Bikram Choudhury’s wife took the witness stand and her testimony may surprise you. Or maybe not. Rajashree Choudhury, who, you may remember, just filed for divorce from her husband and business partner of 31 years, defended the notoriously outspoken and unapologetic Bikram Yoga founder Wednesday telling the court that his habit of berating students, trainees, and employees is all part of a performance that everyone has come to understand is the Bikram Choudhury show.
Essentially, he’s a clown and all his derogatory comments and calling women “bitches” are simply part of his act, she says.
“He’s a comedian, he says many things,” Rajashree Choudhury told a Los Angeles Superior Court jury Wednesday while on the stand for one of several lawsuits her husband is currently facing. (That’s six.)
This particular suit involves Minakshi Jafa-Bodden, former Head of Legal and International Affairs for Choudhury between 2011 and 2013 who claims she was “abruptly and unlawfully terminated,” and that she had faced years of sexual harassment and “severe, ongoing, pervasive and offensive conduct” by Mr. Choudhury during her employment.
Jafa-Bodden, a native Indian, obtained her law degree in the UK and practices international law. The defense maintains that Jafa-Bodden was fired because she didn’t tell them she was not licensed to practice law in California.
Several of the disturbing claims from the suit filed in July 2013 by Jafa-Bodden against Choudhury and his Yoga College of India include:
– Bikram Choudhury repeatedly referring to women, including female employees and others as “bitches,” “fucking bitches,” “fat bitches” and “stupid bitches;”
– Bikram Choudhury repeatedly made offensive and vulgar sexual gestures including placing his fingers in a circle and inserting the fingers of his other hand into them, simulating intercourse; licking his fingers, sticking his fingers in the air and licking them, simulating oral sex;
– Bikram Choudhury repeatedly made disparaging remarks about single mothers, including myself, and stated to a co-worker “make sure we don’t hire single women with kids in the future;”
– Bikram Choudhury created a hyper-sexualized, offensive and degrading environment for women by, among other things, demanding that female staffers brush his hair and give him massages. Plaintiff was often required to conduct business meetings with Bikram Choudhury while he was receiving such massages. Plaintiff was on a number of occasions required to meet Bikram Choudhury in his hotel room typically at night. During one such meeting, Bikram Choudhury climbed into bed, and patted the bedspread next to him (indicating to Plaintiff to come and sit/lie down next to him in the bed). Plaintiff moved away from Choudhury and the bed and went and sat at a desk to conduct a telephone conference.
According to Bikram’s wife Rajashree, what her husband does and says is just his way, and people love him for it. “Everybody knows how he speaks…people clap when he speaks like that,” she said on Wednesday.
Plus, he’s the boss.
“Your husband does what he wants to do, right?,” Jafa-Bodden’s attorney Mark Quigley asked Rajashree Choudhury.
“Definitely he’s the boss in his business, he makes the rules, yes,” replied Rajashree (who, it’s worth noting, is vice president of Bikram’s Yoga College of India, but you wouldn’t know it by her website or facebook page).
Also called to the stand Wednesday was Sharon Clerkin, a former Bikram employee who filed her own lawsuit against Choudhury and Bikram Yoga this past November claiming “wrongful termination” – that she was fired because she was pregnant and because she had complained about the way the teacher training recruitment was being handled.
Clerkin testified that, “It’s his [Bikram’s] vocabulary,” to call American women “white trash” and bitches. She also stated that Choudhury once told a large group of people that he “should rape more girls, it’s good business.”
Clerkin, a former teacher training recruiter, said that Rajashree Choudhury had wanted to ban trainees under 18 years old because of frequent complaints made by young women regarding the alleged treatment they received from Bikram.
Clerkin also said that Rajashree wanted her name scrubbed “off everything” because she didn’t want to be included or held liable for the slew of lawsuits filed against her husband and their Yoga College of India, of which, again, she is vice president.
Suddenly, divorce seems to make a lot more sense. It will all come out in the wash.
Further reading: How Bikram Choudhury’s divorce is tearing the yoga world apart
A cynic (or realist?) would say that it is in Mrs. Choudhury’s interest to defend Bikram in the rape cases. Guilty verdicts would greatly diminish the monetary value available for alimony settlement in the divorce.
How is it that workplace laws don’t apply to Bikram because he is “the Boss”? I have to endure 2 hour harassment training every two years in my line of work, that outlines harassment of every form. Is Bikram yoga exempt from this?
This wife’s statements don’t make sense. I guess I should give them all points for consistency as none of this makes sense to me.
Every yoga cult is a spiritual power pyramid and harem. Under the guru — often literally — is his support team of colonels, captains, and senior lieutenants — the vast majority of them, female — who perform the day-to-day management, clean up the messes and generally serve as gatekeepers, guardians, and apologists. The pyramid would collapse without them — there needs to be a buffer between God and his flock — the “priestesses” — who ensure that these easily converted but still wavering young initiates keep their faith in Daddy. It works really well when everyone is a true believer anyway. But what a toxic, super-competitive environment it engenders.
This is the yoga that no one wants to see “regulated” — by anyone. Not just the government but by the yoga community itself. These oh-so sacred “lineages” that we can’t possibly tamper with for fear of losing our very yogic souls!! Truth is, without these group pathologies, and the zoological antics they give rise to, what would we blog and kvetch about? Imagine a yoga without emotional trauma and drama. Bo-reen!!! I suspect very few yoginis could withstand that bliss for long.
By the way, whatever happened to the “Rajashrees” of Anusara Yoga? Like Bikram’s wife, this harem of spiritual “climbers” knew about Jumpin’ Johnnie’s various proclivities for a long time. But they said zip-zero-zilch until a male whistle-blower decided to out Friend — and then suddenly they all realized they better resign “in principle” to cover their tracks. I hate to sound impolite, but has anyone ever asked Christina Sell, Elena Brower, Amy Ippolitti and the rest of John Friend’s far-flung girl-gang just how far their personal ties to the man actually went — and what they were expecting to get out of it? If only John-John had agreed to Ippolitti’s plan for an Anusua 2.0 and had forged a righteous alliance with her, rather than insisting on all the gold? I suspect the two of them would be doing a Rodney-Colleen shit-show all over America by now.
“It will all come out in the wash”? Please, you’re joking. When Bik and Raj get done signing their confidentiality agreement, the “truth” will disappear faster than a shoulder loop.
Both Christina Sell and Elena Brower had no connection to John Friend at the time of the scandal as they had previously resigned. You are portraying it as if they resigned after the scandal emerged and this is just not the case. Actually, those two displayed integrity; something I question about you.
Please, Elena,Amy et al were fully aware of the circumstances when they resigned. It’s not like they resigned and that triggered him into becoming a sexually abusive megalomaniac.
I’m not kidding myself and you shouldn’t be trying to mislead others. I strongly doubt that Mr. Friend shared any sordid details of his exploits with those teachers mentioned. You have been proven factually wrong in your prior assertion and your credibility is suspect. Stop using the Bikram case to further your personal vendetta.
I am not “Don’t kid yourself.” There are plenty of people out there like him/her who know these details. Please stop serving as an apologist for your little John-friends. By the way, where were you in the Anus-Sewer pyramid?
You’d like to think that yoga cults really aren’t the Church of Scientology — but in fact they are. They live in such shame and fear and paranoia that they even ruthlessly track and slander their critics. Trust me, I know.
Look, it’s no vendetta dumb-dumb. It’s a question of accountability, and preserving historical memory, and not turning American yoga into a gigantic incestuous family that lives in state of permanent denial.
These systems really cannot survive without massive female enabling support, often for the most craven of motives. We really have to dispense with this myth of the “evil male guru” and all the “innocents” he savaged. Power of this kind of this kind does not work this way, and everybody involved knows it.
It’s a bit like the myth of the lone gunman, when we know only too well that an entire cabal directed the action.
ofgten from the very same people that are later “rehabilitated.”
like when Argentina has to come clean aboiut who actually did thje
Sorry for the debris at the end of the last posting.
I think what’s sad is how many secrets are still being kept in all of these faux-lineages — until there’s a crisis of some kind. And it’s the women — like dysfunctional mothers everywhere — that are the real keepers of the flame.
The Anusara people should be closely watched for the rest of their lives — anyone who trained under John Friend at Willow Street Yoga in Takoma Park MD or at their former companion center in Texas.
Why? Because of the power techniques they have used to prey on people’s spirits and souls. Friend’s people were trained in the use of the “Siddis” — the advanced telepathic techniques one can employ — when one is a narcissist vampire with an agenda, that is — to induce a “power exchange” between the students and their teachers, which literally harvests and harnesses people’s vital energies in service to the cult and its leadership.
By the time Anusara fell apart, just about everyone was involved in this cult-building mind- and-spirit control techniques. The fact that Anusara experienced cult “mitosis” — with some leaving, publicly, with much fanfare, and some quietly staying but remaining inter-linked anyway — hasn’t changed what transpired here in terms of training.
Now, to be honest, I really don’t see any good reason for these same people to be running around teaching yoga to more unsuspecting people in entirely new power environments unless they’ve been “rehabilitated” in some way. You know, like former Nazi sympathizers?
Now that’s never going to happen in American yoga, because after all, we should detach with love and let our abusers stay but it would be nice to see a published list of all the Anusara teachers who supposedly “resigned” but retained the Anusara methodology – as well as the remnants of Anusara that decided to keep this nominal lineage?
On a website somewhere.
That way, when you’re new, and you’re taking a class with some teacher you think you know from the profile she wrote, or the rubber stamp the Yoga Alliance gave her, you can see if he or she is on the list, and maybe make some inquiries.
For some, with friendly asses to protect, this might seem like a “vendetta.” For others it might be called, oh I don’t know, “consumer protection”?
— All my love, Buffy
which they contiunue to insist was the greatest thing sincew God.
Let’s not confuse the issue. I am not defending the legacy of Anusara. I just don’t like how you singled out 2 teachers by name that clearly resigned before the debacle. You are asserting motives on them that fit your agenda, but are highly speculative and have no basis in provable fact.
You also claim that people were trained in “advanced telepathic techniques” that are capable of harvesting and harnessing “people’s vital energies”. I believe there were cult-like elements in Anusara, but this was due to herd mentality and not tin foil telepathy.
An LA just Jury found that he sexually harassed his attorney. The lawsuits of the students who attended his teacher training are next. Hopefully he will be ordered to pay if when they find he did it. I am skeptical that his divorce is a way to save assets.