Bikram Choudhury, founder of Bikram Yoga, is involved in another legal case – this time, instead of suing others for patent or copyright infringement, Bikram is being sued for alleged sexual harassment and discrimination by a former student.
I couldn’t take this story too seriously, since it first turned up in tabloid rags the New York Post and the Daily Mail earlier today. But it caught the attention of YogaDork (who managed to attain the court documents), the YJ Yoga Buzz and Yoganonymous, and finally appeared on The Guardian this afternoon. So it’s something.
The Guardian reports:
The 67-year-old founder of the international Bikram yoga studio is alleged to have pursued protege Sarah Baughn, 29, for years, claiming they were connected in a past life and his wife didn’t understand him. Eventually his pursuit turned physical, she claims.
According to a suit filed in Los Angeles’ superior court, Choudury denied Baughn an international championship title she had been awarded and has prevented her from teaching “because of her past and continuing refusal to have sex with her guru.”
Those of involved in the contemporary yoga conversation might be feeling a sort of “yoga sex scandal fatigue” – this lawsuit is just the latest in a string of high-profile allegations against male teachers like John Friend and Kausthub Desikachar. The refined and supposedly ethical Zen Buddhist world has also exposed its own shadows beneath the robes with allegations against Joshu Sasaki coming to light.
What these cases illuminate is the lack of accountability, ethical responsibility and basic integrity in the modern yoga world.
“This story has made me think more about the emotional injuries that yoga can cause,” reflected Prevent Yoga Injury on Facebook. “So far, our work has been focused on preventing physical injury and helping students learn how to work around existing medical conditions. There is another element, and that is the emotional distress that yoga can cause when a student feels unworthy and a teacher preys upon that lack of confidence/ego…”