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Hot Yoga

Bikram Yoga Files for Bankruptcy—While Fugitive Founder Reportedly Hides Out in Acapulco

Bikram Choudhury's yoga business, which faces upwards of $10 million in liabilities, filed for bankruptcy last week. One lawyer calls the move another "attempt to game" the US judicial system.

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Bikram Choudhury Yoga has filed for bankruptcy as it faces more than $16 million in legal judgments, as well as allegations of sexual harassment and assault against Bikram Yoga founder Bikram Choudhury. The company said in a bankruptcy court filing last Thursday that it was facing estimated liabilities between $10 million and $50 million, and listed estimated assets of between $0 and $50,000, court papers show.

Who Is Owed Money By Bikram Yoga?

The filing lists six creditors (people or entities with a right to payment), including the hot yoga guru’s former legal adviser, Minakshi “Miki” Jafa-Bodden, who is owed $8 million. Last May, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Edward Moreton issued an arrest warrant for Choudhury, ordering him to turn over the proceeds from his business to go toward a $6.8 million judgment Jafa-Bodden won against him in a sexual harassment and wrongful termination lawsuit. Choudhury’s bail was set at $8 million.

Jafa-Bodden said in her lawsuit that Choudhury fired her from her position as head of legal and international affairs at his Los Angeles yoga school in 2013 for refusing to cover up an investigation into another woman’s rape allegation. She also said in the suit that he inappropriately touched her. She was awarded nearly $1 million in compensatory damages and more than $6 million in punitive damages.

In a statement released to Yoga Journal, Jafa-Bodden’s attorney, Carla V. Minnard, said Choudhury’s filing of Chapter 11 bankruptcy petitions for his defunct Bikram Yoga entities is “one more part of his ongoing attempt to game the United States judicial system,” because according to the judgment, Choudhury no longer owns or controls the entities—the court-appointed receiver has control of them on Jafa-Bodden’s behalf. She also points out that Choudhury remains a fugitive, with the arrest warrant outstanding, and he has reportedly been hiding out in Acapulco, Mexico.

Other creditors listed in the bankruptcy filing include Petra Starke, who is owed $5.1 million. Starke moved from her job as lawyer in the Obama White House to chief executive of the Bikram Yoga College of India in 2013, then complained of wrongful dismissal, sexually inappropriate conduct, and “racist tirades,” according to Reuters.

Creditor Sharon Clerkin, who claimed she was fired for becoming pregnant, is owed $3.6 million, according to the filing. Bikram Choudhury Yoga is disputing all the judgments, according to the court papers.

Separately, Bikram’s Yoga College of India also filed for bankruptcy.

See also Yoga’s Bad Boy: Bikram Choudhury

The Outstanding Law Suits for Rape, Sexual Assault

Choudhury has also faced six civil lawsuits from women accusing him of rape or assault, according to The New York Times. Choudhury’s attorneys have said he never sexually assaulted any of the women suing him.

In an episode of HBO’s Real Sports with Bryan Gumbel that aired last year, Choudhury referred to the women who have made accusations against him as “trash” and “psychopaths.” He also said that he has no need to harass women. “Why would I have to harass women?” he asked Real Sports correspondent Andrea Kremer. “People spend one million dollars for a drop of my sperm.”

Choudhury became famous for his sequence of 26 hatha yoga postures and two pranayama techniques, performed in a heated room that is 104–105 degrees Fahrenheit, with a humidity of 40 percent.

See also Study Finds Bikram Yoga Raises Body Temps to 103°+