Hot Yoga Guru Accused of Rape and Human Trafficking in Two New Lawsuits
Editor's note: this piece contains graphic textual depictions of a sexual assault as filed in court documents. Trigger warning.
Hot Yoga guru and millionaire Bikram Choudhury, 67, has been accused of rape, sexual assault, and human trafficking in two new lawsuits filed in Los Angeles County. Choudhury is best known for his incredibly popular brand of yoga that involves performing 26 postures in a room heated to 105F.
This isn't the first time the famed yoga instructor has dealt with claims of unwanted sexual advances. In March of this year, Sarah Baughn claimed that Choudhury sexually harassed her when she was training to become a teacher in 2005. Baughn's March 2013 lawsuit alleges that Chodhury, "pinned her against the door, and sexually assaulted her by kissing her neck, chest, and face, and grinding his penis against her leg." When she rejected his advances she was frozen out by Chodhury from jobs and faced other retaliation.
When these allegations initially arose, many were surprised, but for some practitioners of the intense form of yoga, it aligned with everything else they knew about Chodhury and the Bikram Yoga College of India.
The most recent allegations against Choudhury are from two individuals who have requested animosity in the legal proceedings. They are only named as Jane Doe No. 1 and No. 2 in the court documents. Both of the women accusing Choudhury of rape say it happened during the intensive training sessions that instructors are required to attend before becoming teachers.
The nine-week training program costs students $13,000 and everything from what students wear to what and when they can drink or eat is controlled by the teacher. Students practice Choudhury's brand of yoga for more than eight hours each day. Doe No. 2 says that the atmosphere is cult-like, even going so far as to say that those in his inner circle provide him with "volunteers" from overseas who are then forced to serve as Choudhury's slaves.
Courthouse News Service details the claims against Chodhury and Bikram Yoga College of India:
"Defendant Bikram Choudhury said he saw himself in plaintiff (he had said that to her before) and that, 'I need to spiritually enlighten you. In order to do that, we need to become one.' Then, without warning or consent, defendant Bikram Choudhury forcefully pulled plaintiff towards him and had one hand around her and the other was unbuttoning her jeans. He hooked his hand at the top of her pants and tried to pull them down with force," the complaint states.
Though in a "weakened state" from her training, Doe says she pushed Choudhury away, but he threatened her, grabbed her by the wrist and forced her into his bedroom.
"Defendant Bikram Choudhury pulled her pants down and forced her onto the bed. Plaintiff Jane Doe No.2 could not stop crying and kept begging him over and over to stop. He forced his unprotected penis in her vagina. Within moments it was over. The only thing defendant Bikram Choudhury said was, 'How many times did you come?' Plaintiff Jane Doe No.2 was in pain, in shock and could not speak. Defendant Bikram Choudhury then ordered plaintiff to watch him until he fell asleep," according to the complaint.
The two defendants have made largely the same claims; Jane Doe No. 1 says that she was raped twice by the yoga instructor during the course of her training program. The allegations range from sexual battery, false imprisonment, harassment and other counts. All three plaintiffs are represented by Mary Shea Hagebols of Shea Law Office in Oakland, California.