Arrest Warrant Issued For Bikram Choudhury, Founder Of 'Hot Yoga'
An arrest warrant has been issued for Bikram Choudhury, the founder of Los Angeles-based Bikram Yoga. Choudhury has been convicted in one case of sexual abuse against his former legal advisor, Minakshi Jafa-Bodden, and faces six more cases this year—one of sexual abuse, and five of rape.
According to the Associated Press, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Edward Moreton issued the arrest warrant on Wednesday to satisfy the $6.8 million judgement won by Jafa-Bodden last year. It is believed Choudhury has fled the U.S. for Mexico, and the warrant would allow authorities to arrest him upon his return to the States. Choudhury's bail has been set to $8 million.
Choudhury—whose Bikram Yoga empire claims to teach millions of students at some 650 studios worldwide—told jurors at the time of the verdict in the Jafa-Bodden case that he was facing bankruptcy and could not pay the judgement.
"I have to borrow money from my family and friends,” Choudhury told the jurors, notes the Los Angeles Times. “I have no money.”
A teacher training course in Bikram Yoga costs between $12,500 and $16,600. According to its website, Choudhury's method "spreads the therapeutic value of Hatha Yoga through 26 postures sequence, which is known as Bikram Yoga."
“It’s a sham,” Mark Quigley, an attorney for Jafa-Bodden, said. “He lives a life of luxury.”
During cross-examination in the trail, it was revealed that Choudhury keeps 43 luxury cars (including Bentleys and Ferraris) in a garage in Van Nuys. Yet, Choudhury claims he gave the fleet to the state to start a school he called the “Bikram auto engineering school for children.”
In addition to charges of sexual assault and rape, students and employees have accused Choudhury of homophobic, misogynistic, and racist slurs, notes the Huffington Post.
“AIDS is caused by gays, it is the truth, but these fucking asshole guys love me, they love Bikram," Choudhury is quoted as saying in a lawsuit. He is also accused of referring to his female employees as "bitches", accusing African-American students of not understand his technique, and anti-semitism.
“There’s a great desire to keep Bikram’s conduct in the dark,” Carla Minnard, a civil rights attorney, said of the multiple charges against Choudhury. “It shows an inability by anyone to restrain an individual who is a dangerous person.”
Jafa-Bodden says she was fired for trying to investigate claims of sexual assault and rape brought forth by other women, notes ABC News.
Choudhury and his organization have repeatedly denied any wrong-doing, and have claimed the accusations are fabricated. According to the Times, in 2013, Petra Starke, president of the Bikram Yoga College of India, stated on BikramYoga.com "that Choudhury is 'disappointed in the false charges made in [Jafa-Bodden's] lawsuit. However, the matter is in the hands of his attorneys, and he will not have comment at this time."
The six additional lawsuits against Choudhury will head to trial this year.