'Hot Yoga' Guru Accused of Rape in Two New Lawsuits

India West, San Leandro, California/May 23, 2014

By Sunita Sohrabji

Millionaire yoga guru Bikram Choudhury has been charged with raping two female students attending his teacher training courses, in two separate lawsuits filed May 6 and 7 in Los Angeles, Calif., Superior Court.

Bikram is a sexual predator who violates the civil rights of women,” said one of the students in her court complaint. Both complainants said they were attacked during one of Choudhury’s teacher training courses, a nine-week, six days a week course which costs $13,000 to attend.

In March, Choudhury was the subject of a similar lawsuit, in which former student Sarah Baughn, 20 at the time of her encounter with Choudhury, complained she had been sexually harassed by the Indian American “Hot Yoga” creator, a yoga technique popular with Hollywood celebrities. Last year, Choudhury was sued by former student Pandhora Williams, who claims the teacher demoralized her in class, calling her a “black bitch,” as he called for security to expel her from the class. Williams’ case was set to go to trial Apr. 29, but was presumably settled May 7 for an undisclosed amount, according to Los Angeles County Superior Court documents.

In the latest case filed May 7 by Jane Doe 1 against Choudhury, the un-named former student alleged that after his personal assistant quit, Jane Doe 1 took on the unpaid role, serving as tea-maker and masseuse, among other duties. She alleged that Choudhury would verbally harass her, calling her “you idiot,” in front of a filled classroom.

One morning, as she was tidying his room, Choudhury allegedly forced Doe 1 onto his bed, and started to take off her clothing, despite her objections, and forced himself into her, according to the court documents.

Doe 1 escaped and tried to withdraw from the teacher training camp, but found herself trapped there, having no money to go elsewhere. At the evening lecture, Choudhury took on the topic of sex as “being just an exchange of energy,” she said in the court papers.

Several days later, Choudhury caught her alone and once again raped her, she alleged in the lawsuit. Doe 1 left the teacher training camp with funds borrowed from her mother. Claming that she was a victim of human trafficking who deserves at least $500,000, Doe 1 is suing for an unspecified amount of compensation for emotional distress and lost earnings.

Jane Doe 2 allegedly also caught Choudhury’s eye at a teacher training course in 2010. Characterized as a “small town girl, who only saw good in others,” Doe 2 alleged that praises on her work soon became unwanted sexual comments about her body during classes.

Choudhury asked Doe 2 to stay behind after class one day and allegedly professed his love for her. “It’s something only my heart can explain,” Choudhury said, according to the court papers. Doe 2 brushed him off, saying she had a boyfriend she loved, but Choudhury persisted over several weeks.

One day, the yoga teacher invited Doe 2 to his room, saying he wished to discuss a career opportunity. In the room, Choudhury pleaded, “I am all alone. I need someone to love me.” Then without warning, Choudhury pulled his student towards him and allegedly forcibly raped her, the lawsuit charges.

After leaving the program Doe 2 said her life unraveled around her; she was severely depressed, suicidal, started drinking and taking drugs and cut off communication with everyone. She is suing Choudhury for an unspecified amount of compensation for post-traumatic stress disorder, emotional distress and lost wages.

In a note on his Web site, Choudhury said he was “disappointed” by the earlier suit, but would offer no further comment.

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