Bikram Backlash Heats Up

In a recent interview with ABC Nightline, Bikram Choudhury, self-professed healer of a supposed half a billion people worldwide, is facing the fire for alleged misconduct during one of his teacher training courses.

Pandhora Williams, who paid around $11,000 to attend one such course, is suing Choudhury for sexual harassment alleged to have happened during one of his nine-week trainings.

Williams told ABC that during class, Choudhury repeatedly made derogatory comments about women and homosexuals, saying, “Women are bitches and whores. They’re here for one thing, to spread their legs and make babies.”

After completing seven weeks of the course, Williams told ABC that she confronted Choudhury. “I walked up to him, and I said ‘Bikram, You’re breaking my heart.’ That’s what I said to him first. ‘Why are you preaching hate when there’s so much hatred already in this world?’” Williams told ABC, and claimed his response was, “‘We don’t sell love here, you f**king bitch—get out. Get this black bitch out of here; she’s a cancer.’”

In Choudhury’s deposition video, he said he had never used any hateful speech in class. He also claimed that he was fearful for his safety when Williams confronted him.

In his ABC Nightline interview, Choudhury said, “I never lie, I never cheat, I never hurt another spirit. I am the most spiritual man…you ever met in your life. But today, you are not old, educated, smart, intelligent, wise, experienced enough to understand who I am. You will be one of these days, if you practice Bikram yoga, you will understand that, but not today.”

Somewhere in Choudhury’s office is a tall stack of lawsuits that he has filed against former students for copyright and trademark infringement. Some of them have been settled out of court, but the recent ruling in the case of Bikram vs. Evolation set his agenda back a few steps. According to the court ruling, Choudhury’s 26-pose yoga sequence is not covered under Choudhury’s copyrights, and thus, there can be no infringement.

These messy court cases have led many to question Choudhury’s devotion to yoga as well as his intentions. Perhaps he has a love for flashy cars and piles of money, but Choudhury expresses unrivaled confidence in his practice.

“I can make you live 100 years,” he told ABC. “I cure patient, absolutely no hope—98 percent heart was clogged. Send him to me,” Bikram continued. “Eight months later I send him back—brand new heart, like a panther heart.”

As yoga grows in popularity, with over 20 million people practicing in America alone, it is not all that surprising to see someone wanting to make the most of such a booming market. Choudhury claims to be responsible for yoga’s popularity in the West and is fighting to prove it in court.

Irrespective of Choudhury’s self-professed claims to fame, the era of Bikram Yoga law suits may be drawing to a close. A Federal court judge in California recently ruled that a series of yoga postures and breathing exercises cannot be copyrighted.

“Copyrights cover an author’s creative expression of facts and ideas – the facts and ideas themselves are not protected,” U.S. District Court Judge Otis D. Wright, II, wrote. Only certain categories of works may be copyrighted, and the Bikram Yoga sequence did not fall into any of those categories. In short, when it comes to hot yoga, cooler heads and common sense may finally be prevailing.

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