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UPDATE: Bikram Choudhury Ordered To Pay $6.47M In Punitive Damages In Sexual Harassment Case

in Featured, Lawsuit-asana, YD News

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UPDATE: On Monday Bikram Choudhury was ordered to pay $924,500 in compensatory damages for sexually harassing and retaliating by firing his former legal advisor, Minakshi Jafa-Bodden. Tuesday, the jury ordered an additional $6.47 million be paid in punitive damages.

“I want to thank my trial team for standing by me during this fight against a very rich, powerful and dangerous man,” Jafa-Bodden said. “I wanted to make sure he didn’t get away with what he did to me and my daughter and hundreds of yoga students who trusted him with their time, money and bodies.”

However, seeing any of that awarded money may be harder than they thought. Bikram claims he’s bankrupt.

Via NY Daily News:

He told jurors he had no income at all last year and his collection of more than 30 luxury cars has been promised to California Gov. Jerry Brown for a children’s school dedicated to automotive engineering.

“I am one of the most expert man in the world, recognized by the whole world to build cars,” Choudhury said of his school claim.

He testified that his Beverly Hills mansion is mortgaged, his Hawaii property is just “an apartment” and his once-profitable business training teachers in his eponymous yoga program hasn’t turned a profit in years.

“We are in red. I had to borrow the money to pay bills and salaries,” he said on the witness stand.

Jafa-Bodden’s lawyers call his bankruptcy claims a “sham” and are set on collecting all the money, all $7.4 million of it.

“We’ll do it. It will take some time and perseverance, but we’ll get it done,” lawyer Carla Minnard said.

“We are asking you to take some action to stop this guy,” lawyer Mark Quigley told the jury Tuesday. “He’s out of control — completely out of control. He simply thinks that he is God and he can do whatever he wants to do,” Quigley said.

Taking the stand earlier this month was former White House lawyer Petra Clarke who’s filed her own unlawful termination suit against Choudhury. Starke told jurors that Choudhury led a “crazy” work environment with a “sexually charged atmosphere.”

Starke testified that she instituted strict sexual harassment policies and training when she took over as CEO and was shocked when she later witnessed Choudhury receiving oral sex from a teaching student in a limo, Quigley said.

“He went to (the training). He knows what’s right and wrong, and then he’s getting sex in the back of a limo five feet away from the CEO who put the policy in place,” Quigley said.

As we mentioned previously, this is only the beginning of courtroom time for Bikram Choudhury. With six lawsuits stacked against him (with however many more to come, because honestly there doesn’t seem to be an end to them) things are just heating up for the man of hot yoga. Next trial begins in April.

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Bikram Choudhury Ordered To Pay Over $924K In Sexual Harassment Case

25 comments… add one

  • Dwayne

    Gee, what a surprise…in every respect…ha ha
    BTW, there appears to be a typo toward the end above – “Petra Clarke” and “Starke” seem to refer to the same person.

  • What are all those people in that picture, standing behind Bikram in that packed class, going through? I’d love to hear from an expert about the possible impact of this verdict on the yoga community.

    I hope it sends a strong message that will help prevent sexual harassment.

    Yet it can’t help think of the fallout and all those people walking away from yoga shaking their heads wondering what the hell they got involved in.

    How can other yogis best help in their recovery without shaming them or saying the wrong things while they process?

  • I can’t help but wonder who and why there are ANY students left in his classes! The facts were indisputable and the women totally believable. What happened to standing up for women? I think some kind of mind-control group- think has taken place rendering people stupid.

  • jesus

    ..cant believe studio owners would stick with him. Anyone hear anything on that front, of bikram studio owners detaching from franchise status?

  • Comando hans

    Im an ex bikram teacher and know that many studio owners in New York abd elsewhere have distanced themselves and are removing the Bikram name from their studios. I was never harrassed personally, but remember him as a pompous and self centered ego maniac! Good to know that the women are speaking up!

  • inanna

    if you do a bit of research into fallen gurus and the messes they leave behind, and listen to their students, it’s not difficult to figure out how to help. empathy. no self righteous “well, my yoga was always more authentic than yours anyway”. definitely no recourse to the “we’re all one” rhetoric, and definitely, DEFINITELY no mention of the wrong-headed, not-backed-up-literally-frickin’-anywhere-in-the-sutras notion that we shouldn’t employ critical thinking because that is “unyogic”.

    there is plenty on this very site about the anusara implosion, the pressures from within the group and the difficulties people faced when speaking out. (i discovered yogadork while following that scene.) there are plenty of cautionary examples of how not to approach survivors if you want to help. there’s been plenty written about the satyananda abuses, too.

    finally, i think this kind of all-too-common situation is a good time for those of us not directly affected to dig deep into our own conditioning as regards power and authority. we’ll never know what we would have done if we had been a victim of choudhury (/friend/satyananda etc etc), but we can look at how we play out the guru/cult/devotee roles in our own lives, and resolve to rip up the roots of these appallingly destructive behaviours in our lives – the personal, the professional, and most especially our yoga lives.

  • Dwayne

    “What are all those people in that picture, standing behind Bikram in that packed class, going through?”
    Gotta be one of Bikram’s teacher training programs. I read something about that program in Benjamin Lorr’s book “Hell-Bent”, though Bikramites (if there are any left :) ) might furnish a rather different description.

  • I full expect Bikram to be back again connected to yoga. If you use John Friend as an example of the current culture’s (notice I didn’t say yoga culture’s) long term memory for wrong doers, he can simply reinvent himself. His ego will keep him afloat. I hope our yoga community doesn’t.

  • Sai

    Maybe once he loses everything, he will truly find Yoga.

  • Dwayne

    Agreed with Genevieve above. Guys like that almost never lose everything. I fully expect that Bikram has managed to shelter plenty of financial assets from adverse legal rulings. And (inexplicably to me, but that’s the way the yoga world seems to roll) I also figure he still has plenty of die-hard supporters.

  • Another sociopath. Glad he was busted.

  • gary0

    there was a thing i was involved with back in the late ’70s/earyly ’80s led by bhagwan shree rajneesh. i was there in oregon during the turmoil. this all comes as no great surprise to me in that absolute power corrupts absolutely. i know of no evidence that bhagwan was ensnaring young girls then but it’s certainly not impossible that in the skull and bones insiders lair some kind of sordid debauchery took place. his megalomania, however, took forms greater than mere lust. the fact that Bikram seems to have done so is inexcusable and deserves righteous prosecution.

    Rajneesh had to be rebranded as ‘Osho’ so the useful, practical and functional part of his philosophy could live as useful teaching on its own. i suspect the same will happen with this useless waste of skin.

  • Jim Anderson

    Yes, it is in the process of rebranding to his Guru, who is dead, so we don’t have to bother about this sort of thing. Besides, Bikram just taught a small part of what Ghosh did, so Ghosh Yoga has a much more rounded practice that includes meditation & barbell exercises. More of a cross-training practice.

  • Great!! He has been paid for its work. Karma will never forgive anyone. Every girl should speak if anything wrong happens to her. Taking stand for ourselves just means that we are opposing or against anyone, it simply means we can choose what is right or wrong for ourselves.

  • Eileen

    Bikram yoga itself is a great practice. Why would we turn our back on the practice. Most studios are independent and do not give him any money any more. It’s like refusing to take penecilan because the dr was a creep. ( ps, yes I know antibiotics are bad, lol ) saying that, in its day, it saved many a life. The practice itself is very healing and strength building. If you have never done at least 4 classes should not comment.

  • amy

    I have practiced Iyengar for 20 years and have taken one bikram class. I didn’t care for being given the heat at the door. I prefer to earn the heat and feel it build up. With bikram, or any hot style yoga, you must practice in a studio that has this high heat – what, up to 105? Not many will heat their homes to that degree. This way you continue to pay the studio to practice. Iyengar’s primary goal is for you to practice on your own. Wherever you are. I love that Iyengar yoga is it is for EVERYBODY (not just pretty, young, people in pricey clothing). I was in a class with a student who was paralyzed from the waist down. Another who came to class with a full leg cast. I’ve attended classes with people in their 90′s! Many attending classes are over 50. I am very grateful to have had one teacher (with 40 years of teaching experience!) that is committed to the practice and to his students. Super lucky!!!

  • bill

    Thank you Eileen. The yoga works and the dialogue works. If someone doesn’t like the heat, they shouldn’t go. There are many other styles and sequences from which to choose.

  • IMHO

    Eileen, your statement that most Bikram studios do not give money to him is false. You are referring to franchise fees, which very few Bikram studios pay. Instead, every single Bikram-monikered yoga studio indirectly gives money to Bikram via his teacher training program, which currently costs $12,500.00+ per new teacher: http://www.bikramyoga.com/teacher-training-fees/. And, yes, Bikram personally pockets much of this money. He also charges $500+ for teacher recertification, which each Bikram teacher must complete every three years: http://www.bikramyoga.com/recertification/. Training has always been, and continues to be, the method by which Bikram receives most of his revenue. Nobody may lawfully teach Bikram yoga, unless they have paid for and completed his training. By patronizing Bikram studios, attendees are indeed financially supporting this gruesome man. It’s time for all Bikram studios to dump the name, because they are lawfully permitted to teach his “yoga style” in the absence of his name; i.e., he was denied copyright protection.

  • Mel

    Yes he needs to be stopped. Women who have been threatened, harassed and raped by him stand your ground in highest power, please and do not waver. This has been a long time coming and I am feeling relieved that he is being discovered for the untruthful, violent man he is. The Most disgusting aspects of man are manifest through him. And how dare he use the guise of blessed yoga to harm so many. Monetary payments are not enough. He must be ended in all degrees. We shall all learn more about ourselves in this. May the grace, strength and love of All be with All those involved for the highest point of healing.
    Mel

  • Rose

    I know of many Bikram studios that have kept most of the sequencing yet changed their name to “Hot … ‘” just to not be associated with this pathetic individual. I am so happy to see that these women have come forward and that the system is not failing them. Karma!

  • I don’t understand when people will stop fraud on the name of Fitness Activities and products

  • @iiii — “Emphasis” experienced transpired in direction of me; I consideration and turned down it as diminishing, although “sufferer” appeared in direction of be added accepting of their inner reputation.

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  • J.

    It’s such a shame – I really enjoy the sequence and simply search for a non Bikram branded studio that teaches 26+2 in whatever town I’m in.
    The thing that really really saddens me is the people who don’t take his name off their studio (which I understand – brand recognition etc) BUT refuse to defend him aggressively! I mean you can’t have it both ways. It’s really such hypocrisy and goes against everything I personally aspire to be as a yogi.
    For me it’s like having a Hitler Hairsalon and saying you gotta seperate the mans hair from his other actions (extreme example I know but you get my point)

  • anonomyssy

    Be careful who you put on a pedestal.

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