Hot Yoga Founder Bikram Choudhury Loses Lawsuit, Has to Give up His Entire Empire
If the name Bikram Choudhury doesn't remember a bell, maybe hot yoga will. The founder of the Bikram yoga, or hot yoga as it is popularly known, Bikram Choudhury, has lost the case his former legal head filed against him, and has now been stripped of his empire and ordered to hand over his fleet of luxury cars.
The 70-year-old yoga guru was followed by celebrities like Madonna, and David Beckham, and became an international phenomenon in the 1970s when he introduced Bikram yoga in California. Last January, he lost a case which was brought by Minakshi Jafa-Bodden, the former head of his legal team. Jafa-Bodden claimed that Choudhury was a sexual predator who preyed on his young female devotees. She alleged that she was wrongfully dismissed because she was investigating cases of sexual harassment and assault against him.
Jafa-Bodden joined the company as head of Choudhury's legal team in 2011, leaving behind a career in international litigation. Speaking to The Mail, she said, “Bikram is no longer the boss of Bikram Yoga. I am. I've been to hell and back, but the jury has spoken. Bikram has tried to conceal assets and has fled America, but justice will be done.” She has been awarded $6.4 million by the Los Angeles superior court, and with legal costs, the amount goes up to nearly $6.7 million. Jafa-Bodden will receive all 700 franchised Bikram yoga studios all over the world, as well as Choudhury's fleet of 43 luxury cars, which includes 13 Rolls-Royces, eight Bentleys, and three Ferraris.
In October last year, Choudhury gave an interview to HBO's Real Sports where he referred to the women who accused him of rape as “trash,” that “one drop of my sperm” cost $1 million, and that his yoga can cure “Parkinson’s disease, Aids, cancer.”
Jafa-Bodden described how Choudhury had tried to convince her to cover up his sexual abuse.
“He can be very charming when you first meet him but that didn’t last,” she said. “There were allegations of rape and assault. Perhaps the first complaint was a surprise but then I began to see a pattern. When I refused to cover up his alleged crimes, he became abusive, calling me a f***ing bitch.
He would sit on a throne at the front of this vast room filled with trainees. There would be a girl stroking his hair, another massaging his back and another stroking him under orange towels that would be placed on his lap. It was disgusting but it was a daily occurrence. He is a cold, calculating predator. I witnessed him routinely abusing that power, often with the most vulnerable students. These were young women who looked up to him as a spiritual guru. They loved him. And he took advantage of that in the most heinous way imaginable.”
All the employees of the empire have been sent letters informing them of the change, and Jafa-Bodden's legal team is, at present, trying to locate his property all over the world, so her lawsuit can be settled. This includes a diamond-encrusted watch worth £1 million, as well as all his luxury cars, which have all gone missing. Choudhury's garage manager has been summoned by the court to explain why the cars were removed from a vehicle compound in violation of court orders. The garage manager, who is allegedly a family friend of Choudhury's, is claiming ignorance of the vehicles' location, even though Jafa-Bodden's lawyers claim to have photographic evidence of him being complicit in their removal.
Jafa Bodden said, “I started off working for him and I ended up with his company. In a million years I never imagined that would be the outcome. Now I want to sell what we can so I can get my money and move on with my life.”
Mark L. Shane, Choudhury's lawyer, has not commented on the judgement.