‘Hot yoga’ guru fined $924K in sexual abuse case

The founder of the Bikram yoga practice was ordered to pay $924,500 on Monday to a former legal adviser who said she was fired for investigating sexual misconduct charges against her employer, media reported.
Bikram Choudhury, founder of the Yoga College of India, during one of his classes at the Los Angeles Convention Center.(AP Photo)
Bikram Choudhury, founder of the Yoga College of India, during one of his classes at the Los Angeles Convention Center.(AP Photo)
Updated on Jan 27, 2016 01:31 AM IST
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Agencies | By, New Delhi

The founder of the Bikram yoga practice was ordered to pay $924,500 on Monday to a former legal adviser who said she was fired for investigating sexual misconduct charges against her employer, media reported.

Minakshi Jafa-Bodden, the former personal attorney of celebrity yoga guru Bikram Choudhury, was awarded compensatory damages by a Los Angeles jury for claims of discrimination, retaliation and of suffering sexual harassment herself, The Los Angeles Times reported.

“It’s an enormous vindication,” said Jafa-Bodden’s attorney, Carla Minnard.

She said Choudhury sexually harassed Jafa-Bodden, inappropriately touched her, and tried to get her to stay with him in a hotel suite. Choudhury fired her in June 2013 when she began investigating claims from other women of sexual abuse, Minnard said.

Choudhury’s attorney, Robert Tafoya, did not return a call for comment.

Choudhury, 69, has built an empire around Bikram yoga, a rigorous, 90-minute routine performed in a room that can reach more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius). The technique is taught at more than 650 studios worldwide and has drawn a throng of devoted followers.

Monday’s verdict is just the latest bad news for Choudhury.

In October, the guru lost a court appeal to copyright his sequence of 26 poses and two breathing exercises. The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the sequence used in “hot yoga” classes is a process intended to improve people’s health, so copyright law does not cover it.

Choudhury is also facing lawsuits by six women who claim he sexually assaulted them, the first of which is set for trial in April.

The most recent lawsuit, filed last February 13, accused Choudhury of raping a Canadian woman who said she used $10,000 from her college fund to pay for a nine-week class so she could teach Bikram yoga to others.

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