they hold to worshipful followers.
The rest of what I’m about to write has nothing to do with sexual assault, so know that I’m not advocating a “blame the victim” attitude like the Bikram fly that keeps landing.
Why do so many yoga student gravitate to the person that has charisma? Why do they regard a teacher highly just because that teacher can fill a hotel banquet hall? Are that many yoga students driven by unexamined motives and attractions?
Aside from the mega “celebrities” like BK, yoga students regularly crowd the mini celebrity weekend workshops. Why do we think this will be better teaching? Is it because we are paying more or is it because everybody says this is an “amazing” teacher? I’ve attended some of these (I admit) and I did not notice that the teacher projects any quiet Buddha-like qualities. I notice a lot of bossy behavior and sometimes some small ridiculing or humiliation of students. A lot of students all perked up on their blanket, folded just the way the celebrity folded it, and looking to impress the teacher. Students sitting a little straighter than normal and affecting fawning expressions. Haven’t you noticed that? Is it just the studio I attend? At your studio, is there a clique of queen bees and a swarm of eager wannabes hovering nearby? Is there ever a slight condescension by teachers toward someone not in the in group?
I wonder if it is exactly this need to impress someone that is the driving motivator. Do the celebrities know this and that’s why they are celebrities?
I don’t think I’m expressing myself well, but, at least at my studio, there is an approval sought and awarded that is sort of like a currency. Once you have it, you have it, but you can’t get it unless you have it. Some newcomers are granted it instantly and some will never get it, but they are graciously condescended to.
I think this clique mentality incubates itself in studios and heats up to fever pitch the closer you get to “celebrities”. Of course the rape and assault victims in this case felt alone and had no one to talk to. Everyone else at the training is caught up in their internal fantasy of being noticed by the teacher. Nobody questioned.
Please examine to see if this goes on in small ways in your yoga studio– the non-questioning, the approval seeking.
You do express yourself well, and your point is well taken. It’s at the heart of the paradox: yoga is meant to guide us toward being self-directed, and yet the popularization of yoga, with its emphasis on the outer appearance of “yoga” makes us all the more other-directed, seeking for approval especially from the ‘starts’ who are irresistible because they are adept at withholding approval, and at manipulating our weaknesses.
” I notice a lot of bossy behavior and sometimes some small ridiculing or humiliation of students. ”
Have you ever actually been to the Iyengar Institute? Get real, dude.
Did you actually read his comment?
He obviously was talking about the yoga studio(s) in his community.
Are you being sarcastic as I’d like to say honestly I’ve felt emotionally abused at Iyengar Institute classes in my major city and each time I’ve tried that form. Wish you would clarify-as I think you’re saying yeah- then try this place as it’s harsh. I’ve also spoken with others in yoga community on this harshness, and deep judgement that veers into abuse, one woman dropped out of intensive training in Iyengar when she finally couldn’t take it anymore. And even mentioning it one then gets told basically your “ego” is in the way or that you are “immature.”
It’s the 1 million practioners who should be sued for having no self esteem and practicing “I feel fat” Bikram. I love this, low self esteem practice, it brings me all of these broken bodies that then seek yoga to heal.
Karma is neither good nor bad, it’s just karma. Bikram has accumulated a ton of it.
ive met bikram and done work with his company. to me, he is pure fraud. doing yoga cant be all bad, but his organization is poorly managed and the yoga workouts suffer considerably for it, not to mention the fact that he totally oversells the benefits of the high temperature workout. he even goes so far as to claim it has anti-cancer benefits, along with pretty much every other pipe dream the desperate masses may want to hear
Sounds like standard yoga “miracle cure” junk science marketing to me. Just read Kathryn Budig’s latest book – and Tara Siles; 50 Yoga Cures. Medical quackery masquerading as science, and blessed by the entire yoga world. Day in , day out, to sell the snake oil. You’re right, Bikram’s an amateur compared to half the BS written in Yoga Journal and a few blogs I won’t name.
The benefits of a true Yoga practice is more than a miracle but it’s up to the individual to walk that path. For most, unfortunately, it is just a physical workout…and to his credit his system is hands down the best in this respect.
I so agree with you Jason! The physical side is a “side effect”. I do believe that the Bikram series is awesome however there is a lot that it lacks. But I would venture to say that if it the only yoga one does it is better than none:)
Mr. Lawrence, I hope you are referring to Bikram’s claims and not the claims that yoga is healing and has confirmed medical benefits….do you practice?
Snake oil has genuine medical benefits as a great source of Omega-3 fatty acids used in the treatment of joint pain. Also, there are objective quantifiable benefits to a yoga/meditation practice.
Tara Stiles book isn’t very good. I’ll grant you that. But this nonsense of perpetuating the outright lie that “snake oil” is a worthless product is going too far. You owe the snakes an apology.
Are you done?
Why are you reading this material Stewart? If you so strongly disagree with the healing benefits of yoga, save yourself more built up anger and steer clear… Work on that massive ego instead!
He totally believes what he’s saying though.
It’s always been well know among the instructors and students what a complete ahole he is. I figured it was just a matter of time before something like this came out. Fortunately, the practice has outgrown the man.
Meow indeed…how catty, arrogant and lacking in compassion. It is sad that this may have happened and it is even sadder that you so called yogins are piling on with your pettiness and jealousy…Bikram was my first guru back in 1980. I have not seen him since his 50th birthday 17 years ago…he may be a flawed being and even a fallen being but he has done a lot to bring yoga awareness to the Western world so maybe it would be a good idea for all of you to just breathe and tend your own sacred garden.
Brown-skinned immigrants still aren’t very popular in white America. Actually I blame it all on Shirley McClaine, who convinced Bikram to make a pile of dough off his yoga, rather than continue to teach it for practically nothing out of his garage. I would love to see that Holloywood whack job brought up on charges. Maybe we could accuse her of being the “intellectual author” of his crimes? I mean, what do you expect from whore-dog Warren Beatty’s sister? Beatty probably taught Bikram how to seduce women. Okay, enough. Yes, more yoga follies. Gives the women something to complain about while they continue to interior decorate the national yoga whorehouse with clothing and cosmetics and all the other appurtenances of enlightened “spiritual materialism.” Yawn… The real gurus warned us long ago about all this….
I have been reading every reply you’ve posted and couldn’t believe what I was reading up to now… You are a misogynist, clearly. There is no point even having a discussion with men like you because you are so full of hatred towards women that you will dismiss everything these victims say. You are disgusting and I hope that you have no daughters, and if you have, I hope they never get raped, judged , blamed and mocked by pigs like you.
Stewart is a misogynist on duty here and on other yoga blogs. Treat his spewing as some sort of drinking game – how will he he turn THIS post into a rant. Clearly it’s Shirley McLaine who is to blame for Bikram’s rape accusations, isn’t she.
Aaaaand there it is, the part where you say all women are whores – and imply “the real gurus” would agree with you. So vile.
Stewart, are really blaming Shirley McClaine for the rapes of these two women? Seriously? Are you mad?
Bikram Choudhury is the only person responsible for his behavior, his choices, and his actions. He is a grown man in his 60s and must stand and face his accusers alone, in court and in life. This has nothing to do with the color of his skin. John Friend, who was eviscerated in these forums, is the whitest dude I’ve ever seen with his big ole diaper baby pants and they tore him up here when he did far less than this guy is being accused of – he apparently never forced himself on people.
If anything outside Bikram the man can be held up for discussion, it is the willingness of these young people, women, old people and men too, to give up their voices. Yoga doesn’t ask that we abandon ourselves. It asks that we stand in ourselves more fully. If you ever feel that you are alone and lost and broken, if you ever find yourself in fear and anguish, it isn’t yoga. Like going back to child’s pose and finding your breath, step back from your teacher and your community and find yourself.
I went through Bikram’s training. The stories are true. Bikram and only Bikram must carry the responsibility for all of this. His community is a reflection of him as it always is a reflection of the leader. He has failed these people, who love his yoga, as I did. Joyfully, soon the yoga will be completely free of him, and we won’t need him any more.
the yoga has always been ‘free’ of him.. if you want to know how good a teacher is.. look at his students. You aren’t practicing yoga. You don’t date someone that does hot yoga.. or sorry, “I feel fat poses”. Bikram, nor John ‘friend’need not apologize for being overtly obvious. If we’re talking about rape, that’s one thing, but look how Anasara were instructed to do a practice to open their hearts and as soon as the opportunity arose to do so.. they showed what practice they had learnt. Why was JF apologizing for sleeping with women that needed to be loved, the guy looks like kermit, good for him for being the ‘man’. Same with the Bik. Only in North America would exhausting your nervous system and causing countless injuries, as well as patenting yoga be deemed yoga… you people are low on self esteem.. great, now stop whining and learn what being yoga is… not showing us how much you have loved suffering. Bikram.. doesn’t do yoga. He has been sticking his fingers in woman’s ‘chakra’s’ since time began.. i’m just waiting for people to raise a new version of ‘yoga’ only to tear it down.. breathe folks. Learn sometime. It’s as simple as that.
Lovely, Annie Ory….measured, fair…not the whole story no doubt…John Friend , Bikram, Rajneesh aka Osho…we give them the power and the money, we create them out of our need to fill some perceived void in our lives and the marketers take it from there. We are Tukar Garajhi and all that goes with him.
no, I just think ur funny.
(Am I a clown? do I amuse you?)
Funny how? How the fuck am I funny?!
“Pettiness and jealousy” is a very ego driven response to these allegations sir.
It is a form of placing blame on the victim.
Being a yogi does not mean a submission to voluntary ignorance.
If Bikram was any kind of Yogi, he would come clean and not scurry for cover, unless cover is what he needs, and at this point, more and more evidence is pointing to guilt.
Leadership through fear is a toxic and volatile brew. That brew is the fertilizer of Bikrams garden. If it blows Bikrams face off, so be it.
If any of these guys were any kind of yogi, they wouldn’t have done these things in the first place.
Yoga is more than this. He is not a kind man. I feel no love. I have met him and the ego we all need to leave behind radiates from his every pore. Be is something….. What that may be is between him and his god. We need to move ahead and let him go. Always getting rid of what is not good.
Bikram is as guilty as you can be and has raped women for the last 30 years-i personally know several of them and they told me their stories. That is a FACT! so as this ball starts rolling it will pick up speed and will drag his little inner circle down with it. Bikram is a black hole of dark energy and he attracts some real bottom feeder friends. I found him to be the lowest of the low. Absolutely no one who has gotten to really know that man could stand to be around him if they had any kind of a consciousness. I wish Ben was allowed by his lawyers to write the Details I provided about real Bikram I personally observed -it could be a B movie.
Stories you have heard from others are heresay, not facts.
I’m calling it: within 6 months Bikram will be claiming to be a “sex addict”.
Seems like some of you are full of excuses for a man who undoubtedly used his power in an incredibly disrespectful way towards the people that looked up to him. (So this is Shirley McClaine’s fault, you say? Beatty?) As much as I enjoy the Bikram practise, I would trade every single class back in if it meant that he didn’t rape those women. If the abuse cases were an isolated incident, then I would not be so quick to judge, but let’s use our brains here. All signs point to yes, and Bikram is the captain of his own ship. It’s disgusting to hear excuses made crying for his innocence. Perhaps you are unaware of what rape does to a woman? How incredibly traumatizing it is? The self hatred, the shame, the helplessness- that will be carried around in their hearts forever.
I stopped going a couple years ago because the studios I practised in began to have a very sinister vibe to them. I’m not happy to hear this news, but it is sadly, unsurprising.
Thank you Anna for your comment. I too have practiced Bikram yoga but decided to chose a school that is more positive and supportive. I am sad for the women that were directly affected and hope the truth is exposed and proper measures are taken
to prevent it from happening again. We are responsible for ourselves but for those who can’t stand up for themselves and have been victimized, we shouldn’t be silent bystanders.
Even one life destroyed — JaneDoe #2 — is one too many. If convicted, prison. If legally feasible, restitution to every victim.
No yogalese or bypassing to weasel out of this.
Oh, and I forgot. Just as the medical community would disavow any relationship with or support for someone guilty of criminal malpractice, the yoga community (or those involved in the teaching of yoga, and hopefully those who practice yoga and recognize in it something beyond the mere utilitarian value of stretching, etc.) should recognize that rape is the most pervasive expression of brutality short of murder itself, both throughout all societies and throughout human history. And anyone engaged in that brutality and crime under the name of ‘yoga’ should be disassociated from yoga, at least by all who wish to affirm their own humanity.
Bikram should be disavowed any association with ‘yoga’ because of his behavior by all who wish to affirm its value.
Those who teach or practice that ‘style’ should recognize that ‘Bikram Yoga’ bears his name and is inextricably associated with him and the actions he performed.
While you may wish to go on doing the practice of that sequence under the prescribed heated conditions, the Bikram name should be abjured. His very name should be forgotten, or if remembered at all, only as a cautionary tale. If you love that practice, do that practice. But have nothing to do with that name, because that name, and the person behind it, has nothing to do with yoga.
If this hurts your career, take your complaint to Bikram. He ruined it for you. If that’s not enough, take a close look at your own willingness to look the other way, or ignore what was painfully obvious.
Well said. “Shunning” is a tried and true practice.
The most honest approach would be for future teachers to say, “While the originator of this style was [describe problems here], he created a practice that we find useful and have built on. We’re no longer affiliated with him because of [problems], and here is our ethical code.”
With honest examination, the useful and healthy parts of this practice can be dissociated from the unhealthy parts and from Bikram himself. No cover ups, no denials, no equivocating. People will respect that.
Bikram yoga has never interested me, but there are clearly people who get a lot out of it who’ve never had anything to do with the man himself or his immediate circle.
Well said indeed.
Send Bikram into S.P.A.C.E. (the final frontier).
We know the man will be able to keep himself satisfied, no matter the challenges.
And we know that the space mission e-mission bag will have a case against him.
The thing that is scary about the people defending this guy is that they are amongst us…
For me, yoga is my safe place, and it is up to me as a student/teacher to keep it so. I will not become blissfully stupid. Thank you to all who defend this guy for keeping me grounded, and aware that not all are good. That’s ok too. It is what it is…
i decided some time ago to never darken the door of a Bikram studio……i have no desire to put more money in that horrible man’s pocket! my reason was who does he think he is trying to patent yoga…. and his wealth obsession….and that ego…..i was not at all surprised with the charges that have been brought against him…..don’t know why but i just had a feeling he was capable of sexual harassment at the very least…
as much as i or anyone else may personally dislike the man and his organization, its still possible he is innocent
I have a long-standing disdain for the man and have known several people who suffered second degree hamstring strains (tearing of between 10 and 99% of the muscle – serious injuries that hurt them for many months.) I am quick to believe anything bad about him.
It would therefor be totally unethical for me to serve on the jury for his trial.
The man deserves a fair trial. Everybody does.
I don’t think that any yoga teacher is responsible for injuries sustained through the practice… there have been and will be injuries caused by badly trained teachers making improper adjustments but that involves a physical intervention. If you injure yourself in your personal practice or in a led class it is because you were not listening and that is why you came to a yoga class in the first place in’it… to learn to listen and to breathe?
Nick wants to show how much he knows about hamstring tears.
Thanks for commenting 🙂 Since you know what I want, tell me please, which of the women in my life should I pursue a romance with?
There are three people, that absolutely 100% know the truth about this, its a real shame if its true. Its giving yoga a bad name.
Karen says, “To be fair, many people who take yoga classes don’t know much – if anything – about the background to the traditions they’re engaging with. They may be novices. They may just consider it a physical practice like weight training or running, in which they participate without caring who started it.
Yes, that’s ignorance.”
I would disagree. Who started yoga? Do you know? Is it better to subscribe to some legend that is probably not based on historical fact, or go about your practice?Are you knowledgeable because you think Patanjali had anything to do with modern yoga, with nothing but modern legend to support your belief? Does that help your yoga? If so, how? It doesn’t help mine, and I’m not a novice. I think it is more ignorant to accept a modern interpretation of yoga’s origin (fairy tale) than to simply practice.
I’m very surprised at the way people are condemning Bikram, In America we’re supposed to allow everyone the courtesy of being innocent until proven guilty. These women never brought charges in a criminal court but are now trying to bring charges in a civil court, that sounds like someone or some group of people that are trying to bring this man down. I’ve watched over the months as people continue to badmouth Bikram, his ego, his morality, his yoga etc… Why all the hate? Most people commenting here don’t even know him personally yet will heap on criticism and blame for something that is still not yet proven. Give the man a fair trial before throwing stones. I don’t doubt that Bikram could have a huge ego, a lousy way with woman, a “badmouth” but when it comes to something as serious as rape please let’s allow him a fair trial so that we don’t become a country where we can file cases against anyone and before it even goes to trial there reputation, livelihood and life is ruined.
Please skim this week’s filed complaints from JD1 and JD2. I’ve posted the links below. On your next visit to a bookstore, read a few pages from Lorr’s book (pages 196-211 are highly recommended). Have a look at the Details piece below written in early 2011 (“If they say to me, ‘Boss, you must fuck me or I will kill myself,’ then I do it!”). Watch the ABC interview posted elsewhere on this site (search: Bikram), particularly the last few minutes involving Mr. Choudhury’s deposition on the Williams case (which settled just recently for what I understand to be a high undisclosed sum).
After you’ve considered some of these materials, review what you’ve just posted here and I think you’ll find you’ve overlooked a few things. If you’re still not convinced, there is more. Visit lasuperiorcourt.org/onlineservices/civilIndex and do a party search on his name. It’s overwhelming. If that’s not enough visit PACER (federal, copyright issues) and do a search there. If you are still not convinced this man is not sociopathic, predatorial, and frighteningly litigious then I’m not sure anyone or anything could convince you.
Jane Doe 1
Jane Doe 2
Details Magazine February 2011
Now that is doing one’s homework! Thanks
The concept of “innocent until proven guilty” is not a “courtesy” it is a fundamental right in our legal system. It is messy because it requires looking at all of the evidence.
I have little faith in the L.A. Superior Court…it is a rat infested multi-billion dollar sewer where one gets all of the ” justice” he/she can afford.
Unfortunately, Bikram learned years ago, when he prevailed in his suit against Raquel Welch, that litigation can be profitable.
The complaints and allegations are horrifying. The “legal system” will not erase or even ease the pain…it is more likely to prolong it because the system feeds on pain, greed and striving.
I heard that the DSM has removed “narcissistic personality disorder” as a clinical diagnosis because it is now considered normative.
I skimmed the complaints and read the article and most of the comments to it. It is all pretty disturbing and unhappy stuff. Money changes every thing. (Cyndi Lauper)
Just a reminder to everyone (not just the post to which I am replying), these are CIVIL cases, NOT criminal ones. As such, there is no possible outcome in which Bikram can be held or adjudged “guilty.” “Guilty” is a criminal verdict. It requires proving the allegations in the criminal indictment “beyond a reasonable doubt.”
“Guilty” is NOT a civil verdict. If these cases are tried to a jury or a judge, the verdict can never be “guilty.” Instead, the jury (or judge, if no jury trial is requested) will be asked to determine whether the plaintiffs (the people bringing the suit) have proven the allegations in their civil complaint to the standard required by law. (The exact wording and jury instruction varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, so I am not quoting the standard here.)
Now, if you want to talk about trial-by-media, that’s something different.
Personally, I do not know Mr. Bikram or the Ms. Does. I do not know have any basis on which to judge their honesty. Since I have not personally witnessed any of the actions/words that led to these lawsuits, and I have only the words of these individuals (whose honesty I have no basis for evaluating), I have no right to try to determine whether Mr. Bikram is “guilty” of committing the actions the Ms. Does say he committed. The outcome of these civil lawsuits (which is more likely to be a settlement than a trial for a long laundry list of reasons) has no impact on me personally.
As a result, I’m going to go practice some yoga.
It’s true this is not a criminal case, but rather a civil suit, so it will not yield a finding of ‘guilty’ — I overspoke in my own initial post.
As far as trial by media, Bikram’s statements, particularly with regard to his attitude toward women and even his sexual escapades, is a matter of long public record and leaves almost nothing to the imagination. It is really hard to claim that you know nothing of Bikram or his character unless you made a point of not listening or giving any attention to it. Nothing wrong with that, per se.
But your indifferent shrug is rather puzzling, given that you’re a woman. Which also raises the question, why did you even bother to comment, except to point out that it is a civil action?
Are the only things that matter the only things that impact you personally? Yoga is a safe haven for indifference, even in matters of yoga?
It is beyond words. The deeper I go into the yoga world (more than 20 years), the more I see these self proclaimed guru’s and I say this tongue in cheek, that say they are spiritually enlightened, but the only way they can awaken their kundalini is by having sex. The woman is the battery, they are the activator. I have friends this has happened too and can only say that….Yes, Tantric is a yogic path with Kundalini and many other yogic practices beneath it. However, if you are not on that path, stay out of its way. And know you should question everything, especially the person doing the teaching/interpreting. Don’t be a victim just because it says Yoga and you have a certain impression of what this is suppose to mean!
It really is too bad that Americans think “Tantra” means “sexual intercourse.” The vast majority of the tantras I have read and studied are about meditation, practice, and other such humdrum topics 🙂 Too bad those are not sexy enough to get a lot of play in the world of American yoga.
Where oh where did you get this idea?
“A tantra is a divinely revealed body of teachings, explaining what is necessary and what is a hindrance in the practice of the worship of God; and also describing the specialized initiation and purification ceremonies that are the necessary prerequisites of Tantric practice.
A person who, irrespective of caste, creed or religion, aspires for spiritual expansion or does something concrete, is a Tantric. Tantra in itself is neither a religion nor an ‘ism’. Tantra is a fundamental spiritual science. So wherever there is any spiritual practice it should be taken for granted that it stands on the Tantric cult.”
Both quotes from Wikipedia… I have never seen anything in the literature that equates tantric practice to sexual intercourse.
Taoist sexual practices are a whole different story. Read Mantak Chia on the inner and outer channels and connecting with the cosmos
Understand kundalini, the coiled snake, and the “subtle body” consisting of nadis, chakras, prana and bindu.
Unfortunately my generation, and the media who reported on our various explorations into eastern thought, got a lot of things half right or completely wrong.
David, instead of referring to Wikipedia, you might delve into the literature of and about yoga. Sexual intercourse as ritual plays a role in the development of tantra, but is by no means the whole of it. Have a look at the 600 year history of certain sects within Vajrayana Buddhism, which devolved into sexual rituals; again, certainly not the whole of Buddhism nor of Vajrayana, but their sordid history played a role in tantric concepts as well as playing a role in the disappearance of Buddhism from India once their practices were revealed. (And this was “tantra,” not ‘Taoism.’)
One specific example was that sex with women of lower castes was justified and even encouraged — and they were used as instruments of ritual and had little if any say in being used that way. Bikram’s attitude, which assumes a right to use and to rape women he considers beneath him, has a historical precedent.
Hatha yoga did not follow in their footsteps, and could be said to be a reformation of that sort of tantra, but nevertheless they carried over some of the Vajrayana concepts, such as raising the ‘bindu,’ and placed those concepts within the realm of individual, personal practice.
Also have a look at Svoboda’s book, ‘Aghora.’ You’ll find plenty there. While within tantra the male and female were generally regarded as equals and participation was consensual, nevertheless, that understanding did not always hold — and some forms of such tantric rituals became essentially forms of vampirism. Also have a look at David Gordon White’s ‘Sinister Yogis’ for more on the tradition and reputation of the ‘yogi’ in India.
What is happening now has happened before in the history of yoga, and tantra, and will likely be repeated. The story of Anusara was a repetition of the story of Vajrayana, right down to its promotion of a ‘life-affirming philosophy, and it met the same fate. Bikram is nothing new either.
Just as this history repeats itself, it is necessary to reaffirm just as often that acts justified in the name of tantra and spirituality must be rejected as rationalizations of desire and even of brutality.
Rape is not adequately described by the word ‘crime.’ It is a brutality that has even been used as a weapon of aggression and war, a means of ruining one’s enemy for generations to come. It must be recognized for what it is and must never be condoned, especially when so-called spiritual leaders (and Bikram certainly made or insinuated claims as to his spiritual status) excuse themselves in the practice of it.
When we reassert our humanity by soundly rejecting such acts, we are not ‘jackals’ despoiling the purity of yoga, but rather quite the opposite. When you say the following, I cannot agree — and I find your statement quite confused and confusing (and not a little unjustifiably self-righteous):
“Equally shocking is the way many of you yogi “posers” have piled on without a scintilla of compassion or spiritual awareness…that, not the behavior of a flawed guru, is what discredits yoga. Your shameful behavior empowers the shameless behavior of the mere mortals you have enshrined and whom you fall on like jackals when you discover that they are just like the rest of us.”
Those who reject brutal behavior are not “posers,” nor are they somehow “empowering” bad behavior or “discrediting” yoga. They/we are reaffirming a positive meaning to yoga, rather than allowing it to be redefined by those who pursue their own abuse of power and gratification of their own desires in the name of “yoga.” It has happened before, and it will happen again.
And by the way, what distinguishes contemporary hatha yoga of the last century from medieval yoga of the 9th-14th centuries is the concept of sequencing of postures. Sequencing is not an ancient or centuries-old and venerable concept; it is quite recent, and it is a good idea.
Thank you for your erudition in these matters Spiritual Bypass. I stand by my opinion that some commentators here who profess to be “yogi’s” are not “reaffirming a positive meaning to yoga and are in fact descending like jackals. “Unjustifiably self-righteous” Well that certainly deserves self examination. The sacred literature of human civilization is filled with rape, murder, incest and continuous warfare. We have to take responsibility for making better choices. It saddens me to hear that my first teacher may have made some very bad choices. I have not seen him in 17 years and I had hoped that even with his enormous financial success that age and wisdom would have led him on a more spiritual path.
Thank you for the dialogue. Unfortunately I don’t think that truth and reason will be served here or in the courtroom .
Personally I have a more intimate knowledge of rape and its effect on survivors than I would like to have had and this awareness has been made more acute through the recent revelations of sex crimes in the military. Try to see the documentary film “The Invisible War” A Federal Judge found that “Rape is an occupational hazard of military service” Will an equally callous judge someday find that also true of following a guru? I guess that one could argue that we all make our choices …sometimes with very unfortunate consequence.
It could also be said that in my way and choice of language in being critical of the critics I am not walking my own talk…fair enough…there is one of my lessons in this…seeking equanimity is only the first step towards compassion.
I will allow that some commenters on this page have been unnecessarily crude and aggressive in their comments, closer to your ‘jackals’ characterization. I do not speak for them, or in defense of their language. Your point is well taken with regard to their language — we don’t have to descend to Bikram’s level of self-expression.
Sexual abuse touches just about everyone — most often women directly, and men (when they are not the perps) indirectly. Inhumanity seems to be an inescapable feature of our humanity, and the only recourse is to take responsibility, as you say.
I fear that the cynicism about yoga engendered by the behavior of the pop gurus who exploit it has already led to the callousness you mention — those who suggest that the women in their yoga outfits are somehow ‘looking’ for such abuse and that it is an occupational hazard of hopping on the yoga train. Certainly that was not the case with Jane Doe N. 2 described here. So again your point is well taken.
I hope the women involved with Bikram yoga recognize the vast cultural divide at work, particularly when he demands that women comb his hair and rub his feet. It is because, in his mind, they are low caste, lower than dirt, and should be thankful to even clean his toilets. A review of his language, even in the ‘Bitches and Hos’ article in YogaDork, should be enough to confirm this. Think about this, ladies. This is not a ‘guru’ thing at work, but a medieval mindset that should not be tolerated for even a moment.
Thank you for the dialogue too.
PS I agree that truth and reason are rarely served in court, especially with regard to sexual abuse. Unfortunately it is the only thing that will get Bikram’s attention and perhaps will at least limit his opportunities to continue as a predator.
Beyond that, it’s up to us to shun his behavior, if it is shown that there is any truth to it. There is enough testimony already out there, with more to come.
Spiritual Bypass you nailed it here: ” Think about this, ladies. This is not a ‘guru’ thing at work, but a medieval mindset that should not be tolerated for even a moment”
I encourage anyone who is truly interested n this matter to, as you suggested, read or at least skim the complaints.
Use of magic has always included high and low arts. A problem arises when people assume spiritual powers are always and inherently ‘good’, vs. simply abilities people can develop, with intention determined by the person. It is not surprising that some practices included taking advantage of women in vulnerable situations, or vampiric actions. This shows that individuals are accountable and responsible for the level at which they practice. It does not show that at the practices categorically belong to the a more sinister intention. The actions/practices are meant to lead to a goal, said to be liberation or awakening, and it seems many lose sight of that goal. And others road on its coattails to use said practices for their own nefarious reasons such as power, control and personal satisfaction. So, do you find Svboda’s work without bias? And are you saying that buddhism was essentially ‘kicked out’ of india b/c some sects within it practiced dubious methods? It’s a good thing that Hinduism got rid of that immoral buddhism, since hinduism was doing a great job creating equality and not taking advantage of others! We still operate within hierarchy of castes, whether in yoga or life as well as in regard to gender.
Oh, I was being sarcastic re: hinduism’s equality, of course. Thanks for pointing out, David and Spiritual Bypass, the nuances and details of this suject through varying lenses.
Stewart J. Lawrence – you say that the statements from the women are “lawyer-coached plaintiff statements.” I am the most hardened cynical defense lawyer you will find. Your statement is beyond offensive to any woman or man who has ever been in this type of situation and to all attorneys.
Thank you, Maggie.
Oh, Yoga, Yoga, Yoga! The same story, repeated through a variety of traditions, in which the lauded leader turns out to have motives beyond the education of their students or the liberation of their disciples. I am very sorry for the victims, and wish them the best possible outcome.
Victims… hilarious. The real victims are the people that are discussing this in the context of yoga. You’re not even discussing yoga. You’re talking about an overt relationship to people who love suffering. THe real problem isn’t that hot yoga stopped due to common sense, it’s that nobody learns.. yoga is about you changing yourself, not about a physical practice… yawn.. another victim looking to listen to someone else have authority over their life, and being really pissed when it doesn’t lead to happiness… take off the loin cloth and get your head’s out of your asses– it stinks.
The whole concept of Bikram does have a certain authoritarian element about it. That one should practice certain postures in certain orders and no exceptions smacks of grandiosity. My experiences with Bikram have been mixed. I went to one studio at first where the instructors were definitely Yoga Nazis, vocally exhorting me in front of class to do postures I wasn’t ready for. So I left that studio for awhile, and when I decided to come back (I do enjoy practicing in that level of high heat) I found that the studio had started to lay back a bit on the strictness–saying that students could rest if they didn’t feel up to doing certain postures and even holding separate seminars on doing modifications. But I still have this sense of self consciousness about the brand (which is what it is, let’s face it) that led me to abandon it all together, at some cost to me. As for Bikram himself, where’s there’s heat, there’s apt to be fire …
A highly structured practice that adheres strictly to a progressive sequence is not a Bikram innovation, it is fundamental to ashtanga practice and predates Bikram by many centuries. Bikram’s “innovation” for the Western practitioner (although you can hardly call Japan “Western”) was the heated room, something not needed in India! Hatha yoga is a discipline that is carefully designed to lead to a meditative mental state and beyond. You might find “The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali” useful. There are several translations.
All that said I never heard Bikram make any claims to spirituality…as a young man he was a champion weight lifter, his training with Ghosh was in “physical culture”, he made a very conscious choice to follow the Beverly Hills version of the American Dream. He “escaped” from his life in India and in some ways never looked back but part f him is still trapped in that milieu of classism and chauvinism.
The allegations against Bikram are shocking and even tragic in the true sense of that word. Equally shocking is the way many of you yogi “posers” have piled on without a scintilla of compassion or spiritual awareness…that, not the behavior of a flawed guru, is what discredits yoga. Your shameful behavior empowers the shameless behavior of the mere mortals you have enshrined and whom you fall on like jackals when you discover that they are just like the rest of us. Breathe.
David…get a clue. You say:
“A highly structured practice that adheres strictly to a progressive sequence is not a Bikram innovation, it is fundamental to ashtanga practice and predates Bikram by many centuries.”
How do you know ashtanga practice predates Bikram by many centuries? Because Jois and Krishnamacharya supposedly found it on some banana leaves in a library?
Your statement below is more concerning though:
“The allegations against Bikram are shocking and even tragic in the true sense of that word. Equally shocking is the way many of you yogi “posers” have piled on without a scintilla of compassion or spiritual awareness…”
This is actually quite a judgement by YOU. Who the fuck are you to call someone a yogi “poser”? Your statement is that of an enabler, someone who allows what is in this photo to happen:
I have somewhat more than a clue Bob, I have a spiritual practice. I apologized for my “judgmentalism” in an earlier post… it was perhaps a bit harsh… If you had a sense of humor about all of this you might have seen the double entendre in “yogi poser” Your use of vulgarity is entirely uncalled for. The photo is shocking. I am not an “enabler” I go to regular meetings of YA! Maybe no one “invented” yoga maybe unity just is, we have only but to find it. (There is a joke in there too.)
David- I also enjoy the heat in these types of classes! I’ve practiced at quite a few Bikram studios, sometimes intensely, at different periods of my life and wildly different fitness levels. There are more beginner or gentle option available for all of the asanas, but yes sometimes the instructors can really get into the authoritarian mindset and I just ignore them! I learned the series from Bikram many moons ago and at that time he was very clear that there were levels that one would progress through. In the standard dialogue, you’ll hear some hints of this such as “If you are a beginner, do x,y, and z…” That was one of the things I liked about it, there were options for every asana, and it was always an option to stand still, sit or lay down if the heat was too much.
I like the sequence, but as for the man, these accusations concern me greatly. When I knew him, his ego was ridiculously huge, and although I didn’t see any of the particular behavior described in these cases, I suspect it might be true and it makes me feel sick. I’m not sure how I feel about supporting the studios now. I’ve met many Bikram studio owners who are lovely and I don’t know how I feel about how closely they should be associated with Bikram himself.
yoga is the yoking of the breath, body and mind. intuition is trusting that you know what is true. if it doesn’t feel right, then it probably isn’t right. trust what you know to be true. let go of confusion. trust the simple truth. it’s all in your heart. om namah shivah. i honor my true teacher – my heart!
BOYCOTT BIKRAM. Period.
There are plenty of other hot yoga options out there. Even if you “hate the teacher” but love the teachings, even a single visit to any of his studios means that at least a few pennies is going to this douchebag’s coffers.
Put him out of business.
Actually, it’s largely misunderstood, but Bikram is not a franchise. When he started allowing people to use his name and image in their studios, he did have requirements, the heat, carpet, mirrors, 26 & 2 and the dialogue. But he never made money from the studios. From speaking to my local studio owner, his attempts to turn it into a franchise a few years ago, failed.
We really, really need to keep drumming it into people to identify and trust their gut instincts. Sadly, US and UK cultures (only ones I’m familiar with) really do batter that out of us early.
Even those who haven’t been in some way abused in the past have a hard time listening to our guts. How many times do we look back and say in hindsight, “Oh, of course! I thought s/he was a bit… off when we met, but I couldn’t put my finger on it, and everyone seemed to like her/him. I’m shocked, but I’m just not surprised that s/he’s [done this bad thing here].”
We need to build a culture in which the bodymind’s inbuilt protection systems are listened to and respected. I swear, I will never rubbish a kid’s instinct about someone or tell them they need a concrete reason to dislike someone. I’ll tell them that they can not like someone and still be polite to them, and that if that person says or does something upsetting to tell me or another grown-up, but I’ll never tell them they’re being mean or silly just for expressing an instinct.
The first place anyone should go after an assult is the hospital. The forensic nurse in the emergency room will guide the process.
Rape Treatment Center UCLA Medical Center Santa Monica ( Not To Far from the RAD)
That’s right. DNA doesn’t lie even though the perpetrator will. DNA evidence can support criminal charges being brought but the whole process is still quite humiliating for the woman as her morals are brought into question without significant evidence of forcible assault. It is an ugly crime and an ugly process follows it. Unless it is a rape/homicide it does not have a high priority with the cops…there are just too many rapes. This is not an uninformed opinion. It is based on first hand experience.
Most victims are often in such a state of shock, often uncertain of “what really happened” that they do the best they can to take care of themselves (often attempting to bathe or wash off the feelings of shame as well as all of the “evidence” of what happened).
While I agree that this is what “should” happen — often it’s our instincts that just take over when we have been harmed in this way, and so our actions and reactions are not rational. It takes a great deal of awareness and strength to go from assault/rape directly to a hospital.
Thus reality may not be easily understood by males who have no direct personal experience of this fundamental violation of self.
I’ve heard that 1 in 5 victims of rape is male.
My father was raped when he was 10. I believe a substantial portion of the abuse I suffered from him resulted from that event.
Your comment makes me want to say something vile and offensive and hurtful to you.
Are you aware this is a sensitive issue for people?
You misunderstood my comment. I said “males who have no direct personal experience” This would include males who have been raped as well as males who have had a spouse or daughter or son who was raped. You would qualify as one who has direct personal experience. There is a great insensitivity to rape in our culture. Maybe the investigation into the military will change this. I doubt it. There will have to be a major sea change before men don’t think secretly, or not so secretly; “She was asking for it” Many social scientists agree that rape is not sexually motivated but power motivated. I am the husband of a rape victim. That act by a stranger who invaded our home changed our lives. My post, other than my typo of “this” at the beginning, was a clear and unambiguous support of rape victims and condemnation of insensitive males. Perhaps you should re-read my words and direct those vile, offensive and hurtful comments towards yourself for being so quick to judge and so slow to be understanding.
Obviously, our history has made us a bit more sensitive about this issue. It would induce more lucid conversation if the comment box I was typing in was set up differently. As it is, to send a meaningfully edited message, I have to write it in a text editor and copy/paste it in. If I write a message longer than the tiny little box at the bottom of the screen, it’s almost impossible to edit. You’re clearly trying to have a real discourse about an important subject.
On the subject of “direct personal experience,” I disagree with you. I understand you were trying to deliver a different message then got sent, but what your wrote, “Thus reality may not be easily understood by males who have no direct personal experience of this fundamental violation of self” implies:
A – Males cannot have direct personal experience with rape. It’s incredibly easily taken as a sexist statement.
B – Only those who have been raped understand reality. That’s a pretty straightforward interpretation of what you wrote, but it’s so F—ed up that I can’t believe you possibly meant that.
C – in terms of direct personal experience, my dad was raped before I was born. I am fortunate to have no direct personal experience with rape. Your comment clearly implies that I cannot understand that being raped is a really f—ed up thing.
Your post was a clear and unambiguous support of female rape victims and a clear and obvious condemnation of all males, in my opinion.
Perhaps you should not suggest that a man you believe has direct, personal experience with rape should turn “vile, offensive, and hurtful comments toward themselves?”
I am SO sorry for what happened to your wife. You get a pass from me on your rudeness. I’m sorry I was rude to you. However, your post was really quite insensitive, as you say, a result of rushing and not proofreading.
I’m sorry to any and all who find this comment hurtful. Rape is a terrible thing.
Thanks for your reply. Not to get into a dialogue on grammar but what I said: Males who have no direct personal experience… is a defining statement that describes a certain class of males, but not all males, just males with no direct personal experience. Had I said: “Males, who have no direct personal experience” as a defining clause it might be interpreted as you have with: “Males cannot have direct personal experience with rape. It’s incredibly easily taken as a sexist statement.” But that is not what I said. How you can interpret anything I have said as rudeness is truly baffling. You clearly have direct personal experience. You are also a bit reactive… maybe you are just young. Your interpretation of my post as being insensitive may be deeply colored by your own unfortunate life experience. Your interpretation of what I wrote is far from straightforward. The “reality” of which I spoke was a response to Jenifer’s cogent comment about the mental state of rape victims immediately following the crime and should not be taken out of context. I don’t think that anyone, gender notwithstanding, can get into the head of a rape victim and understand all that they must go through in trying to grasp what has happened to them. It changes, and sometimes ruins lives. Jane Doe 2 being a case in point. I don’t really want to get into a discussion of the mind set of males about this violent personal crime in this little space. Thank you for your apology. I hope you are able to come face to face with your anger and find peace in your life.
Correction: I should have said; Direct personal experience would include. My use of this was not specific… rushing and not proof reading.
Why does the guru abuse his followers? Same answer as the one about the dog licking his balls:
Because he can!
Meaning: It has happened, continues to happen and will happen again!
So Jane Doe #2 was brutally raped & then the next day she was back in his class? Why didn’t she go to the police? Why on earth would she go back to class the next day? GIVE ME A BREAK.
I can imagine someone traumatized might be desperate to get back to “normality” and/or be in denial. However, you would be correct in thinking that even if Bikrim is guilty of the abusing his powers, of boorish behavior, and even worse, he might still be innocent of this particular charge by this particular woman. But be prepared for attacks here by those who want to play the role of “defender of the victim.” They can be ruthless and abusive because they feel they are totally justified, even without examining any facts of the case whatsoever.
While you’re comment may be laden with compassionate rhetoric, it also speaks to the ignorance about Chodhury’s cult-like status and abuse of power that’s been going on for YEARS and been written and talked about endlessly, including his sexual exploits. Regardless of this case or the next, this man is guilty and so are his followers, he must be stopped and people who sit by and do nothing are just as guilty in his exploits as he is.
I wonder why she didn’t go to the police?
Anyway, best wishes to these two women. I hope they win their case, and I hope he’s tossed in prison.
What I don’t get and never understand is why so many people glom onto people like Chodhury, despite it being obvious he’s abusive, perverted and cruel. People have KNOWN about this egotistical parasite for YEARS and done nothing. There have been countless articles and stories told about him and yet, more women go to him for ‘training’ and fall prey to his megalomaniacal shite.
What’s worse is, the fact that seemingly decent people sit around worshiping and following him and do NOTHING about it or speak up against his hateful rants or stop him from abusing more women. How effed up is that???! Those people are just as guilty.
And that is scarier than anything he does, the willing and able bodied people who enable him to continue abusing his power and not stop him. By-stander effect. They should all feel ashamed but I doubt they feel anything but desire.
Really, why hasn’t someone done something to Chodhury after all his years of abusing people?? Why isn’t he kicked out of the country?
So, this is all old stuff. Has anything happened to move this case forward? What is the legal status now. Have any criminal charges been filed or is it still a civil matter. Kicked out of the country? Really? Are we a club or a nation founded on principles, one of which is a person is innocent until proven guilty? It’s Bikram Choudhury. If you are going to rant at least get the factual information correct. Your intellectual sloppiness does not give you a lot of credibility.
I, too, wonder about the cult of personality. I love the series and even think a lot of what Birkam preaches about Yoga is spot on. For instance, he’s often quoted as saying In the west our minds our overstimulated and our bodies are under stimulated. But I’ve just never understood the deference. I heard Jim Kallett speak; he’s one of the few teachers who have permission from Bikram to give clinics around the country. He seems like a nice guy, and I’d have a hard time believing he could be party to Bikram’s behavior. But he also parroted the Bikram line. I found it so odd that I wrote about it: Jim Kallett and Bikram Yoga/.
Goodbye yoga in America…the party is over. Yoga is a joke…everyone too worried to speak out against Bhikram (women mainly) in case their yoga ‘careers’ are affected. leaving the next innocent sister down the line to fall pray to this person.
Women – and not just men – in this business really need to examine what they are doing with their yoga ‘careers’ and how they unwittingly prop up their gooroos
Lawsuits and wrong-doing aside, at least part of the solution seems really simple: Stop paying insane amounts of money to Bikram yoga. In a sense, we all vote with our money, so I would think the best recourse is to stop paying for Bikram certifications or going to their classes.