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Bikram Studio Owners And Teachers Respond To Rape Charges And The Community Divided

in YD News


By now we’ve all experienced our own range of reactions to Bikram Choudhury being accused of rape and sexual assault by several women. While some members of the yoga community have been moved to speak out, many more have resorted to staying silent (even though we’ve learned, for a grave a situation as this is, that might not lead to the best solution). A glaring omission to the conversation has been the group of people that may be feeling the effects the deepest: the Bikram community. For various reasons they have not been vocal, but maybe it’s because they haven’t been asked.

With the help of Benjamin Lorr, author of Hell-Bent, we reached out to several Bikram teachers and studio owners and asked them to share their response to what has surely been the shock of the century to the well-oiled Bikram yoga system. Some are struggling with the business side of things – do they keep the “Bikram” name? – while others feel a deep responsibility to their students no matter what. None of the teachers/studio owners we heard from denied there was some truth the accusations.

This is by no means a definitive response from the collective yoga community, but rather intended as an open forum for those within the Bikram community and beyond to speak out freely and share their thoughts, responses, reactions and struggles that are real and valid. We’ve decided to share all of the following responses in full, without edit, provided via email correspondence.

First Benjamin Lorr offers his comments on the current state of events. Lorr’s book Hell-Bent chronicled his experience in Bikram Yoga teacher training in 2010 and was one of the first publications to shed light on what was soon to become Sarah Baughn’s lawsuit alleging sexual assault at the hand of Bikram Choudhury, opening the door for the other women to speak out.

He told us in email:

“There is nothing new to see here except the courage of three brave woman willing to speak out on national television. When interviewing for Hell-Bent, I encountered heartbreakingly similar stories, some from women still unwilling to come forward. Without names attached to affidavits, the lawyers wouldn’t let me publish details, but I hope the take-away from the book was as clear then as now: I have no doubt that Bikram Choudhury is a sexually predatory narcissist. He is manipulative in many ways beyond the sexual, as the book details, most damagingly by coercing silence. And the quicker the Bikram community drops his name from their studios, the quicker I’ll find my way back to those studios to practice.”

Eric Jennings, owner of Bikram Yoga Decatur, speaks on the division of the community into two sides – those who stand with Bikram and those who don’t – though he has chosen not to declare which side he is on. His decision to keep the name of the business as is rests on that it represents the “brilliant Bikram Yoga series and method.”

“The “latest” allegations, alas, are the same allegations that have been troubling our community for the past two years. It pains me every time I see a renewed focus on the lawsuits, which I believe should be decided by the courts and not by the media. The accusations against Bikram are disturbing and have largely divided the Bikram Yoga community into two camps — those who are quick to pile on and accuse him of being a monster and those who protest too much against the accusers and hold Bikram up to be a saint. Any rational person has to admit that the truth is probably somewhere in between. The women behind the suits clearly feel wronged and, as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and rape, my heart goes out to them. But I will not take sides. The women making the accusations deserve to be heard and to have their stories investigated. Bikram deserves to be presumed innocent until proven otherwise in a court of law.

As for me and my studio, which has been teaching Bikram Yoga for 11+ years, my first loyalty is to my students. My next loyalty is to the instructors who work with me and to my own personal practice. Behind all of that is a loyalty to the brilliant Bikram Yoga series and method. As long as I continue to teach the Bikram Yoga series in accordance with the Bikram Yoga method I see no reason to consider changing the name of my business. It may be true that the negative publicity is tarnishing the brand but the yoga which I have been promoting and practicing for these many years is just as profoundly effective as it has always been and my commitment to it, and to my community of yoga peers, is unwavering.”

Elizabeth Winfield, a former Bikram teacher who was a very active and “beloved staff member” during the 2010 Bikram Yoga Teacher Training, according to Lorr,  has taken a decidedly different stance, distancing herself from the community, as well as the man and anything related to him after the accusations hit. She is hopeful that the situation will bring about healing.

“My reaction to Sarah’s allegations, and then Jane Doe 1 and Jane Doe 2 was shock and then outrage….Outrage after I saw people trying to do character assassinations on these girls (and myself for simply posting the info). I also received multiple reports from other women, including a 7 page document from an 18 year old girl that detailed how Bikram had raped her. I know each of these girls personally….they are all the same…the same kind a rapist would go for…sweet, naive, and the kind who would never question their “guru”….I’ve also seen many of Bikram’s behaviors and it became clear to me in my opinion that he is a serial rapist and has been doing this for years (a case reported to me from over 20 years ago)….using the yoga and TT to prey on his next victims. My reaction was simple, I would support the victims by not allowing this to be hushed up (something I knew Bikram and company are very good at). My body would not physically allow me to walk into a “Bikram” named studio ever again. I tried to wear my Bikram logo clothes, and my body had a visceral/vomit reaction. There are 4 stages of grief and every single one of the Bikram community is in varying stages, depending upon their own involvement, entanglement, enlightenment, education, previous experiences, or lack thereof…. 1: denial 2: anger 3: bargaining 4: acceptance/resolution The most difficult thing for me, was to look within myself and wonder WHY I had joined this cult and had overlooked blatantly wrong behaviors….I think the Bikram community on the whole is reaching a tipping point, and I hope one day they all realize they should not have the name of a rapist on their door…anymore than they should call their business after Hitler. I’m happy to see studios slowly stepping away from the fear, control and dogma of Bikram, and offering additional services and becoming more trained as teachers. I do feel that all of the sexual scandals in the yoga community (and the Catholic church, Penn State, etc), is the world waking up to the awareness that sexual abuse is wrong and unacceptable. The more awareness and ability to speak of this in the open will simply allow for more education, prevention and treatment of what I term an illness: sexual dysfunction. I’m hoping for more healing of the sexual chakras in the world….. Sincerely, Elizabeth J. Winfield, Physician Assistant, volunteer medical for BYTT, ex-Bikram yoga teacher….mother of Brandy Lyn, 2010 female yoga champion….”

Joani Nunez, co-owner/director at Bikram Yoga Houston, shares her support for the women who came forward and offers her thoughts on the challenge that lies ahead.

“Of course I can’t speak for the entire community, but I can say that I have the highest regard and deepest respect for those women stepping forward and telling the world about what happened to them, and they have my 100% support. Personally, I am thrilled that the secrets of this community are finally coming to light, because just like an abscess, healing cannot happen until the poison is exposed and expressed, dead tissue excised, and the wound completely cleaned. I believe that all of this is yoga. Yoga isn’t something that happens for 90 minutes on a yoga mat; if you have a genuine understanding of meditation and yoga then all of life becomes your yoga practice. This community and every individual that is a part of it has an enormous challenge to deal with, how we do so speaks to the character of the individuals involved and the community as a whole – if, like they say in recovery circles, “You are only as sick as your secrets,” then the true healing has finally begun.”

Tricia Donegan, owner of Bikram Yoga Lower East Side in NYC, may be one of the most popular Bikram teachers out there, known as Lady Gaga’s yoga teacher and being an overall incredibly vibrant and enthusiastic character in the New York yoga scene. She shared in email that she will be keeping the “Bikram” name on her studio maintaining that “taking “Bikram Yoga” off my sign will not change the power dynamics that allow sexual violence to occur.”

She continued in email:

“‘Bikram Yoga’ is a practice our community believes in because it is healing, and that will go unchanged. At this point, we need to separate the practice we believe in — a practice that improves health and well-being — from the sexual violence Bikram Choudhury has committed.

What’s most important right now is to remember how terribly difficult it is report sexual violence, to support survivors, and work to end sexual violence in our homes, our workplaces, our yoga studios, our communities.”

As we mentioned, this is only a snippet, a snapshot. We invite other members of the Bikram community to use this space as a free forum for sharing comments and open dialogue.

image via Bikram Yoga Lower East Side



85 comments… add one
  • Sally

    Thank you for posting this! I have a question that I was desperately hoping this article would answer, but maybe you could seek out the information? As a student, when I pay for a bikram yoga class, does any of that money go back to him? I.e., did teachers just pay for the teacher training and then they’re free to use the name, or do they give fees back for continued use of the name? I’ve been assuming that he gets income from the studios, and for that reason, I drastically reduced my Bikram practice a couple of years ago, and cut myself off altogether when the first rape allegation came out. It’s fine – and just – to use the “innocent until proven guilty” logic in applying criminal punishment, because that is imposed by the state, and has serious legal and punitive ramifications. I don’t feel compelled to give him the same benefit of the doubt in deciding how to spend my money – I’ll take it to studios where I trust and believe in the teachers, and actually WANT to give them my money, thank you very much. Saying Bikram has not actually been found guilty of rape, and continuing to participate in his system is like eating rotten food and arguing that it hasn’t technically tested positive for botulism or salmonella. Let’s do a better job of nourishing one another.

    Anyway, any answer on how the money works would be very much appreciated!

    • Kelsey

      Hi Sally,

      I am not a Bikram teacher or studio owner, but I have heard of the franchise system and I did find this which might provide you with some info:


      • bikramyogateach

        Hi Sally, I am a teacher of 8 years and a studio owner. No, the money does not go to support Bikram. The money I collect at my studio pays my teachers, my bills and lastly (if there is anything left) myself and my family. I pay absolutely no royalties to Bikram except the initial fee when I first open several years ago which was minimal.

      • Sally

        Thank you Kelsey! For anyone else who hasn’t clicked on that, the initial franchise fee studios are supposed to paying Bikram is $10,000 and the ongoing fees are in the range of $1,000-$1,500 per month. I understand that most of the studios aren’t actually participating in that, but after reading all the comments and mulling it over, I’m still not convinced that a Bikram studio is an appropriate place for my practice. Ana’s comment is well taken, but I’m not seeing the practical application of the leadership and community ideals invoked, and I don’t see how you can “reclaim” someone’s name from them. That’s the risk everyone ran (including me! I was still practicing Bikram after I read that article about his nasty comments about his wife and his fleet of gold rolls royces or whatever luxury car obsession) in investing their money, energy, and time in a type of yoga that was formed around the name and personality of one man – one man who was deeply, deeply flawed. As for the “non-judgment” comment, anyone who invokes yogic ideals to remain neutral in the face of exploitation and abuse of power is a coward and deserves a karmic kick in the pants. Yoga Sutra 197. I just wrote it, with guidance from Paulo Friere and Desmond Tutu. You’re welcome.

    • Studio owner

      Most studios are NOT franchised and do not pay him fees. I don’t give him any money and am completely independently owned. You would have to check with your specific studio owner for more info but I believe only about 20-30 studios actually signed, but that figure is just rumored. I do know that most did not.
      Elizabeth below says that of we didn’t franchise we are “blacklisted” and taken off the by website. This is not true. If he took all the studios that don’t pay him off this website it would look like a pretty puny “empire.”
      On my studio website I clearly state that we are not a franchise.

    • Katie

      Yes. This is a franchise. Money funnels directly back to Bikram.

      I honestly cannot believe anyone attends his studios or practices his method at this point. There is no separating the man from the method. Not possible.

      Sally, good for you for drawing appropriate boundaries. If only other yogis would step up and do the same, rather than indulge their own desires for a certain type of practice. We can do better.

    • Gbernardwandel

      Yup Sally
      Well said
      Wouldn’t eat fresh fruit from a rotting vegetable either

  • Amy

    When I did training back in 2006 I had a 21 year old beautiful Canadian flat mate. Bikram took a “liking” to her: once when she was walking alone into the building (using the entrance where the car park is) Bikram pulled up beside her asked her to “come closer” and grabbed her head and kissed her on the lips while saying “your an angel sent from heaven, you come with me and I’ll look after you for the rest of your life” freaked out but still wanting to become a teacher she always wanted to have someone with her (rightfully) and made sure she could blend in as much as she could I.e always hang out at the back of the room. He’s also had a affairs with Bikram yoga champion and during there relationship she won 2 years in a row. I think these girls are definitely telling the truth, they are brave and even if Bikram’s fancy lawyers get him out of a conviction they have definitely shown a new light on this man who is a sexual predictor.

  • shannn

    Patanjali would be rolling over in his grave. Bikram is clearly a narcissistic sociopath who has used his position of power to manipulate vulnerable women. He is a criminal and needs to be prosecuted

    • yogiAus

      I am a Bikram teacher. There is a side of me that is disappointed and saddened by these accusations, but i am trying to live my life as a yogi, or as close as i can come to that.
      I recognise my sadness as something that pertains to the egotistical side of the myself, what about the studio i want to start, what about the brand name of the business i have invested in, im angry that he could do this with the power and reverence we gave him etc.
      I try so hard to not think about these personal emotions and see this as the bigger picture that it is, we are all human, we all have flaws and do things that we hide from the world, every one of us, but as Yogis, WE DO NOT JUDGE OTHERS, that is a pivotal statement in this whole thing; because to be honest, what makes me react stronger than the allegations against Bikram, is the way that certain Teachers, and Yogis react to the situation; the anger, the rants, the pitch forks, all of this is the complete opposite of yoga..The complete opposite of the gift that we have been given, proving that when the time comes to showcase that state of mind that Yoga tries to give these people, they fall flat on their faces and prove that they do not understand what yoga really is…
      If Bikram is guilty, which most likely he is…Then what? They guy will loose his whole lifes legacy, his brand, his family are also well and truly caught up in all this too. Bikram is in the process of loosing absolutely everything he holds dear to himself, for the mistakes he has made, i cant jump on the bandwagon, and try to stamp on top of him even more, to rally with other people, band our anger together to make it stronger, and make us feel secure in our judgements, before the witch hunt commences…
      im a yogi…I look at this situation, and think, well, life happened, cause and effect, he did some very heinous things, he got caught and he paid the ultimate price, thats life happening, that doesnt make me angry, it makes me think thats the wheel of life spinning, and as Yogis isnt that how we are supposed to react, by observing the whole situation, and not reacting to it, you see life everyday life, it isn’t always beautiful, people get hurt, people pay the price, it happens every day. If you are a teacher, please remember back to when you were a student, how much you looked up to your teachers, and respected what they told you. A lot of people are listening to you as a teacher. PLEASE make sure you are giving the right message, especially since Bikram hasn’t.

      • Dubious

        “…but as Yogis, WE DO NOT JUDGE OTHERS…”
        What is your source for this, please cite.

        • YogiAus

          was that a serious citation request?…Yoga sutras of Patanjali. you are actually debating whether a yogi is supposed to judge anthers actions?

          • Mary

            Sorry YogiAus, not buying it. There are times to judge: Even Jesus flipped over a table here and there. Your post reeks of one who owns a studio and whose resources are tied up in this unfortunate investment, and therefore are blind to the Truth.

          • Dubious

            Yes that is a serious request. Please cite the sutra. Don’t just say yoga sutras. I am not debating, I just don’t believe it’s there.

          • Awakened V.

            YOGI’s – Read the comments. What a great learning moment. Observe how absolutely attached some people are to their opinions. The attachment to opinions can be such an unbecoming characteristic of the human condition. By all historical and current accounts, this attachment never serves us and has led to racism, genderism, gayism, unrest and wars. Try to take the self attachment out of the discussion – it’s the only way to intelligently, peacefully but appropriately address life’s circumstances, even this one. Namaste.

  • Allyson

    I am a Bikram teacher. We do not give any fees or etc back to Bikram after certification. As far as I am aware, the franchise system hasn’t been implemented and existing studios do not pay Bikram fees either. If people take further training, they may pay for that. Overwhelmingly, the teachers I know became teachers from a deep desire to help others experience breakthroughs such as the ones we have witnessed.

  • Joseph L Johnson

    I cannot agree with Bikram’s actions towards women. I can say that I still love and practice his style of Yoga. Its the only one that really works for me. I hope that the wounds these women have suffered can be healed and that Bikram will finally learn how to treat people. I wish the best for all in this. Many blessings.

  • elizabeth

    I am the Elizabeth in this article. I taught at Bikram’s Headquarters in LA. As a teacher you are required to recert (and pay for it) every 3 years. When you go to a Bikram yoga studio and pay money, it will either directly or indirectly support Bikram and company. Several years ago, Bikram initiated a “franchise fee”….he began charging $300/month from each studio. Many studios refused…and many still continue to send this money. Those who refused were placed on “the black list”…and were not allowed to be listed as Bikram studios on the website. The main place where Bikram makes his money is from the teacher training and his seminars held at studios everywhere..and this is where the studios DO continue to send him money (indirectly), every time they send a student…. to the tune of $10,000 each student…so if you do the math 400 students x $10,000, equals $4 million twice a year. And studios are encouraged to send students…it’s why you hear them telling every student…”you’d be a good teacher, you should go to teacher training”… Studios sell this aspect from day one…..
    Yes, the Bikram series does work…however, it is not really the Bikram series…it is Hatha Yoga and these EXACT poses are written in poses from Patanjali’s works. My friends who live in India would always tell me…”he can’t call this his yoga, it’s not his yoga”….I GET that now… Bikram sold us a bill of goods that was not actually his to sell….he’s a con man….among other things. So, I hope that answers the money question….as long as his name is on the studio door…money is going to him…either directly or indirectly (students to teacher training, advertising, etc)

    • George

      Not a fan of Bikram or claiming any particular originality for him, but to the best of my knowledge, the only times Patanjali discusses asana practice in general are in 2.46, 47, and 48. And, in those sutras, he does not mention any specific poses.

    • S.

      Patanjali makes reference to asana only three times in the yoga sutras…none of which actually mention “exact poses.” Have you actually read the yoga sutras, Elizabeth? It sounds like it not required reading in his teacher training programs.

      • michael

        Thank you, Elizabeth. Very informative. Agree that bikram didn’t invent anything. Using the body to heal the body has been around since before the word “asana” was ever coined or discussed by Patanjali. Furthermore, descriptions of asanas (body positions) are found throughout history in many cultures. No worries about the subsequent comments relating to your knowledge Patanjali’s sutras and asanas. Irrelevant to the issue at hand as far as I’m concerned. Thank you for the breakdown of the economics of bikram yoga.

      • sadfjklj

        This x10000000. Although in fairness, I can pretty much guarantee that at least half of the yoga teachers in the America haven’t read the sutras, or any hindu book on yoga for that matter. I was the only one in my teacher training that had any education/experience in eastern literature out of a 20 something person class.

    • Mary

      Thank you Elizabeth. You have been a voice of reason since this all came to light. It is shocking how many otherwise bright and compassionate people cannot see their way to losing this losers name..: Be on the right side of History on this one: Call it something else! Would a yoga series by any other name be less effective? Not. Wake up and smell the solidarity with the victims by not continuing to glorify a Monster.

    • Sally

      Thank you Elizabeth and Former Affiliated Studio, I absolutely would practice with either of you. As to the comment from the studio owner who doesn’t want to lose his business… I think that’s the danger of turning yoga into a business. Your revenue stream depends on students maintaining faith in the name and the teacher you’ve signed onto, and if that goes under – perhaps you didn’t make a very wise business investment, or a very compassionate one, if you knew much about Bikram’s attitude toward people. One of the most disturbing things about all this is the amount of systemic complicity that supported Bikram through years of exploitation of young women – it really seems that no one is very surprised at the charges after watching him joke about sexually harassing women for years and years. Anyway, many thanks to those who have the strength to turn back when they realize they have been led down the wrong path, you are true leaders and that much closer to the road you are meant to be on. I especially appreciate the openness in this article and people’s willingness to share their experience and information. As far as the poses, I did love the series, felt it was cleansing, a great workout, a great way to find stillness and focus. But, I’m not entitled to find those things in a Bikram class, so I’ll just look elsewhere.

      • ed

        Great comment, Sally. We saw the same “woe is me” lament from the anusara crew who were also complicit in friend’s abuse of power. I don’t have any sympathy for them, many of whom were active participants in friend’s litany of abuse. Like Bikram, he has no remorse and even tries to play the victim. If you saw the nightline investigative report, then you witnessed something extraordinary: a man accused of serious crimes who basically laughs them off. That is not the behavior of someone falsely accused of rape.
        The Bikram community was aware of these crimes for years and, unbelievably, tolerated them as “Bikram being Bikram”. These things did not occur in secret. As far as I’m concerned, studio owners who supported this person, either through silence or, worse, fed him more unsuspecting students for his TT are getting off lightly if all they do is go bankrupt. Bad investment, indeed.

        • Annie

          Thanks for mentioning the Anusara, Ed. They both need to be discussed in the same breath. John Friend = Bikram = Abuse of power.

    • michael

      Important that you get the report you received from any victims to law enforcement (if you haven’t already–as a PA, you are required to report this). Critical for the statute of limitations on rape in California.

    • Studio owner

      If we didn’t sign, and don’t pay him, we are still probably on his website. He didn’t take studios off for not signing.

      Not all studios are sending people to trainings. I have not recommended anyone in years. So, I can very honestly say I am not indirectly giving B money. And I don’t require my teachers to recert at this time.

      Thanks for all you do. You’re brave and a great role model for your daughter and women.

      Just try to state things remembering that us studio owners are doing the best we can… We have invested everything we have in this business. We have teachers and family to support. It is not so easy to change your entire biz model over night and we do not condone what is happening. It is very hard and sad for everyone.

      Our passion is healing and serving community…. But the bills still need to get paid.

      Again I believe your work is important and I’m glad these women are taking care of themselves and being so brave.

      I hope this clears up some confusion for students out there.

    • Katie

      “but as Yogis, WE DO NOT JUDGE OTHERS”

      Actually, it’s Jesus that says not to judge.

      As yogis, it is critical that we are discerning. We don’t get to put fingers in our ears and cover our eyes, and cry “no judgment” — in fact, yoga compels us to be socially engaged for the greater good.

      By hiding being “no judgment,” you allow people like John Friend, Bikram Choudhury, Mutkananda, and more to continue their years of abuse. You hide behind non-judgment while local teachers repeat these abuses in their small communities, many having been abused themselves.

      It must stop. We must collectively stand up.

    • Gbernardwandel

      Thank you for your words and your courage
      I must point out however
      Stirham sukham asana is the only directive in patanjali’s sutras in ref to poses in yoga:
      “Abiding in ease is asana”
      May you abide in ease from your plight
      I could not even begin to fathom what you are going through
      The sutras have helped me
      May they be of assistance to you
      Sent with love

    • Karen

      Thank you, Elizabeth! I went to bikram training in 2006 and now teach “hot yoga”. Bikram is indded a narcasist and has nothing to do with yoga. “Innocent until proven guilty” only applies in a court of law. After spending time with him it becomes obvious what a preditor he is.

  • Former Affiliated Studio Owner

    I am a (former) Bikram Certified teacher as well as a studio owner that dropped the Bikram name nearly a year ago, only days after Jane Does 1 and 2 came forward. I believe that any school that continues to display the Bikram name as well as support his training by their endorsement is complicit in the abusive cult community of Bikram. There are many schools out there that do in fact send money to Bikram because they signed the affiliation agreement presented about 2 years ago as well as any new school opened after the agreement was introduced using the Bikram name. So yes, the yoga is great, but yes your membership dues are, in part,being used to fund Bikram’s multiple legal defenses of rape if you go to one of these schools. And I would bet you there is not one school out there that would admit to paying these fees yet I know of dozens that do.

  • aurel

    first of all i dont personally know bikram,but one thing for sure i owe mylife for his 26 postures 2 breathing exercise 105 degress and 40% humidity.in a yoga room.it changes my life big time.i smoke cigarette for 26yrs now am nicotine free for 6yrs w/out the help of any medication,i have been practicing bikram yoga almost everyday for 6 yrs.i have back injury/bulging disc/spinal stenosis but all of this i dont need a surgery.i can still function 95% of my body,cause bikram yoga helps me strengthing my lower back.and for the accusation againts bikram i think he is still innocent until his proven guilty by the court of law.and for the accusers my you find justice that you seek! May God bless us all!!!

  • Mary

    Answer to the financial question.

    Only Bikram studios that have signed a franchise agreement (there are less than 30 to my knowledge, the vast majority rejected his plans a couple of years ago) pay any money to Bikram. All other studios do not pay him a dime. Many of the studios that did sign the franchise want to get out. If he does a seminar in your city, then yes the money goes to him. If a studio writes a letter of recomendation to send a student to teacher training, then via the student the studio is financially supporting Bikram. The vast majority (95%+) do not send any money to Bikram, and more and more studios are not sending students to his training. It is changing, albeit slowly.

    Want to make change happen? Only practice at Bikram studios that are NOT part of the franchise and do NOT send students to his training, thus supporting the studios and teachers that are making a stand. I think whether the ‘Bikram Name’ is there or not, frankly does not matter so much. Ask the studio owner if they send him any money, there you will find the studios’ allegiance

  • Dan

    I am a studio owner, I pay nothing to Bikram, no fees no recert NOTHING!by the way Recert is useless.I struggle to survive and have nothing to do with this man, please guys : if you don’t have a studio, avoid speak about studios that are mostly business for which some have invested all they have…including me : May the trials be only againt rapes and sexual abuses.100%support to victims.

  • Eric Jennings

    I assure you that practicing Bikram Yoga does not necessarily mean that you are supporting Bikram Choudhury, financially or otherwise. Yes, some studios do pay affiliation fees, but many do not. Yes, some instructors continue to pay a couple hundred dollars every three years to re-certify but not all of them do. Not coincidentally, many alternative teacher training programs have recently become available. If you’re concerned about where your dollars go, ask your studio.

    Regarding the origins of the postures which comprise the Bikram Yoga series, contemporary asana practice is rooted in the Physical Culture and New Thought movements of the late 19th and early 20th century. See “A History of Modern Yoga: Patanjali and Western Esotericism” by Elizabeth De Michelis or “Yoga Body: The Origins of Modern Posture Practice” by Mark Singleton. The latter devotes several pages to the influence of Bikram’s guru, Bishnu Ghosh, on the hatha yoga that is so widely practiced today.

    • france

      You seem quite blasé about this whole affair, Eric Jennings.
      For example, in your statement above, you say, “The “latest” allegations, alas, are the same allegations that have been troubling our community for the past two years.”

      I understand this all must be very tiresome for you, Eric, what with all of these women “alleging”, quite credibly, that Bikram raped them. And I understand that your first loyalty is to your students (bla, bla, bla…)

      You go on, “The accusations against Bikram are disturbing…”

      Yes, Eric. They are horrifying actually.

      Then you say, (regarding rape and a rapist, I would add), “Any rational person has to admit that the truth is probably somewhere in between.”

      No, Eric. A rational person does not say that someone was kind of like halfway raped. Someone who rapes another person is a monster. Nothing in between.

      Quite frankly, Eric Jennings, you need a reality check.

      • Mary

        Thank you for giving Eric Jennings the needed reality check. Wow, Eric, Really?

  • Mac McHugh

    “Bikram says he himself was actually blackmailed several times into having sex with students. “What happens when they say they will commit suicide unless you sleep with them?” he says. “What am I supposed to do? Sometimes having an affair is the only way to save someone’s life.”
    Business 2.0, Yogi’s Behaving Badly, published in 2002–

    Details Magazine, The Overheated, Oversexed Cult of Bikram Choudhruy- published 2011
    “Choudhury has other quirks too. He says he eats a single meal a day (chicken or beef, no fruit or vegetables), drinks only water and Coke, and needs only two hours of sleep a night. Then there are the stories about him having sex with his students. When I ask him about this, he doesn’t deny it—he claims they blackmail him: “Only when they give me no choice! If they say to me, ‘Boss, you must fuck me or I will kill myself,’ then I do it! Think if I don’t! The karma!”

    Read More http://www.details.com/culture-trends/critical-eye/201102/yoga-guru-bikram-choudhury#ixzz2v6AdcYtp

    “The “latest” allegations, alas, are the same allegations that have been troubling our community for the past two years.” Eric Jennings, Bikram Yoga Decatur. Are you “new” Eric? Because this has been around for over a decade, and NOTHING has been done to stop this serial sexual predatory. Shame on the Bikram community for putting money before their fellow humans. Rise up for these women and the quite possibly hundreds that have yet to find their voice. Bikram is not a yogi, he is a BOGI, a force of evil, and the bringer of shame and darkness to women.

  • Jesse G.

    I am a Bikram certified teacher! I became a teacher because the yoga has healed me and transformed me into a better person! The teachers who have inspired to be a teacher all taught from the heart and made the yoga amazing for me! I teach that way, most of the Bikram studios in the L.A area where I teach, teach the same!!!
    NO-ONE teaches like Bikram Choudhury!!! He is a character all on his own! I do feel for the woman in these cases!! But the yoga system that is Bikram is healing and you can’t argue that!!
    It’s up to the courts what happens!! We have to just sit and wait!!!

  • Tom

    The position that this situation should be decided by the courts is, by default, siding with Bikram. Wealth buys success in American courtrooms and he has a tremendous advantage. I’m surprised that prosecutors in LA haven’t found any thing to bring criminal charges against him yet. But every day the goes by, there is more information revealed. And it doesn’t look good for Boss.

  • Rick

    Whatever your feelings or opinions of him, comparing Bikram Choudhury to Adolf Hitler (Elizabeth) in any way is woefully uninformed and frankly a bit cooky.

    Bikram Choudhury – Uber Narcissist, Megolomaniac, thinks he is a form of God, sexual predator, and alleged sexual assaulter and rapist. If guilty, should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law, and the victims properly acknowledged and supported.

    Adolph Hitler – Accountable for the deaths of 2 million plus Poles, 3 million plus Russians, countless soldiers and civilians throughout Europe and North Africa, not to mention the extermination of 6 million Jews, and around 1 million Slavs and other ‘undesireables’.

    • Mary

      Rick you are completely missing the nuance of her point. I would wager that you own a studio with his name on it. Hence, the selective understanding.

      • Rick

        Ok, whatever you say, sorry I even contributed.

    • Aurora

      Um well gee… he literally bought Hitler’s Rolls Royce… you do the math.

  • Ana Saldana

    I agree with Joanie and Tracie. I’ve practiced yoga since 1994, taught BY for over eight years. I am a studio owner, franchisee officially. The franchise vs. affiliate relationship to Bikram is not a fair situation. The initial franchise fee is nominal and I’m supposed to a pay monthly fee but as far as I’m concerned they are voluntary, not obligatory, at this point.

    I see those of us invested in delivering this specific healing modality as bigger than its originator. The man will retire and die eventually. His own son and daughter must heal from this as well. Going forward we choose how to cary the torch, we teach new teachers and we carry the legacy into the future. We are a fractured family in the fallout of a father who raped his own children, our sisters. Imagine that we are strong enough to heal, keep our ties, remove ourselves from infighting and opportunistic ventures into independent teacher trainings. Imagine one school where our amazing group of senior teachers (past and present), although they often have differences, can continue to collaboratively grow a new generation of well nurtured, knowledgeable and inspiring teachers and leaders in our community. Imagine that we together are resilient and capable of unity. As an act of unity and a stand for women WE take what we know and carry it forward together, with our bonds to each other intact and strengthened and, most importantly with a common language for raja yoga that we teach and live day in and day out.

    As a person related to many people (sister, aunt, cousins, grandfather) with mental illness, and as a survivor of suicide (sister), the generations of my family have taught me, you don’t abandon the sick. You don’t allow them to ruin all the bonds around them. You learn from illness, you pass the knowledge about managing it on with the understanding that it may never be eradicated, create new habits and patterns so that the illness is kept within firm boundaries. Be vigilant, tenacious, and lose your fear of unity. Unity and leadership are necessary at a time like this. It is up to senior teachers, studio owners (affiliates, “rogue” and franchisees together) to support the victims and demonstrate how to heal from within by not splintering but by taking the reigns of teacher training and victoriously creating one rooted Bikram Yoga. This includes defining new functional business relationships to each other.

    His name is not his own anymore. We own the name. Just as gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgender communities, and many oppressed communities know, it is an act of resistance to reclaim the names doled out on you by your oppressor. “Queer”, “Chicano”, etc. I am for re-appropriating the name and not letting that title be an insult to my lineage. I am queer. I am Chicano. And I am a Bikram yoga teacher.

    • Theresa

      Bikram Yoga is not that good. Sorry. If you have never studied with anyone else, or practiced anything else for a sustained period, you would likely get better results than you are now, without depleting your mineral reserves, and with a hell of a lot less laundry.

      • Annie

        Totally agree, Theresa! Ashtanga is a much better alternative practice (in my humble opinion) if you feel the need for heat. And well said about the laundry!! Bikram is not for environmentalists! When all is said and done, any consistent yoga asana practice is healing – even from a book or DVD.

        • I’ll second that. It’s such a crappy, clunky sequence – Bikram. And it’s not challenging at all unless practiced in a sauna.

    • Mary

      With all due respect, Ana, your analogy does not jive. This is not the same as instances of an oppressed population “reclaiming” a derogatory word used against them by their oppressors. Not at all. I understand that as a franchisee you are in a tough spot, and letting go of his name is being equated by you as an unwise business/marketing decision (though for the life of me I cannot understand why, but alas that is a different thread entirely). However, yours is nothing but a lame attempt at rationalization. PS: The smart money$$ is on changing the name.

    • Mary

      And, truly, Ana, if you really want to expedite Bikram’s healing process, by all means remove his name from the Yoga! First of all, he didn’t invent it. No, not even the series, which was a collaboration. Second, a huge part of his problem is his intense narcissism and frantic grasping for the spotlight. As long as he is being propped up, his ego will never take the necessary Fall from his pedestal (or podium, as it were).

    • Ana Saldana

      I am not the judge on the case. For accuracy I should have used word “violated” not “raped”.

  • Sarah

    Ana Saldana, THAT was some beautiful idealism and I will continue to dream, visualize and hope to create that reality! I do love the die-hards of this practice and this community. For me too, it has saved my life.

  • ed

    That all sounds very nice and heroic and idealistic, Saldana. Great rationalization after the fact. I’m sure the victims would have appreciated some of that heroism before their lives were destroyed. Don’t get a shoulder injury patting yourself on the back…

  • Dubious

    Yoga is healing. The mistake people make is attributing the benefits of yoga to one particular style. Bikram and John Friend try to take credit where none is due. Their style is no more healing than any other style taught by a competent teacher.

  • Jay Doe

    I love the series, the sequence and the method of teaching, both as a student and a teacher.
    I think it’s a sad day when one resorts to comparing any actions to that of Hitler, and I suggest that this is done for shock value mostly.
    I find it interesting that Liz in the article sustained the system for around 10 trainings prior to these allegations and is therefore completely implicated in the supporting and “procuring” of women for Bikram during this time. For her to now take the high ground is disingenous at best, and self serving at worst. I have seen no evidence of assuming any sort of personal responsibility, remorse, nor compensation of those who claim victimization when she was an active participant and supporter of the system. I have never heard a “mea culpa” nor an “Im sorry” from her, only a “well we were ALL at fault” which is a far cry from what a moral person who sustained this system and truly regrets her complicity with it would do.
    As for the allegations, it is obvious that wrongs must be made right, that justice must be served, and that I do not sit in judgment of anyone as I do not know both sides of this story. This is for a court of law to decide and once decided, I will act at that point.
    I realize it is politically incorrect to have questions about any rape allegations, and if one does one is very quickly labelled “rape supporter” or a “rape apologist”. However, I keep in mind cases such as the Duke Lacrosse Team case clearly in mind and thus would prefer to keep any judgement to myself until this case is resolved.

    • james

      Good comment Jay. Indeed, Liz was the medical professional to whom the rapes were reported. As such, she was legally obligated to go to the police. I see no evidence that she did that, though she states she received a 7 page document from an 18 year old detailing how bikram raped her. This whole bikram community seems pretty warped…

  • Dubious

    Movie starring Danny Devito as Bikram coming soon.

  • mario

    Suspect this is uglier than anything we know about yet. Reminds me of the Franklin Scandal. The Washington, DC connection here is also intriguing. Apparently Bikram has some former White House lawyer (wasn’t actually “former” when she joined him) now heading up the show at BY.
    What is truly shocking in these studio owners is the lack of any real remorse. My impression is that this could have gone on (and on). They were perfectly happy letting this gravy train roll, sexual assaults etc be damned. Most of them seem quite pissed with the exposure and are trying to re-write things now. Clear “cult” behavior.

  • Former Affiliated Studio Owner

    I understand the “innocent until proven guilty” sentiment, but let’s face it; not one of us has ever doubted that it could be true. If someone alleged anything like this to any other person I know I would never believe it. I know of no other person that I would even entertain the possibility of guilt. But Bikram guilty of raping countless students at teacher trainings over the last decade? Absolutely within the realm of possibility! This is why I scraped his name off my door. It is irrelevant to me if he is guilty or not, I still want no association with someone of his character. It was as simple as that.

  • Hitler

    Elizabeth refers to Hitler only because B himself spoke several times of his idealistic views of Hitler. He expanded, stating Hitler is the “most Brilliant man in the universe ” and further stated he “holds himself in the same regard”. Part of being a ” Mandated” reported for those of you who are seemingly desperate to find words… Any words to lash out… Nothing to do with the topic ( I might add) is confidentiality . It is a given ( by definition alone) of ” mandated ” that the reporting process is done one way or another. What WOULD be a breach however; would be for her to go further with action she too AS a Mandated reporter. Btw, I chose this user name simply for the individuals losing their”Peace” with Elizabeth …. Don’t be the Loser… I’m sure we all remember the mantra. Have a Lovely day to ALL!

  • Jesus

    Has Bikram been convicted? Is there proof that he raped or assaulted anyone?

  • Christina

    Don’t let anyone steal your peace is one of my favorite mantras. I had to laugh when I read “don’t be the loser.” This whole situation makes me so sad. I started practicing Bikram Yoga in 2006. I was totally obsessed with it. I would go every day, do doubles when I could, etc. It did truly change my life. I loved it so much, still do. I have been practicing another style for the last year, but I still will do a Bikram class once in a while when I feel so inclined. My first reaction to all this was disgust, never going to practice again, I spent so much time and money on Bikram Yoga… I was truly heartbroken and I felt really bad for the studio owners at my old home studio. Then I even started to get angry with the author of Yoga Dork for blogging about it so much. If it wasn’t for this blog, I probably wouldn’t even have heard about it. But now, knowing what a daily practice feels like and having felt the healing, life changing effects, I can separate the man from the yoga. However cliche that sounds. Bikram Yoga Studio Owners: change the name to Hot Hatha Yoga. That is all 🙂 🙂

  • Jenelle

    As a Bikram Yoga teacher, I believe that all studio owners need to make a stance, and this kind of comment…’taking Bikram Yoga off my sign will not change the power dynamics that allow sexual violence to occur’, is untrue.

    Since Bikram doesn’t drink alcohol…or so he claims…what has Bikram become drunk with to make him believe that his bad behavior is okay? He is drunk with POWER. So when studio owners keep his name and his photo up on the wall, they are massively feeding his power and ego. He thinks he is completely invincible, can say or do anything to anyone, without any repercussions.

    He has surrounded himself with people who only say ‘yes’ and satisfy his wants, and if you don’t, then you can be sure you will get the boot sooner or later.

    What will happen when one or two owners take down his name or picture off of their wall? Probably not too much. How about when hundreds of studio owners remove his name and picture from their wall? That is a movement!

    In my eyes, doing something like that will ultimately affect Bikram being able to rule this whole community with the mind set that he can treat people like garbage. If he has no followers that support his illusions of being the ‘most spiritual person on this earth’, then how can he survive within his own empire?

    He has taught us all lessons with his yoga, now its our turn to teach him a lesson by not agreeing to attach his name to the yoga. There is no question in my mind that doing so will directly ‘change the power dynamics that allow sexual violence to occur.’

    Unfortunately, these girls have had to go through hell for the rest of us to realize that our community needs a massive makeover. This is something that is much bigger than we realize. I believe it is up to us to look at these sexual allegations as a way to clearly see that the operations of the Bikram Yoga community (and quite possibly other yoga communities) is wrong and needs to be changed completely.

  • Lucas miles

    In response to the comments in the article in yoga dork…
    (Warning: long winded.).

    As much as the content of the allegations against Bikram breaks my heart, so does the manner in which the allegations have been handled by our community. We all bear a responsibility in the latter, so I think a lot of what has been said in the article is worth consideration.

    I think what Joani said in the article bears a lot of weight. The truth needs to be exposed so that we might truly heal.

    Eric Jennings’ point is that we need to allow investigation and facts, due process and all of the information to come to light so that we may actually know that truth.

    I have to say, there has been up til now a public discourse that is dominated by a lot of things that are not the truth on many counts, on either “side” of the dispute.
    Assumptions are not the truth. Rumors are not the truth. Taking unrelated frustrations and then capitalizing on or amplifying the current allegations as a way to vent or vindicate is not the truth. Television interviews and mass media articles under the direction of one party’s legal teams are definitely not the truth (ever, not for anything).
    Also, denying things out of fear of change is not the truth. Mindless compliance is not truth. Resisting the possibility that you were wrong or fooled is not the truth.

    It is sad that any reality behind these allegations, any truth, for either side, has been buried under rumors, agendas, anger, opportunism, greed, resistance, vanity, vengeance and fear. It is sad that the credibility of the whole of the accusations has been tarnished by glaring inconsistencies in some of them. It is sad that any desire to enter into a discussion about these inconsistencies or about a truth that does not automatically endorse one extreme or the other has been met with name calling and vitriol, to the point that moderate discourse has become impossible. There seems to be more of a need to be absolutely “right” in any of these discussions than there seems to be an interest in the truth.

    Somewhere along the way we confused being “right” and “winning” with knowing the truth. It is a sad turn, but is something that is prevalent in most any media directed discourse in our society these days.
    Being “right” is a dehumanizing process (Ironic, as the whole discussion has been around the dehumanization of these women), which prescribes that there is only one valid person in any exchange, one real opinion or perspective. ****
    Being “right” means making up your mind and sticking to that decision no matter what information comes to light.
    Being “right” will have you stick to your guns, come hell or high water.
    Being “right” will validate shocking behavior by some, and cultivate outright denial in others. When “rightness” and “winning” become the master of our actions, perceptions, and thoughts, then truth becomes subjugated. Being “right” allows for no growth, no consideration, no healing. The struggle to “win” strangely seems to generally leave everyone lost.

    It is sad for anyone on either side of “right-ness”.

    It is sad for supporters of Bikram, because this absolute acceptance has put them on the path of categorizing any and all of Bikram’s flaws as some sort of enlightened matrix of karmic testing that they must continually subject themselves to, rather than even entertain the possibility that he may be deeply flawed and may have done some really twisted shit.

    It is sad for many of the women involved… I have seen what the need for absolute right-ness has done to some of them. I have watched a friend go from being inappropriately hit on, to having to portray herself as being fucking destroyed, and as such has become just that, and in the process has come to see everyone around her as a destroyer. It seems like there is little left that is truthful or healing for her in this destroyer/destroyee paradigm. Though I have watched from a distance, it still breaks my heart, both what she says she went through with Bikram and what I am certain she is putting herself through now to win.

    For certain, all of this preoccupation with being “right” by any means has cost us the truth. Add to all of this the legal spin (which is designed solely around winning and will do whatever it needs to to serve that end) and media portrayal (which is designed to achieve readership and will do whatever it needs to serve that end), and we have further hampered our ability to see the truth.
    Additionally, some our own personal investment into teaching or studio ownership, coupled with some of our devotion to the yoga or the “guru”, has done much the same in obscuring our reason.
    In any case, the subscription to a sole presentation of reality has cost us our clarity.

    Some may say that a desire for a moderate and true investigation and discourse regarding these allegations is tantamount to being complicit in the harming of these women.
    I personally think just the opposite.
    I would contend that I seek a truthful discourse for the very reason that I want these women, and ultimately everyone involved, to heal. I do not want to see anyone bury or suppress something that they went through. Nor do I want to see anyone have to play out any misrepresentation, embellishment or distortion for any reason. I do not want to see the litigants married for life to whatever “right” words or “right” emotion that were required to win. I want them to instead speak true words and feel real emotion. I want them to have justice, which can only come at the hand of the truth. I want them to heal. If being “right” and “winning” as an MO were relinquished, and truth became the object of this conversation, I suspect that the presentation and regard for many things on both sides of the conversation would change drastically.


    Let me finish by saying that if indeed Bikram hurt anyone, then of course there should be appropriate repercussions.

    We need to keep in mind that how we go about determining this is every bit as important as the outcome of the process.

    If we, in seeking justice for the alleged dehumanizing of these women, throw out our humanity or sacrifice the truth, if we either invent facts or deny events on either side of the argument, then we are all worse off, we all suffer, every man, every woman, including those directly involved. If we do not embark upon a mission to seek truth, and instead strive to only be the most “right” and “win”, then there is no point, even if the outcome of the contest in the end is what we think we wanted.

    So I write this not in support of one side or the other, I write this in support of both sides. I write this to everyone involved, directly or otherwise, so they might know that only in the truth lies their ultimate healing and justice. If one were to really know and hold this truth in their heart, there would cease to be the need to scream or yell, hate or despise. There would cease to be the need to diminish or exaggerate. Only with absolute, impartial truth will we be free and whole and well, regardless of what money gets paid to whom, regardless of what happens in court, regardless of what others say or print or write.
    I wish that for all of us ultimately.

    With love and respect to Bikram, Sarah, Liz, Larissa…and all those involved.
    Lucas Miles.

    **** I am not contending that there is any interpretation in regards to the rightness of rape. There is of course no grey area there. I only contend that when we have allegations that are disputed, that we must examine all of the factors in the dispute. This is what is referred to as due process. If one holds the truth, then due process should be a welcomed path. Sublimating or circumventing due process only serves those who misrepresent the truth.

  • Jennifer

    So, not that anyone asked, but here’s my two cents:

    The whole thing with Bikram reminds me of all the problems I see in any organized religion: abuse of power. The Christian church hierarchy was set up to make people believe that in order to get to God, they had to go through a priest or other “ordained” officiant.

    In order to get the benefits of yoga, Choudhury would have us believe that his way is the only way. “You will not get the benefits unless it is done one hundred percent correct.” (Pardon my French, but that’s a load of bullshit.)

    So, back to the comparison with the Christian church hierarchy: Countless accusations and instances of sexual abuse, rape, etc. When you give someone that kind of power – or, in the case of Choudhury, when you give it to yourself – there’s going to be abuse of that power.

    Bikram and his “yoga empire” are about as un-yogi-like as I can think. Choudhury seems to have forgotten all about the yamas and the niyamas, and the Vedic texts and scriptures that outline how to live a good life beyond asana. Asana is such a small part of yoga, but it’s the part that is most exploited by these self-proclaimed “gurus” who want to cash in.

    I understand that yoga teachers need to make a living, just like anyone else. We like to eat and have a comfortable bed to sleep in, heat in the winter, etc. But why the desire for a multi-million dollar empire?

    Probably the most important thing I’ve learned throughout my own yoga teacher training and my own practice is to trust my instincts – and my instincts tell me that Bikram is not a good human being, and he needs to just go away quietly.

    Bikram must have some extremely well-paid attorneys, because if he were anyone else, I would hope that he would be in jail by now. There should be no shame in coming out and saying that he is a maniac, a sexual predator, and no matter what “good” he may have done by teaching yoga, he is causing much more damage through his sexual misconduct, not to mention his materialistic “yoga empire”.

    • gbernardwandel

      beautifully put jennifer

    • kindalooney

      Sorry, but you (Jennifer) lost me at the first hurdle when you asserted that “The Christian church hierarchy was set up to make people believe that in order to get to God, they had to go through a … “ordained” officiant”. That is both historically and doctrinally untrue. There is no disputing that power accreted around the church (particularly around the turn of the first millennium), but that was primarily an effect of power politics in pre-feudal Europe and not an intended spiritual outcome on the part of the people who set up those institutions in the first place.

  • Practice

    Innocent until proven guilty? For those who wrote that or think that, they haven’t met Bikram. As a former teacher who attended training, I can assure each of you with absolute certainty, the alleged allegations are the absolute truth. It’s true that Bikram, during training, said to a room of 300 something trainees, ‘they beg me to f**k them, they say they are going to kill themselves if I don’t, so I f**k them, I have no choice.” I promise you on my grandmothers grave, he said that and more.
    As for the allegations, those of us who have spent any time with Bikram know that they are true. Those of us who have spent any time with the allegers, also know that they are telling the absolute truth.
    During training, Bikram had his 20 something year old asian girlfriend with him on the days that his wife wasn’t there. Everyone knew it was his girlfriend. What do they say? “Oh, that’s just Bikram being Bikram.” Also, some of the trainees were invited up to Bikrams room to watch movies… only chosen women were invited. MY ROOMMATE DURING TRAINING WAS INVITED!!!! She reported that it was creepy in that, he ‘scouts’ for the most gullible….(with all due respect to the victims).
    Finally, those of you who choose to keep his name are playing into his narcism. I agree with Mary 100% in everything she has written here. The ones who are keeping the name are delusional. There are other styles of practice out there and the biggest one is off the mat. How can those who practice the 26 poses and two breathing really think that it’s so healing, the only way? Bikram is a con-man! GO TO INDIA PEOPLE!!! GO see India. Go to Calcutta! You will see that bikram is a hustler. Bikram would say to us, ‘there is no such thing as down-dog pose’.
    After having been to MYSORE, to Jois’s studio and beyond, I can see clearly that HE IS JEALOUS! He wants people to believe that his way is the only way and that he invented “his yoga”. Think about it, studio owners! Everything you’ve been led to believe is a lie.



  • Lucas miles

    @practice. I actually do know Bikram. I have spent a lot of time over the years dealing with him, so there’s that. But even if I didn’t know him I see no reason to abandon due process.

    A person being vulgar is not a reason to abandon due process.
    A person having extramarital affairs is not a reason to abandon due process.
    A person being Indian or coming fom any other culture is not a reason to abandon due process. Insinuating such nonsense is akin to saying that because there are rapists in Africa, an African man must be convicted of rape without due process because there are have been rapists in his culture before. It would be similar to saying that because there have been white women who have misrepresented the truth in sexual assault cases that the white women in these cases must be presumed to be dishonest. Guilt by association is not a credible argument. Not only that, but in this instance it is racist.
    I contend that a) if the women in the cases are telling the truth that they would ultimately desire due process, and would have confidence in this process such that they would feel no need to circumvent this process. b) that if we put into practice making up our mind before examining all the sides of the story and all of the evidence, and as such base our opinion solely on one person or another’s testimony, then we are doomed to a diminishment of all human rights, including women. c) practicing the very tactics of fascism, hatred, bullying, intimidation and ignorance that Bikram is accused of does not become the supporters of the litigants in any way. Why must you act like and become exactly that which you despise?

    I can say with certainty that I pity anyone who devalues another person in any way, sexually or otherwise. It is this certainty that compels me to pursue the actual truth in any matter, not the assumed truth, the rumored truth, the convenient truth, the publicized truth…


  • Claire

    Shades of the Assange trials…when people said, “Well, he’s done such good work, how can the rape allegations possibly be true?” Someone can produce a fitness regimen that helps an enormous number of people, and still be a rapist. Someone can inspire hundreds of yogis and still be a rapist. Someone can do good, and still be a rapist. Human beings are fallible, make terrible decisions, and be very complex. Bikram Choudhury, like many pedestalized gurus, took advantage of his power to prey on people in his yoga classes. Just because he is a rapist, does not mean his yoga is bad (I personally think it’s bad for other reasons, but I am willing to accept that other people like it). Just because his yoga is good, does not mean he is not a rapist.

  • realregularguy

    To all of my friends,

    My advice to all of those that still own a studio with the name Bikram on it is to let go of the fear and change the name. Now. You will not regret it. Many of us have already done it and your business will not be hurt; in fact you will prosper more.

    Ghosh style yoga, as Benjamin Lorr’s book explains, and Mark Singleton’s book explains, is the actual lineage point. Go to Tony Sanchez, go to Calcutta, learn what you should have been taught from the beginning, if that’s what you need to change. There is so much more to yoga than being hot in a room stuck with 26 postures and a few advanced series added on privately.

    And yes, I do believe the general accusations, and I am proud of the women that stepped forward to reclaim their lives. Just like they were stuck in silence, frozen in the status quo, full of rationalizations, so too are many studio owners and teachers. There’s no need to be a victim here. We trusted, we were wounded, but if you want to heal, it takes honesty, acknowledgement, and courage to move beyond.

    It’s time to grow beyond Bikram, you can do it.

  • Sai

    There are hundreds maybe even thousands of yoga poses. There are infinite ways to sequence these poses. The Bikram series is nice but not special. Its actually amazing that he became such a big name in this business. It will be interesting to study what made this style so popular. The heated room? The bad boy persona of Bikram?
    The world is full of hustlers peddling something or other and India has its fair share. Bikram seems to me one of the most successful hustlers especially becuase what he was peddling was not particularly unique or extraordinary. This guy could be teaching marketing at Harvard.
    No doubt Yoga and meditation are good but why get attached to this one form?

  • realregularguy

    AD: This brings me to my next question, which is the question that inevitably seems to get asked by so many whenever these types of incidents come to light. For instance, I know that a similar question came up with Woody Allen and abuse allegations that recently resurfaced and were all over the news. It seems many wrestled with this question of whether it is possible to separate the films from the filmmakers. So, what do you think? In this instance, as is so often asked, is it really possible to “separate” Bikram the person from the yoga? I don’t know that anyone should really want to, as it could end up doing a real disservice to many people.

    BL: The problem with that phrase is that it’s too often used by apologists for the person. It’s obvious that we can separate a physical posture from a person. On some level that separation is so obvious it doesn’t even bear repeating, and you don’t need to throw the baby out with the bathwater. On the other hand, I think that the phrase ‘separate the man from his yoga’ or ‘separate the man from his art’ is often used by someone who is an apologist. What they’re really saying is that they can have their cake and eat it too, or that they can keep this person around despite their unsavory qualities, that they can keep this person around because of all the good they’ve done. That, of course, is a very dangerous attitude. It is actually complicit in the abuse when you have a community of people who adopt that mindset. It encourages silence. It encourages people not to speak up. If someone comes to you and tells you ‘He raped me,’ and your response is that it might have happened but they have to separate what the man did from the yoga they’re practicing, that they have to deal with these external factors —- and you mean they need to deal with it internally — that is reckless and irresponsible. That is a destructive thing to tell someone because there is no reason why they have to internally deal with it and it prevents the predator from being stopped. So, that phrase is a little problematic, especially within the community. I will continue to do yoga, even though Bikram taught me how to do yoga indirectly. I don’t think yoga is the source of his problems. I don’t think that yoga is what made him do it, and I don’t think the people who are doing yoga will suddenly turn into abusers.

    • Woody Allen stated that he took a lie detector test etc. to prove his innocence. I think Bikram should do the same.

  • Nathan W

    Bikram called himself the most spiritual person in the world in a Nightline interview. Even without the rape charges, he is an egomaniac and a rich, elitist snob. Yogis should not act that way. I met him 15 years ago, and he was an arrogant jerk then too.

  • realregularguy

    An Important Message From Angela And Michael
    March 13, 2014 by Maine Bikram Yoga

    Dear Students,
    Change is upon us. Author Anais Nin said, “Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it.” We had elected to remain affiliated with Bikram Choudhury in the midst of several years of unfair business practices, law suites and fear tactics designed to force our independently owned and personally loved small business into becoming a faceless façade of a global franchise. We successfully resisted these offensives and distanced ourselves from the Teacher Training Center and the activities of Bikram Inc. We did continue to promote Bikram Yoga because the style of yoga is well known and the benefits are well documented. However, the actions of Bikram Choudhury have become excessively intolerable. We will no longer associate our studio with a corrupted corporation and its questionable CEO.
    Though we are separating ourselves from the name and brand “Bikram,” our beloved yoga practice remains untarnished. It stems from a much larger ocean of knowledge, wisdom, and practice. The Ghosh lineage of Hatha yoga is an offshoot of Paramahansa Yogananda’s universal yoga teachings. Bisnu Ghosh is Paramahansa’s younger brother. He focused the physical culturing path of Hatha yoga into a safe, reliable, and effective discipline. We are the direct beneficiary of this transmission of wisdom, and we will continue to share it with you. We are thrilled to now have the freedom to teach from the entire 84 Asana series…

    • Wondering

      That’s great, but why such drastic circumstances were needed to allow one the freedom to practice more than 26 asanas? Now 84…go for it all the way n practice whatever asana you want whenever you want in any order you want. I’ll never understand humans adherence to these self promoted “gurus”.

  • inanna

    We did continue to promote Bikram Yoga because the style of yoga is well known and the benefits are well documented

    …you mean ‘cos money talks. great that you’re disentangling yourselves now, but to my mind, you were part of the problem. you doubted the ethics of bikram yoga, but it suited you to use the name. what capitalist bullshit.

  • TS

    The only thing that bugs me about this article is that the only divide being demonstrated by these four interviews is one regarding whether to keep the Bikram name on the door. The title of the article, however, suggests that there may be a divide regarding the rape charges in and of themselves. Perhaps that is true, however, the quotes in this article do not add up to that.

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