A yoga guru who founded a rigorous routine of exercises practiced in steamy rooms around the world is facing lawsuits by six women who claim he sexually assaulted them.
The most recent case, filed Feb. 13 in Los Angeles Superior Court, said Bikram Choudhury raped a Canadian woman who had shelled out $10,000 from her college fund for a nine-week class so she could teach the 26-pose technique to others.
Jill Lawler said she went into the class elated to learn from the master, but things quickly soured as she was expected to massage him while watching Bollywood movies late into the night with hundreds of other students and was sexually assaulted on several occasions.
"Throughout the sexual abuse, defendant Bikram Choudhury offered multiple explanations and justifications for his behavior," the lawsuit said. "He would say 'I'm dying, I need to you to save me. If I don't have sex I will die. You are saving my life, you are helping me.' "
Choudhury did not return an email seeking comment, but lawyers representing him and Bikram's Yoga College of India said he never sexually assaulted any of the women and that prosecutors declined to bring charges.
"Their claims are false, needlessly bring shame upon the yoga community, and dishonor the health and spiritual benefits that Bikram Yoga has brought to the lives of millions of practitioners throughout the world," the statement said.
The Los Angeles district attorney declined to bring charges in a case against Choudhury in 2013 for lack of evidence, spokesman Ricardo Santiago said.