A California judge signed off on a warrant for the arrest of Bikram Choudhury, on Wednesday, over suspicions that the yoga guru fled the U.S. after failing to pay $6.8 million in damages to Minakshi Jafa-Bodden. Jafa-Bodden sued Bikram, 70, for sexual harassment and unlawful termination. The decision was made unanimous by jurors. Choudhury faced an additional string of sexual assault claims and said last year that he was nearly bankrupt, according to Time magazine.
The hot yoga founder has not paid off any of his debt, according to court records obtained by People. Bikram was served court papers in Mexico, where he is holding training classes. The judge also set bail for him at $8 million dollars. Jafa-Bodden was head of legal and international affairs at Choudhury’s Los Angeles yoga school from 2011 until 2013.
“[Bikram Choudhury] created a hypersexual, offensive and degrading environment for women by, among other things, demanding that female staffers brush his hair and give him massages.”
It is uncertain where Bikram Choudhury is hiding. However, it had been reported that he’s fled the country. His warehouses in Nevada and Florida are locked by court order. Efforts to track Choudhury down are being made through monitoring his attempts to move luxury property overseas, according to Uproxx.
The United States based millionaire is famous for a method of yoga he created in which practitioners perform a series of 26 poses or “asanas” in a 105 degree heated room.
Los Angeles DA Office Declined To Prosecute Bikram Choudhury
Back in 2013, there were four allegations against Choudhury. However, the district attorney’s office determined that there was insufficient information to charge him. Three women had accused him of sexual assault. The most serious claim is of his female student who alleged that he had raped her.
According to People magazine, more women started coming forward with stories of rape, sexual assault, and harassment by Choudhury in 2013, which led to a total of six civil suits by February of 2015.
Sarah Baughn, one of his accusers, said many people in the yoga community tried their best to ignore the growing criticism against Choudhury. In 2015, Baughn told The New York Times, just after filing her lawsuit, in which she alleged that Bikram had raped her, that most people had their blinders on and did not want to accept that this could happen. Bikram was an icon to yogis and celebrities like Madonna, Jennifer Aniston, George Clooney, and Brooke Shields.
“A lot of people have blinders on… This is their entire world. They don’t want to accept that this has happened.”
Following Multiple Sexual Harassment Allegations From Other Women, Jafa-Bodden Was Fired
Jafa-Bodden, who says that Choudhury convinced her to leave India in 2011 to be his personal attorney, was fired two years later. Jafa-Bodden asserted Choudhury repeatedly sexually harassed her, made lewd comments about women, and pushed her to cover up his sexual harassment during that time, as per People. Following her personal research into other sexual harassment accusations against Bikram, Jafa-Bodden says she was fired.
— Los Angeles Times (@latimes) May 25, 2017
A native of India, Bikram moved to Los Angeles in the early 1970’s and opened his first hot yoga studio in Beverly Hills in 1973. Choudhury eventually copyrighted his Bikram yoga system of 26 poses, performed in rooms heated to 105 degrees.
An instructor must complete an intensive nine-week training program lead by Choudhury is they are looking to own a studio or teach Bikram yoga.
Many of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit said they were afraid to leave the training sessions because of the large sum of money they invested — which cost nearly $10,000 for nine weeks, according to Vanity Fair. Other students said they were afraid their careers in yoga would be affected, or they were simply told by staffers that “We all know how Bikram is, that’s just part of it.”
Choudhury soon turned his system of yoga into a global empire, with his name attached to 720 yoga schools in 220 countries, according to the Daily Mail. Up until recently, he was said to making close to $7 million a year.
Back in 2015, Choudhury said that he would never need to assault or harass anyone for sex because “women love me.” He said if he wanted to become intimate with women, she would not have to assault them. “I don’t have to assault [them],” he told CNN. “I never assaulted them.”
Bikram reiterated the fact that he is loved by all women to ABC’s Nightline.
“Every women loves me. You know, president’s daughter, you know, prime minister’s daughter, you know, billionaire’s daughter, super star, actress, singers. The hardest problem in my life … is to stay away from women.”
At the time, Choudhury claimed he stayed true to his spiritual path. “Yogi is supposed to be yogi… They cannot involve with the women.”
[Featured Image by Reed Saxon/AP Images]