The ABC news program Nightline has aired a disturbing and quite damming report on the sexual assault lawsuit against Bikram Choudhury, one of the most well-known and richest yoga “gurus” in America. Three of the five women in the lawsuit gave interviews for Nightline that are juxtaposed with earlier interviews and footage of Choudhury.
Bikram Choudhury, the founder of the popular Bikram style of hot yoga, has been embroiled in controversy before, but the previous lawsuits pale in comparison to this current scandal. Choudhury is known for his blatant cocky attitude and accumulation of wealth, both of which are captured in the Nightline feature.
The video of the program is embedded below, but be warned, it will likely stir up feelings of sadness, disgust and betrayal. However, while difficult to watch, this is an important video for all yogis to see. It provides a clear window into how Choudhury saw and took advantage of his students’ vulnerabilities and low self-worth.
When we put our teachers up on pedestals, giving them god-like status, we create an imbalance of power, which is often played out through money or sex. The student-teacher relationship can be a perilous one, especially when predatory gurus and false teachers exist. Anyone who has or is considering entering into a one-on-one relationship with their yoga teacher might consider reading Mariana Caplan’s excellent book on the issue: The Guru Question
Unfortunately, every time you take a Bikram yoga class you are giving this man and his legal team your money and supporting his yoga empire. Alternative hot yoga styles abound that you might consider instead, or take the opportunity to cultivate your home practice.