Bikram Choudhury at a book signing in New York in 2007.
February 10, 1946 |
Calcutta, British India (now West Bengal, India)
|Known for||Founder of Bikram Yoga|
Bikram Choudhury (born February 10, 1946) is an Indian yoga teacher and the founder of Bikram Yoga, a form of hot yoga performed in a series of 26 hatha yoga postures done in a hot (40 °C (104 °F)) environment.
Life and work
Born in Calcutta, India, Bikram Choudhury began learning Hatha Yoga poses at the age of three. At five, he began studying with Bishnu Ghosh (Paramahansa Yogananda’s brother) and won the National India Yoga Championship for three consecutive years in his teens.
Bikram created a 26 posture series, which he claims restored his health. The 105 degree Fahrenheit heat in which Bikram yoga is practiced is, according to Choudhury, meant to mimic the climate of India.
At age 20, Bikram claims he was in a crippling weightlifting accident. Although he claims that he was told he would never be able to walk again, with the help of Ghosh, he claims to have fully recovered within 6 months. Choudhury emigrated to the United States in the 1970s and founded yoga studios in California and Hawaii. In the 1990s, he began offering nine-week teacher certification courses. Certified instructors now number in the thousands with Bikram Yoga studios all over the world.
Choudhury holds a copyright for the 26 poses which constitute Bikram yoga under the same theory which allows choreographic sequences to be copyrighted. In September, 2011, Choudhury filed an infringement suit against his former student, Greg Gumucio, founder of a competing chain of hot yoga studios. In June 2012, the United States Copyright Office (USCO) decided that since yoga poses claim to improve health, they are not eligible for copyright. The USCO's decision, however, did not relieve Gumucio of the need to defend the lawsuit against him. In December, 2012, Gumucio settled the suit with Choudhury, agreeing to stop using the series of 26 poses by February 15, 2013.
As of January 2014, five women were suing Bikram Choudhury with allegations of sexual harassment and sexual assault.
Two lawsuits accusing Bikram Choudhury of rape were filed in May 2013, in which a Jane Doe alleges sexual battery, false imprisonment, discrimination, harassment, and other counts in addition to the rape allegation. It describes a cult-like atmosphere where Bikram’s followers help him find young women to assault. “Other persons in defendant Bikram Choudhury’s inner circle, were aware of defendant Bikram Choudhury’s pattern and practice of causing, inducing or persuading young women to enroll in teacher training classes to become yoga instructors only so he can sexually assault and/or rape them,” the lawsuit claims.
The suits paint a cult-like atmosphere at the training camps. Trainees were allegedly told that Choudhury is on the same level as Jesus Christ or the Buddha, that Bikram yoga can cure cancer and that practitioners will be able to live to 100 years old. Trainees were bullied and humiliated as well as praised, the suits say, and Choudhury allegedly gave lectures in which he disparaged gays, Americans and made ethnic slurs. Jane Doe 2 claims that Choudhury recruits volunteers from overseas who are “so in fear of defendant Bikram Choudhury’s wrath that they will travel to the US and risk violating immigration laws in order to serve him. Once in the US these volunteers work for little or zero pay. “Their duties include grooming him, massaging him, making his tea, bring[ing] him food and being forced to submit to sexual assaults and rapes against their will,” the suit alleges.
Minakshi “Micki”Jafa-Bodden served as Head of Legal and International Affairs from Spring 2011 to March 13, 2013 when she claims she was “abruptly and unlawfully terminated” according to the court documents filed on July 12, 2013 in the Superior Court of California, Los Angeles. During the two years that Jafa-Bodden worked closely with Bikram, she claims she was both the victim of and witness to Bikram’s “severe, ongoing, pervasive and offensive conduct” toward women, homosexuals, African Americans and every other minority. The complaint is the fourth sex-based discrimination/sexual harassment/rape related suit to be filed against Choudhury. Bikram teacher Sarah Baughn filed a sexual harassment suit in March (just before Jafa-Bodden was fired), and two other unnamed women filed similar suits accusing Bikram of sexual harassment, intimidation and rape in May.
- Bikram's Beginning Yoga Class
- Bikram Yoga: The Guru Behind Hot Yoga Shows the Way to Radiant Health and Personal Fulfillment
- Erika Schickel (September 25, 2003). "Body Work". LA Weekly.
- Jordan Susman, Your Karma Ran Over My Dogma: Bikram Yoga and the (Im)Possibilities of Copyrighting Yoga, 25 Loy. L.A. Ent. L. Rev. 245 (2004)
- Joshua Kurlantzick (March–April 2005). The Money Pose. Mother Jones.
- Rebecca Moss (July 19, 2012). "Bikram Choudhury Battles for Control of the Hot Yoga Tradition he Invented". LA Weekly.
- "NY yoga studio settles suit". Associated Press. December 13, 2012.
- Maria Howard (October 21, 2012). "USA Yoga Federation founder wants yoga to become an Olympic sport". Richmond Times-Dispatch.
- Yoga Journal "Rape Accusations Against Bikram Choudury" http://blogs.yogajournal.com/yogabuzz/2013/05/rape-accusations-against-birkram-choudury.html
- The Raw Story "Millionaire Yoga Guru Bikram Choudhury Accused of Rape and Human Trafficking" http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/05/14/millionaire-yoga-guru-bikram-choudhury-accused-of-rape-and-human-trafficking/
- Yoga Dork "Former Bikram Legal Advisor Files Extremely Disturbing Lawsuit over Sexual Harassment, Discrimination, Assault" http://yogadork.com/news/lawsuit-asana/bikrams-former-head-of-legal-files-extremely-disturbing-complaint-involving-sexual-harassment-discrimination/