5 Things You May Not Know About Disgraced Yogi Guru Bikram Choudhury

While he was a magnetic leader beloved by many, Bikram Choudhury allegedly hid a dark side.

December 11, 2019

Bikram Choudhury [Bob Riha Jr/ Getty Contributor]

Bikram Choudhury [Bob Riha Jr/ Getty Contributor]

By: Aaron Rasmussen

Seventy-five-year-old Bikram Choudhury became a cult-like figure when he introduced hot yoga to California in the 1970s. As his fame, wealth, and influence grew, Choudhury expanded his empire across the globe. But while he was a magnetic leader beloved by many, he allegedly hid a dark side.

Choudhury Is As Intense As His Bikram Yoga Classes

Choudhury’s yoga sessions have consisted of students performing 26 poses and two breathing exercises during 90-minute sessions held in studios heated to 105 degrees. It is reported that students have fainted and vomited. The extreme practice has been known to become even more intense because of Choudhury’s technique of both encouraging and berating his students, the Los Angeles Times reported.

An Extreme Experience, An Extreme Man

Choudhury is a charismatic leader, but in the past, he reportedly wasn’t always nice to his followers. “He would pick on someone in the crowd,” Choudhury’s former head of legal and international affairs, Minakshi Jafa-Bodden, told The Guardian. “If someone got up to go to the toilet, he would say, ‘Where are you going? To change your tampon?’ He uses profanities, [and] he’s antisemitic, he’s homophobic." Jafa-Bodden further alleged Cloudhury made racist remarks, including, "things like, ‘Blacks don’t get my yoga.’"

He Used His Celebrity Relationships To Build An Empire

Choudhury allegedly took advantage of Hollywood to increase his importance. “From the beginning, Bikram seemed to understand just how important his proximity to celebrity was to his success,” producer and former Bikram devotee Julie Lowrie Henderson told the New Yorker. His star devotees reportedly included everyone from Shirley MacLaine and Madonna to Quincy Jones and Barbra Streisand.

Choudhury Is A Fugitive From Justice

Six different women have come forward to accuse Choudhury of sexual misconduct — charges he has denied. However, he has settled four of the cases, the Financial Times reported. Jafa-Bodden, his former employee, filed a civil suit against Choudhury for gender discrimination, wrongful termination, and sexual harassment. In 2016, a jury awarded her punitive damages totaling $6.8 million, but Choudhury fled the country, prompting a judge to issue a bench warrant for his arrest. Choudhury is currently at large and has yet to pay Jafa-Bodden.

He’s Still Making Money Teaching Yoga

Choudhury cannot return to the U.S. without getting arrested, but he reportedly continues to make millions of dollars elsewhere. “He’s permanently traveling around the world,” Choudhury’s publicist, Richard Hillgrove, recently confirmed to the Los Angeles Times. The yogi recently led Bikram teacher training seminars in Spain and Mexico. Jafa-Bodden told The Guardian that Choudhury continuing to teach is “concerning” because “innocent and impressionable young trainees might be going to these camps in jurisdictions where there may not be as many protections.”

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