The founder of yoga-with-a-schvitz, Bikram Choudhury, has been ordered to pay one of his former employees more than $924,500 for sexually harassing and then firing her. Minakshi Jafa-Bodden says that the 69-year-old guru pressured her to cover up his harassment of students and then let her go when she started looking into the story of a student who had accused him of rape. A jury agreed, and on Monday ruled in her favor, adding that he had acted maliciously — meaning that he may have to pay even more, as Jafa-Bodden seeks punitive damages.
Six other women since 2013 have brought sexual-assault lawsuits against Choudhury. He’s maintained that accusations of sexual assault and abuse are “lies” and “big lies,” telling a CNN interviewer, “Women likes me, women loves me. So if I want to get involved with the women, I don’t have to assault anybody.” Choudhury’s wife refuses to even look at him and has filed for divorce. On the stand, he admitted making references to his penis during training sessions, and recanted earlier statements saying that he hadn’t used obscene language, but claimed that he’d fired Jafa-Bodden because she wasn’t licensed to practice law in the United States.
Choudhury created Bikram yoga, performed in a room heated to 104 degrees, in Los Angeles in the 1970s, and has since claimed that his methods can cure knee injuries and arthritis. He instructs very large classes of stretching women while wearing nothing but a headset, a thong, and his Rolex.