Oct 14, 2015

When Bad People Teach Great Yoga

Crossposted from Reflections Journal.

 photo Bikram_McClellan_Baughn_zpsq5g0r4qr.jpg

As discussed here, Bikram Choudhury has a long, documented history of being an awful person. He's sexist, lookist, bigoted, and almost unimaginably arrogant. He's also been accused of multiple sexual assaults and his accusers may finally get their day in court. Six women have come forward with claims of sexual assault, harassment, and rape.

Dana McClellan and Sarah Baughn have gone public with their experiences. Both were young and deeply enamored of Choudhury's yoga, swore by its effectiveness, and enrolled in teacher training. But, their fondness for their teacher evaporated when he started molesting them.

Baughn said she always discouraged Choudhury's advances, and reminded him that he had a wife and she had a boyfriend. But Baughn claims Choudhury would not stop his sexual pursuit, and would insist she brush his hair and massage him. “I was shocked, and I was sick,” she said of his unwanted advances. Baughn says Choudhury more than once touched her in a sexual way and even climbed on her, she said.

. . .

"You know, he told me that I was going to be like Mother Teresa, and I was going to influence the world if I only followed him,” McClellan said. But she claims the yoga guru raped her during a teacher training program in San Diego in 2010. McClellan claims Choudhury flattered and touched her and schemed to get her alone.

In her legal complaint, McClellan alleges Choudhury pulled down her pants and forced himself on top of her. She said she begged him to stop and tried to fight him off.

. . .

Baughn and McClelland said Choudhury ruined their lives, smothered their self-confidence and trust and left them with deep emotional scars.

. . .

And they said, poisoned their love and devotion to an ancient art of healing.

In another lawsuit, the previously discussed Minakashi Jafa-Bodden v. Bikram Choudhury et al., Choudhury's lawyer has managed to slow the wheels of justice by injuring himself. He claims he needs surgery for a torn cartilage in his knee.

Aaron Osten of of Greene Broillet & Wheeler LLP, representing Jafa-Bodden, noted that Tafoya had not presented evidence that the surgery was needed.

"I don’t want to beat a dead horse here, but we still don't have a declaration from an actual doctor,” Osten said.

Judge Mooney responded that he “accepted that Mr. Tafoya really is injured here and he really is going to have that knee surgery.”

The case was previously postponed when Choudhury changed his counsel, perhaps to find an attorney willing to rend his own cartilage.

Choudhury was dealt a serious blow in a non-rape case, when it was ruled that he could not copyright his interpretation of a practice that dates back thousands of years.

Choudhury’s most recent legal case involved Evolation Yoga, a Florida-based studio that the magnate accused of copyright violations.

A three-judge panel on the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has now disagreed with him after he appealed a district judge’s ruling in favor of Evolation. The judges clearly stated that his sequence cannot be protected by copyright law, the Times reports.

“Copyright protects only the expression of this idea — the words and pictures used to describe the sequence — and not the idea of the sequence itself,” Judge Kim McLane Wardlaw, one of the judges on the panel, wrote.

The full text of the court's decision can be found here.

I know a number of people who practice Bikram yoga and it is, by all reports, excellent. I don't care for heat, so I will never know. I do know that Bikram Choudhury is an odious character. I like Kripalu yoga quite a bit, but Amrit Desai also turned out to be a creep. It's an odd dichotomy, but there we are.

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