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Petition Calls for Bikram Choudhury to Resign and Be Removed from Yoga Brand in Light of Rape Charges

in Business of Yoga, YD News


A Change.org petition is calling for Bikram Choudhury to resign as CEO of Bikram Yoga, Inc. and requests that his name, image and person be removed from the brand. The petition, addressed to the Bikram Yoga Headquarters and created by former Bikram teacher Chantelle Edwards, goes on to say that the presence of Bikram Choudhury has made the teaching and hot yoga community unsafe.

“He has lost our trust as a leader, and accordingly can no longer function as an effective teacher, trainer of teachers, or figurehead for this community,” the petition reads.

The full text is below. At time of publish there were 158 supporters with a goal of 200, which we expect will be increased.

Bikram Yoga Headquarters
The Request for Bikram to Step Down in Respect of Ethics and Yoga

In light of the mounting allegations of sexual and ethical misconduct, we are demanding that Bikram Choudhury resign as CEO of Bikram Yoga Inc., and request that his name, image, and person be removed from the brand. We strongly believe in the yoga we teach; it is a unique and important part of the yoga tradition that has enriched countless lives. However Bikram Choundhury’s presence is incompatible with maintaining the open, safe, and financially stable community that we as teachers, studio owners and students require.  He has lost our trust as a leader, and accordingly can no longer function as an effective teacher, trainer of teachers, or figurehead for this community. This is not a decision that comes easily, however it is one we feel is necessary for us to move forward.

See the full petition here.

RelatedOpen Thread: How Are Bikram Choudhury’s Rape Charges Affecting Bikram Yoga? Teachers, Students, Studio Owners – Let’s Talk



14 comments… add one
  • I read with interest the recent reports of allegations of sexual assault against Bikram Choudhuri and the regulations for yoga teacher training now being considered by the Colorado legislature. For details, please see http://goo.gl/Mnsx1N and http://goo.gl/ELDJD2.

    I’ve practiced yoga for about thirty years. I’ve never had any teacher training, I don’t go to many formal formal classes, but I do practice daily. In 2007, my wife and I visited our son in Boulder, Colorado. One afternoon, he took my wife shopping and his girlfriend at the time took me to a Bikram yoga class. For those who’ve attended these classes, the ninety minute sessions are conducted at 110F and about 80% humidity. After seventy minutes, I was done. I went and lay down in the back of the room. The teacher insisted that I either continue the practice as she was leading it or leave the room. Some have been known to call such dogmatic and authoritarian teachers “yoga nazis.” In spite of the tempting opportunity to challenge authority, I did not want to embarrass my son’s girlfriend and I left the room.

    In my view, the attempt to regulate all yoga teacher training programs by Colorado’s Division of Private Occupational Schools is wrongheaded. Instead, why not just regulate Bikram hot yoga?

    I could think of other styles of yoga, possibly Anusara, where the guru, John Friend, was, by all accounts, involved in inappropriate sexual relations. He was the leader of an all-female Wiccan coven—what could go wrong there? Friend was also accused of financial misconduct and smoking marijuana. Friend resigned, in contrast to Bikram who appears to be toughing it out. The other difference is that no one cried rape or sexual assault about John Friend. Years ago when I learned that Bikram sued his former students, I formed the opinion that he was a horrible man. Nothing since has changed that opinion. Yes, he should resign.

    The teacher who has influenced my yoga practice the most is Paul Grilley who teaches a style called yin yoga (http://www.paulgrilley.com). His website points out that yin yoga is not a trademarked system and no certification is required to teach it.

    Perhaps being a guru in America provides a inappropriate sense of entitlement. I suppose one could say the same for congressmen, senators, celebrities and, really, anyone else in a position of power and influence. We all know this story. Perhaps, choosing not to be a guru is a sign of wisdom. Who do you want your yoga teacher to be?

    Wix Simon
    -Author of A LOST GUN
    -Reviewer at Large

  • I believe in presumption of innocence, and he has yet to be proven guilty. But I’ll sign this in a heartbeat if he is indeed guilty (as I feel he might).
    Anyway, it’s awkward enough to see the words “brand” and “yoga” in the same sentence… and perhaps, instead of a Rollex collection he’ll switch to a brand new collection of manacles ?

    • IMHO

      Julien, Bikram is being sued for money damages in civil court. He is not being criminally prosecuted. In civil court, there is no presumption of innocence, and there is no guilt. Rather, the plaintiff in a civil trial has to prove by a “preponderance of the evidence” that the defendant is liable. In other words, the plaintiff must present just enough evidence to make it more likely than not (i.e., one iota more than 50%) that the plaintiff’s allegations are true. Bikram will undoubtedly lose at least one of the six civil cases currently pending against him, so he will try to settle them out of court by a payment of money in exchange for secrecy. I am thinking that a plaintiff or two will not agree to secrecy as a basis for settlement. It is also likely that any insurance he has will not pay his damages, because insurance policies don’t cover intentional acts such as sexual assault. So, Bikram will have to pay out of his own pocket, which could leave him penniless.

      • Thanks for the insight ! And… I might like your conclusion 😉

      • Henry Wallace

        “Bikram will undoubtedly lose at least one of the six civil cases currently pending against him, so he will try to settle them out of court by a payment of money in exchange for secrecy.”

        I think it’s really hard to say. There is no presumption of innocence but it is very hard to win these cases, in fact — sure you might force a settlement, but the women – through their lawyers — pretend to have more than money in mind?

        “Preponderance of evidence” — yes, which means there has to be quality evidence. Records of treatment for rape trauma, witnesses who either saw the events or were told about them by the defendants, admissions by the defendant to some part of the plaintiff claim — as opposed to flat dismissal and disavowal.

        The plaintiffs have to prove they were where they said they were when the events happened — not always easy, actually.

        It may just come down to “he said/she said.” Personally, I was shocked when I heard the 60 Minutes segment because I the women did not sound like rape survivors I have ever known.

        It wasn’t that I doubted they had some contact with Choudhury; it’s just that I found them to be not compelling witnesses at all.

        I think the other thing to consider is the dramatic change that in thinking that is “out there” in the public sphere after a series of high profile cases in which women flat out lied about being raped — most recently and notably in the fraudulent UVA case which may well drive Rolling Stone out of business.

        I have said before that Benjamin Lorr’s book has Baughan speaking very highly of her experience with Choudhury — and her account of how she felt about losing the championships is completely at odds with what she now claims — that he was punishing her over sex.

        This is tough-going by its nature, and will be very much so here. The burden of “proving” the case is still entirely on the shoulders of the plaintiffs.

        • IMHO

          I’ll gladly wager that six consecutive flips of a coin will result at least once in “tails up”.

          • henry Jackson

            Suit yourself, but these are not random odds. And you’e gambling with other people’s money — and the tolerance of juries for hearsay. Keep in mind also that the plaintiffs do not have the advantage of a police investigative apparatus. They have to make the “elements” completely on their own — without the advantage of a prior criminal case (the advantage of say, the OJ case).

            If I were invested in the yoga industry’s future, I would be very concerned about three things:

            (1) The overall impression about yoga that is likely to emerge from this case. When people see the kind of obsessed whack jobs so desperately drawn into this industry, it will confirm many people’s worst fears about what yoga has to offer.

            (2)a It may further distract the yoga industry from the need for institutional reforms that go far beyond one individual and his empire, which remains extremely popular. (On the other hand, it could do just the opposite — and strengthen the hands of people who want to see the industry, especially teacher training, formally licensed and regulated).

            (3) And then, there are the consequences of losing — and the threat of defamation of counter-suits from Bikram.

            All in all, I would take my money and run — if I could, and do the inner work to understand what actually happened here.

  • IMHO

    (1): Agreed. A simple Google search of the term “yoga” now yields articles about the allegations against Bikram on the very first results page. Thanks, bozo!
    (2): Agreed with the parenthetical. The industry sorely needs strict oversight of YTT programs, preferably through self-regulation. The Yoga Alliance does no follow-up after rubber-stamping YTT program applications and cashing the accompanying check.
    (3): If the bozo hasn’t counterclaimed for defamation by now, it won’t happen. He realizes that it’s not worth $600+ per hour in legal fees to pursue empty pockets, despite the principle.

  • Hmmmmmm

    A sex scandal with numerous women at 69 … Wow … how few 69-year-old men can claim that??? Please, please, please gentlemen – keep doing your yoga!!! And every woman I know, who doesn’t have a bias, easily sees this situation for what it is. As my hysterically funny gay friend sizzlingly pointed out –

    It’s so difficult to RAPE the willing!!!

    As Amy Lawler, victim # whatever, (allegedly) claimed, ‘he raped me at the 2010 teacher training in San Diego and it continued for three years’. Her ‘raping’ lasted longer than most of my American girlfriend’s relationships!

    And Sarah Baughn is now softening her alleged story of, ‘my daughter looked up at me and said I want to be a yoga instructor just like you mommy, and I told her Nooooo! You’ll get raped!!’ Notice she’s no longer using the ‘R’ word in her latest CNN appearance.

    Did he abuse his power? Probably.

    Did he RAPE these girls? I doubt it.

    Is he being criminally charged for rape? No.

    As an Asian attorney, who enjoys her anonymity, especially in blog sites, I see both women and men abuse their powers every day. It’s ironic Jill Lawler brought up San Diego, California, where over 20 years ago the judges had to tighten things up, because they had a run on ‘rape’ cases towards prominent male restaurant owners, by female hostesses, bartenders and waitresses. The bottom line was, it simply became too easy to sue your boss after an affair went badly. Judges got smarter, stopped handing out big judgements, and whallah, ‘legitimate’ cases of rape quickly evaporated.

    But ladies we have to be honest with ourselves. While it’s luridly amusing to watch powerful yoga covens scratch and claw Bikram’s megaton balls for everything they can get. Will you like the world you’re creating by having your strongest male yogi’s, neutered, muzzled, and broken, simply because they had sex with, or jilted by, their starry eyed students? Or worse, are we going to keep shaping our men into politically correct, uninspiring, metrosexual worms, by chopping off everything ‘we’ consider protruding and masculine? And end up with worms like Benjamin Lorr – whose contribution to the world is being a ‘hell bent’ parasite feeding on the sweat from Bikram’s balls? Whose, literary masturbations while watching Sarah Baughn are no less creepy than Bikram’s real life! And look how quickly these guys are ready to join in the crucifixion – totally blind to the fact that they could be next.

    John Friend was just an appetizer. Bikram’s a main course. It was sad to see those closest to a rare American star like John Friend, betray him and flee like a bunch of fair weathered hypocrites, simply because he had an interesting night life, that was both, legal and consensual.

    I personally enjoyed the vitality of Bikram’s outrageousness, for the sole reason that it ruffled so many caddy, pretentious, vapid ‘yogic’ feathers. And on that note, I now realize I am grateful for what both Bikram and John Friend gave to the world, and have yet to see any yoginis, come even close to their achievements, with sex scandals, power abuses, et al.

    I’m not afraid to stand alone, especially when I constantly hear my American friends complain – why are there so few good strong men in the world? In too many cases, I believe, like this one, it’s because you’re in the habit of betraying them.

    Bikram is right, there’s a big difference between East and West. Rarely do you see students betray teachers for profit in the East, even if the teacher is wrong. Then you sever all connection and end up with chaos. And what does chaos look like? It looks like profiteers and parasites feeding on other people’s work and claiming themselves to be redeemers. It looks like smear terms like ‘rape’, in civil cases, simply to get the word in the public mind. It looks like attempting to transform the criminal definition of the word ‘stalking’ to mean, ‘he looked at me more than once’. Hmmmmm, this is all sounding so familiar.


  • Just wanted to mention keep up the good work!

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