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Ex-Attorney Wins Bikram Choudhury’s Entire Yoga Empire, Including His Luxury Car Collection

in Featured, YD News

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January 4, 2017

The woman who won her sexual harassment case against Bikram Choudhury last year is getting her due, big time.

This may be the most empire-crushing news to date—as if the multiple sexual harassment and rape allegations coupled with his infamous reputation of being an impossibly narcissistic asanahole weren’t enough to tear up the sweaty carpets of Bikram Choudhury’s multimillion dollar franchise. Though as we’ve learned, even from the most recently presidential of cases, people don’t really care about those things enough to make them deal breakers. There are still followers and supporters and those willing to spend hard-earned thousands on teacher trainings. Alas, it appears we are now witnessing the unraveling of an empire that not too long ago seemed unshakable. (Even though it’s hardly being reported on…yes, we find that weird, too. In fact, we weren’t sure we believed it until we saw the report on legal news service Law360.com. Update: the story has been picked up by the Associated Press.)

In brief, Bikram Yoga as we know it is doomed. You might include the man in that scenario, too.

Yet another twist, if you will, in the sexual harassment and assault saga involving Bikram Choudhury: mid-December, while we were all busy holiday shopping, a Los Angeles judge ruled that virtually the entire Bikram empire be handed over to Minakshi Jafa-Bodden to satisfy her multimillion dollar lawsuit she won against Choudhury in early 2016.

Jafa-Bodden, the former head of legal and international affairs for Bikram Yoga, filed a lawsuit in 2013 accusing Choudhury of sexual harassment and wrongful termination, also claiming to have witnessed Choudhury’s disgusting behavior with other women close to him, including teacher trainees, echoing several other lawsuits presently filed against him (there are six total, as of now).

Jafa-Bodden recently told The Daily Mail.

‘He can be very charming when you first meet him, but that didn’t last long.

‘There were allegations of rape and assault. Perhaps the first complaint was a surprise but then I began to see a pattern. He told me to ‘fix’ these women, but when I refused to cover up his alleged crimes, he became abusive, calling me a ‘f***ing bitch’.

‘He would sit on a throne at the front of this vast room filled with trainees. During lectures the throne would be lowered. There would be a girl stroking his hair, another massaging his back and another stroking him under orange towels that would be placed on his lap.

‘It was disgusting, but it was a daily occurrence. He is a cold, calculating predator. I witnessed him routinely abusing that power, often with the most vulnerable students.’

In January 2016, Jafa-Bodden won her case and almost $7 million in punitive and compensatory damages—a huge blow to the Bikram bubble and the first of the lawsuits to reach such an impactful outcome. (The punitive damages figure was later reduced to $4.6 million but with an additional $1.1 million in attorneys’ fees and costs tacked on, the current total reaches approximately $6.7 million.)

From the defendant’s perspective, those are some lemons. Hand Bikram Choudhury lemons?…and he makes a run for the border to set up his shady lemonade shop elsewhere. Just a few months after the ruling, Bikram reportedly fled the U.S. and returned to India where he proceeded to carry on with business as usual insisting on his innocence by denying there’s any issue at all and calling his accusers “trash” among other not so nice names.

We’ve seen this ignore it and it ill go away tactic again and again. This time it looks like there’s no escaping without consequences—how novel, right?

On December 13, 2016, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mark A. Borenstein approved Jafa-Bodden’s request that Choudhury’s 700 franchised Bikram Yoga studio agreements around the world, his trademark royalty and licensing payments, copyrights, web domains and other intellectual property all be handed over to her. Jafa-Bodden was also awarded Choudhury’s ownership interest in Bikram Yoga College of India. Choudhury’s fleet of vintage Rolls Royces, Bentleys and Ferraris are included as part of the payment, though the 43 luxury cars now seem to be mysteriously missing. Plus, a million dollar diamond-encrusted watch—that all yoga teachers have—also missing.

 Image via MOS reporter Caroline Graham

Some of Bikram Choudhury’s fancy cars. | Image via MOS reporter Caroline Graham

The judge also approved a “receiver” who may have the authority to sell any or all of the intellectual property. Further details have yet to be determined.

One thing is for sure—Bikram will never be the same again.

“Bikram is no longer the boss of Bikram Yoga. I am,” Jafa-Bodden told The Daily Mail. “I’ve been to hell and back, but the jury has spoken. Bikram has tried to conceal assets and has fled America, but justice will be done.”

“In a million years I never imagined that would be the outcome. Now I want to sell what we can so I can get my money and move on with my life,” she said.

Bikram Choudhury’s camp has yet to make a statement. But a drop of his sperm is worth a million dollars, right? So he’ll be fine.

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35 comments… add one
  • It is surprising to see such a sweeping victory for Jafa-Bodden, given the attitude toward this behavior we have witnessed in our country. I am reassured the whole country hasn’t lost it’s collective mind. Bikram will survive quiet well just selling his sperm. My guess is we haven’t heard the last of him tho.

    • Usetheschwartzyoga

      Why is there a new bikram training being offered now

  • Ginny

    The yoga is NOT doomed! The yoga works and will remain an intensely therapeutic practice. You can and we will separate the yoga from the drama. ❤️

  • Jose

    Bikram yoga is not unique. Stop claiming that. It was ripped off from traditional sources and repackaged for fools who have more money than brains. We have his maniacs defending his b.s. just like we have trump dopes defending him no matter how idiotic and dangerous he acts. Same breed of followers in both cases.

  • Kim

    Jafa-Bodden Yoga…coming to a studio near you.

  • Chealsea Karma

    Yoga helps everyone deal with the stresses of everyday life and we need to get the word out! Ever since I started doing yoga a month ago I have seen incredible improvements of my mood and well being. Eat right and exercise strong! The yoga program I’ve been following has been tremendous help towards my future goals weight wise and emotionally wise. Feel free to check it out (:
    YogaBurn

    • Chase Karma

      Cheaksea Karma, you are an idiot and so is your shitty yoga.

  • Dwayne

    Kudos to Ms. Jafa-Bodden, but I expect she will find that all the assets of value have disappeared (like the cars and watch).
    BTW, I just got the latest Kripalu catalog, and Bikram’s (ex-?)wife is teaching a weekend program in February…good luck with that. Oddly, the class is listed on p.27, but her name does not appear in the “Presenter Index”.

  • Spread Your Wings Not Your Legs

    The truth is, Bikram has helped more people in this country get into yoga than all his critics combined. Whether you like him or hate him, without him yoga would never have become this marketable. All the little girls running around in yoga pants with their fly-by-night teacher credentials would still be waitressing and walking dogs for which 90% have far more demonstrated talent. He also created a viable franchise model that is superior to all the corporate chains. He showed that yoga could become a viable business which many of his critics, despite their best efforts, have failed to achieve. His legacy is a lasting one. Other teachers have treated their students, including their female students, far worse, They just don ‘t brag about it. He’s a genius, as flawed a man as he might be. He was the Donald Trump of Yoga; that’s quite something actually. And his legacy survives.

  • Jack

    His legacy is a complete lie.

    • Spread Your Wings Not Your Legs

      Long after Tara Stiles, Kathryn Budig, Elena Brower, Shiva Rea and all the other Indra Devi-wannabes are dead and buried, there will be a Bikram Yoga studio somewhere — and it will probably be run by a woman.

      • Big Om Daddy

        You might be right. Bikram is 72 and seems to be quite healthy and fit. Kathryn Budig got older so she doesn’t do anymore nude pictures to endorse products. I wonder if anyone will pay attention to her when she is 72.

  • Spread Your Wings Not Your Legs

    That Budig’s a real shape-shifter! Literally AND figuratively. The one-time yoga super-model morphed into a weight-loss maven after she started “porking out” — but soon realized there was far more kudos and vainglory in becoming a “body-positive” advocate. Whee! It’s as if Twiggy decided to start flakking for Weight Watchers. I think her next big move might be a Hollywood film. Yogini, Interrupted? Could be the perfect comeback vehicle for Angelina Jolie

    • x

      I’m not one to call for moderation, but for real? Mods can you delete this hateful bullshit?

      Also you don’t seem to understand the difference between rape and sex if you think that this is a case of women ‘spreading their legs’

      gtfoh

      • Gardina

        Just proves that yoga in America is built on fraud that claims yoga will keep you young, slim and blond (just kidding about the last one) but what people are finding out, no matter how much you do it, you are going to get old, sick and die.

      • There is no place for hate speech (or writing) when your path is one of love and compassion. Maybe we will see less of it in 2017? Always hoping….

  • Nice Blog. I really like your post. Health Club

  • Bikram’s yoga is world famous and cars are amazing. Thanks Yogadork.

  • Spread Your Wings Not Your Legs

    Neither gender has a monopoly on virtue — or vice. The foibles of the yogini glitterati — Budig, among them — are hilarious — and deserve to be noted, and even mocked, if only to remind us what spiritual toddlers we all are. Anyone who thinks that’s inappropriate is preaching a conformity dressed up as “feminism”?

    The same applies to the women involved in this Bikram business. Giving his lawyer all his possessions? I mean really. This is hysteria, not justice. They weren’t married, and she didn’t earn that wealth. Totally absurd.

    And don’t get me started about that little Baughn-Baughn girl who thought Bikram was sweeter than chocolate? She massaged him and brushed his hair half naked in his bedroom with his codependent dysfunctional wife nearby I mean really! I think these women and Bikram really deserve each other? Given their karma they’re destined to be bound for eternity.

    • Jack

      And you will be what comes out of their legs.

  • Face palm

    I feel like this court ruling is completely out of line. They might as well pinch Rajashrees’ wedding ring and hand it over to Jafa. Let Jafa live in Bikrams house too while their at it.

    • Spread Your Wings Not Your Legs

      It’s entirely lawyer-driven. Minnard gets 30% or more of the settlement. Since termination
      was involved and unlike these little yogini flakettes, Joffa is a lawyer, not a wastrel, the prospects for winning — and winning big — seemed good. A simple calculation is made. There are lawyers like Minnard who spend all their time helping women steal money from men. Then they steal a share from the women for helping.

      Let’s see what great social good Jaffe offers yoga world for having received this settlement? Will she parcel out pieces of it to the women who claim to be raped — Joffa never was, not even in theory. How about say, $250,000, to each of the rape plaintiffs? What do you say Joffa? How’s the Sisterhood? Your only real role in this was as a witness to what happened to others? Are you going to prey on them, too?

  • I believe Yoga found me. I tried different styles of yoga while living in Australia, Bikram Yoga being one of them. When I came back to Stockholm, Bikram Yoga found me again. I knew this was for me and I knew that yoga was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I became a teacher in 2010, and in November 2011, my wife and I opened Hot Yoga Uppsala. I believe that every student has great potential; all you need is to be willing to try. The body is amazing, and I have seen many transformations. When I teach you, I will guide you to your next step, even if you don’t believe you can get there. You will surprise yourself – we all do.
    http://uppsalahotyoga.se

  • I believe Yoga found me. I tried different styles of yoga while living in Australia, Bikram Yoga being one of them. When I came back to Stockholm, Bikram Yoga found me again. I knew this was for me and I knew that yoga was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I became a teacher in 2010, and in November 2011, my wife and I opened Hot Yoga Uppsala. I believe that every student has great potential; all you need is to be willing to try. The body is amazing, and I have seen many transformations. When I teach you, I will guide you to your next step, even if you don’t believe you can get there. You will surprise yourself – we all do.

  • Spread Your Wings Not Your Legs

    She really indicts herself here —

    “Bikram is no longer the boss of Bikram Yoga. I am,” Jafa-Bodden told The Daily Mail.

    (This is the bombast of a female Trump!).

    “Now I want to sell what we can so I can get my money and move on with my life,” she said.

    LMAOOOOO….”so I can get my money and move on with my life. (Poor little rich girl!)

    I have spent many years interacting with Indian men and women — in my school years and in my business life. Especially among the upper castes, I find them to be among the most arrogant and elitist — and often downright racist — people on the face of the earth.

    Forget about “vetting” Muslim immigrants. Let’s start with Indians.

    There are no standards of collective public accountability and responsibility in yoga. It’s every woman — or man — for herself. One can teach trash, market trash — or simply be trash.

    Is it any wonder that things so often go South?

    • Jack

      Oh, just pay your fee and stfu.

  • You have expressed your views and opinions very clearly. Now, what do you propose as solutions to the all of this?

  • Spread Your Wings Not Your Legs

    Don’t ask me. The world is absurd. American yoga is absurd.

    Ideally, take yoga teacher training out of the exclusive hands of the yoga studios and the lineages. Let it become more of a true occupational specialty, taught in yoga academies, in a more in-depth way, with much higher standards. Let it be geared to supporting the treatment of actual health conditions, physical and mental. And I mean supporting the treatment, not substituting for it. Big difference. A minority of practitioners are doing this now.

    Studios have a vested financial interest in promoting teacher training programs to keep their doors open. Many studios would close without these programs, which vary from the shallow to the deep, and are subject to extremely subjective judgments of who is qualified to teach.

    Once they have your money, there is no guarantee that anything will occur except that once you’re done, the Yoga Alliance will dutifully stamp you — for a fee — as “qualified” and “certified” based on the fact that the studio and its curriculum is already YA “certified” – not based on anything you actually did or learned.

    The lineages like Bikram have their own teacher training that is not studio-based and as everyone knows, it is quite costly ($11,000 I recall) and in the past you were overseen by Bikram himself — again without anyone being interposed between the teacher and the student, and therefore subject to an even more personalistic hierarchy — a pyramid of power in which all sorts of people under Bikram could extract rewards and benefits, act as gatekeepers, etc.

    Defenders of the current system bristle at the suggestion that any collective oversight by a public or collective private trade association type body is actually desirable or necessary. They keep raising the specter of “government regulation” as if the only alterative to the spiritual “free market” is a kind of predatory government control that would result in an unacceptable “standardization” of yoga teaching , a loss of the nuance and creativity, and a siphoning off of resources to state treasuries.

    It’s a very convenient dodge.

    It’s true that the efforts of state governments to bring yoga teacher training under the purview of their own vocational training guidelines was largely intended to impose taxes on a popular consumer activity — but it’s also true that the pursuit of a special exemption to these guidelines by yoga teachers is just as self-serving and has absolutely nothing to do with protecting consumers of teacher training programs or yoga consumer generally.

    It’s way too late, though, to reform a consumer movement this geared to individual gluttony and self-satisfaction.

    In fact, a goodly number of the people taking teacher training aren’t even teaching anyway? YTT is way to boost their own yoga training and many have no intention of teaching — ever. On the other hand, there are many yoga teachers who aren’t practicing yoga but they are teaching it. They simply aren’t keeping up their own practice. They are tired or bored, and they now think that teaching yoga and doing demonstrations is the equivalent of practicing yoga.

    It seems that the yoga money has shifted to online classes and to the coveted “privates” where there is even less oversight, in fact, because no one is present to witness anything. I have no idea how it is working out, though I do know that one of the highest legal awards for a yoga injury ever — $250,000 — was paid out due to an injury suffered by a student at the hands of a “veteran” teacher in a private session. It wasn’t a newbie.

    In my opinion, if a studio can’t make it without these flaky over-priced training programs, it should close its doors. I am not a big fan of yoga being a for-pay experience. I am a veteran of the 1990s. We loved our basement apartment studios and our recreational centers. Good teachers were few and far between and many taught as an avocation — not a “career.”

    Nearly all of my early teachers have fled American yoga in horror. They don’t even try to teach anymore. They know what’s happened, and they’re terrified.

    I am not the one to help create new standards. I would insist that students have a college degree, be 35 or older, married, in therapy, be trained to identify psychological conditions and to make appropriate referrals. Ideally, they should also have proven themselves professionally in another field because it means you know what a real service is. That and the other requirements cuts down on the personal immaturity and borderline psychosis

    Right now we have thousands of narcissistic 20-somethings running around ISO of a fast track to community-based vainglory and web-based celebrity. I would literally de-certify half or more of the teachers currently out there — and send them home to their parents, or finishing schools..

    Ultimately, though, the problem is our culture, which is obsessed with beauty, fitness, glamour and commerce? As Tara Stiles preached over a decade ago — to the chagrin of yoga “purists ” –” slim calm and sexy” yoga is what most of the paying customers want, and she was hell-bent on giving it to them – and she has, and so many others have followed suit. There are various hippy-dippy cool versions of the new haute bourgeois yoga commerce — the exotic retreats that are basically spiritual safari without the animals. My favorite are the Tuscany yoga wine tasting tours and the Ayurveda cooking classes!

    Why not? The market is there. And if a women can’t shop to something, they’re really not that interested or won’t stick with it for long.

    We live in s society where the people most attracted to yoga are actually looking to be distracted and indulged — not “present.” At best, they are in it for sheer psychic relief from the stress of keeping their lives together – not achieving samadhi per se. The Hindu-inflected gloss and veneer of spirituality adds to the perceived sense of benefit and is a terrific marketing tool. There are real benefits to yoga but there’s also this powerful placebo effect: If you think you’re benefitting, spiritually or otherwise, and are deeply invested in that idea, then, in a way, your are. Lots of people are on meds they don’t really need?

    If nothing else, carrying around a yoga mat and wearing yoga pants provides a spiritual status symbol. I am hip, I am cool, I am at one with…..God knows what. My latest high-flown version of my self.

    Again, though, this is what the American masses want. But of course, they also want Donald Trump, a goodly share do, at least.

    Chogyam Trunpa and some of the other early avatars from India warned Americans they could not really handle the deeper realms of yoga — the siddhis. In fact, they were deathly afraid to teach us these deeper practices for fear that we would harness them to our Western materialistic egos. Boy were they wrong.

    Aren’t you glad you asked?

  • Spread Your Wings Not Your Legs

    Listen, Bikram is just one tip of one prominent iceberg.
    Yoga is about personal empire-building, and about constructing these power pyramids
    at all levels.
    The yoga masses don’t realize this because they’re not paying attention and just
    want the relief.
    But the honchos in yoga — the faux-guru inheritors of the lineages —
    are all narcissistic power trippers
    Some are more benignly so than others
    They have a good thing going and figure so what if yoga is shit
    I’m not! I’m the shit!
    The last thing they want is real public scrutiny and
    real accountability.
    And there are plenty of soul-starved idol worshipers out there
    to keep these systems going.

  • You’ve also thought about solutions. The first step in resolving most problems is a good analysis. Seems you have done this.
    Hope you can take your passion for this issue and begin the change.

    • Spread Your Wings Not Your Legs

      No I am completely done, other than watching the yoga zoo from a safe distance. Too many undiagnosed psycho-paths operating under the cover of this set-up, and there aren’t enough mature adults of genuine character and courage to dialogue with. It will take a crisis of some kind to get a culture this steeped in narcissism to even consider reform. One long-time yoga therapist — who typically refuses to speak publicly — says it will take a confirmed death. An overweight person who strokes out and dies or a woman who loses her baby after performing a contraindicated pose — and sues. Somebody might decide its time to have a full-time Yoga Ombudsman to receive and process industry-wide complaints and concerns. If that ever happens, though, you will see lots of yogis running as fast as they can. Right now there’s only the courts, and you need a clear-cut case that can obtain a handsome fee for a lawyer.

      There are lots of women with similar complaints about female teachers, some of whom are fucking their students like bunnies, or suborning them in other unhealthy ways. We heard about that one case involving Jivamukti last year. Another tip of the iceberg. Again, though: Is she a victim or a volunteer?

      It’s often said that Americans get the president they deserve. They also get the yoga industry they deserve. It’s a libertarian universe of self-promotion, self-advancement and self-care. Find someone with a good spirit to learn yoga from and get the hell out. You don’t need a yoga studio let alone a larger yoga culture to incorporate yoga practices into your life. If you need a stronger sense of community and service, join a good church

      • Lapsed Roman Catholic dude

        “…If you need a stronger sense of community and service, join a good church”
        Good luck with that one!

  • 20 something narcissist yoga teacher

    Very thought provoking discussion here. Spread your wings speaks elegantly on the third side of the coin.

  • Yoga is considered to be one of the greatest natural remedies. Everyone should consider performing at least 1 hour of yoga per week.

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