Bikram Choudhury: Yoga guru fined $6.5m over sexual harassment

BBC News/January 27, 2016

US-based millionaire Bikram Choudhury, 69, is famous for the yoga method he began performing in a hot room in 2002.

The $6m is in addition to $1m Minakshi Jafa-Bodden was awarded on Monday.

She was head of legal and international affairs at Mr Choudhury's Los Angeles yoga school from 2011 until 2013.

Ms Jafa-Bodden said she was abruptly sacked from her position for refusing to cover up an investigation into a rape allegation.

On Tuesday, a jury in a Los Angeles court ordered the India-born guru to pay her nearly $6.5m in punitive damages, reports say.

The jury on Monday had awarded her nearly $1m in compensation after it decided that she was subjected to harassment, discrimination and retaliation.

That brings the total damages to more than $7m.

What is Bikram yoga?

Created by Bikram Choudhury this form of yoga is made up of a series of 26 postures which are performed in an extremely hot room.

The 90-minute classes are all taught in exactly the same way in rooms heated to 105F (40.5C) exactly. Because of this consistency across the world, Mr Choudhury refers to the practice as McYoga.

He teaches wearing small black pants, while followers also wear tight, skimpy clothing.

According to the Bikram yoga website, there are many rules for practitioners to follow.

"No physical, hands-on corrections or adjustments of students (with the exception of Bikram)," reads one of the guidelines.

"Clapping is not encouraged at the end of class (with the exception of spontaneous recognition of new students).

"It is highly recommended that studio owners and teachers refrain from romantic relationships with students and others within their Bikram Yoga College of India community."

Many followers are very loyal to Bikram yoga and credit it with changing their lives.

Celebrities including Madonna, Andy Murray, Gwyneth Paltrow and Goldie have all participated in Bikram yoga.

"Ms Jafa-Bodden faced retaliation and intimidation when she refused to stay silent about witnessing illegal behaviour,'' her attorney, Mark Quigley, said in a statement.

Mr Choudhury had dismissed the allegations during the trial and said Ms Jafa-Bodden was sacked from her job because she did not have a license to practice law in the US.

Separately, Mr Choudhury is facing accusations of sexual assault, with six women filing lawsuits against him. His lawyers say the claims are "false".

Hot yoga is now taught at more than 650 studios around the world.

In October, Mr Choudhury lost a court battle to copyright the poses.

The US court ruled that health-related yoga could not be copyrighted.

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