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He Faced Allegations of Sexual Assault and Rape From Students for Years. Now Bikram Choudhury is “Back” Teaching in Canada.

Following scandal after scandal, the founder of hot yoga refuses to pay court-ordered damages or admit wrongdoing. How is he still teaching?

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Last week, the Vancouver Sun reported on an upcoming series of yoga classes and lectures taking place in Vancouver, British Columbia, and being promoted across social media as “Boss is back!”

“The Boss” is Bikram Choudhury, the founder of hot yoga and the defendant in half a dozen civil cases alleging sexual misconduct.

In 2013, Sarah Baughn was the first to publicly accuse Choudhury of sexual assault. Larissa Anderson stepped forward next. Then Jill Lawler. In all, seven women—six of them former Bikram yoga students—filed civil lawsuits against Choudhury for sexual assault, harassment, creating a hostile work environment, wrongful termination, or rape. The Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office has not chosen to pursue criminal charges against Choudhury.

The only lawsuit to go to trial was brought by Minakshi Jafa-Bodden, Choudhury’s former legal adviser. In 2011, Jafa-Bodden initiated an internal investigation into allegations of rape and sexual assault by several of Choudhury’s students. She says he initially dismissed her concerns and when she didn’t relent he forced her to resign.

In her case, Los Angeles jurors deliberated for approximately a day before they unanimously decided against Choudhury, awarding Jafa-Bodden more than $7.4 million in damages in January 2016.

Sixteen months later, Choudhury’s failure to pay the ruling resulted in a warrant for his arrest. He filed for bankruptcy, and continued to lead yoga teacher trainings in India, Thailand, and Mexico with dozens of students paying tuition of more than $10,000. Photos of Choudhury with dozens of students at the trainings appeared on his Instagram page.

To date, at least three of the lawsuits have been settled out of court. The remaining were left pending after Choudhury left the country.

Choudhury has denied any wrongdoing. In a statement shared by email, Choudhury’s spokesperson, Richard Hillgrove, said “Mr. Choudhury is innocent and was stitched up by a hate campaign orchestrated by a former legal assistant and yoga enthuisiast [sic].”

In a 2014 video interview with ABC News Nightline’s David Wright, Choudhury said, “I never hurt another spirit. I’m the most spiritual man, David, you ever met in your life.”

It’s not clear whether Choudhury’s legal history in the United States will affect his Canadian seminar. The U.S. and Canada share criminal databases, effectively allowing the Canada Border Services Agency to access all criminal records in the U.S.—including warrants.

Whether the California arrest warrant remains active will, in large part, determine whether Choudhury can legally enter Canada. When a person attempts to enter Canada with an outstanding U.S. warrant, they are likely to be detained, questioned, and may be boarded onto a flight back to their country of origin, says Robert Russo, PhD, a graduate program lecturer at the Peter A. Allard School of Law at the University of British Columbia. Multiple requests placed with the Los Angeles Superior Court and the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office did not disclose information on the warrant.

If a warrant is current, it’s possible, says Russo, for attorneys to arrange for waivers that would allow individuals to bypass the usual regulations for entry into Canada.

The Vancouver event, which takes place February 20-24, is sponsored by the Canada Yoga Sports Federation, also known as Canada Yoga. During the reporting of this article, more than a third of the responses to the most recent Choudhury post on Facebook were “angry” emojis. At the time of publication, Canada Yoga limited comments on the post.

According to its website, Canada Yoga “promotes the discipline of Yoga Asana and encourages yoga practitioners of all lineages, all ages, genders, and cultural backgrounds, to participate at a competition level.” It is an affiliate of the International Yoga Sports Federation (IYSF), which works toward the inclusion of yoga in the Olympics. IYSF was founded in 2003 by Rajashree Choudhury, Bikram’s wife at the time. A spokesperson for Canada Yoga declined to comment unless the interview could be broadcast live on social media, counter to journalistic norms.

IYSF and Marriott International, owner of JW Marriott Parq Vancouver where the seminar will be held, did not respond to requests for comment.

If you are a victim of sexual assault, there are resources that can provide support at any time of day or night. In Canada, you can call the Women Against Violence Against Women Crisis and Information Line at 877-392-7583. In the United States, you can call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-4673 or reach out via confidential online chat at

RELATED: Online Protestors Express Outrage in Response to Bikram Choudhury’s Scheduled Classes in Canada

Additional reporting by Tamara Y. Jeffries.

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