San Diego

Bikram Yoga Guru Ordered to Pay Millions After Being Accused of Sexual Misconduct

Several other lawsuits accusing Bikram yoga founder Bikram Choudhury of sexual harassment are expected in court beginning in April.

The founder of Bikram yoga was ordered to pay $6.4 million after being accused of sexual misconduct in the first of a series of lawsuits against him.

The jury in Los Angeles awarded the money in court Monday and Tuesday while hearing about the lawsuit Minakshi Jafa-Bodden filed against Bikram Choudhury, one of the world's most famous yoga teachers.

Bodden claimed Choudhury sexually harassed her while she was one of his legal advisors. Court documents detail how Bodden was fired from her position because she looked into allegations of sexual assault against Choudhury.

Carla Minnard, Bodden’s attorney, said the jury found Choudhury and his businesses engaged in discrimination, harassment, retaliation and wrongful termination with malice.

"Our client is deeply appreciative of the jury's verdict," Minnard said. "We are most appreciative for the opportunity to bring to light in a public forum all of the conduct that Bikram Choudhury and Rajashree Choudhury (the vice president) have worked so hard to keep hidden and under wraps for many years."

Throughout the court proceedings, Choudhury denied the allegations. No criminal charges have been filed against him related to the case.

Hundreds of Bikram "hot yoga" studios are located around the world. The rooms are kept at 105 degrees and very humid. On his website, Choudhury proudly calls his classrooms "torture chambers."

Last year, NBC 7 Investigates highlighted how other women, including one from San Diego, are stepping forward with allegations of sexual assault and emotional abuse against Choudhury.

Former Vista resident Sarah Baughn is one of those women. She said Choudhury and his "hot yoga" method cured her back pain and depression.

"I was completely in awe of this man," Baughn said. "I was really, really devoted to him as my teacher, my guru."

But not long into a Bikram yoga teacher training program, Choudhury allegedly singled her out, telling her they had met in a past life, that he had feelings for her and wanted a "relationship," Baughn alleged. She said he touched her sexually more than once.

A spokeswoman for Choudhury declined NBC 7 Investigates’ request for an interview and has not responded to written questions. In other media interviews, Choudhury has denied allegations of sexual assault and battery and rape.

Baughn is one of six women represented by attorneys Mary Shea and Carney Shegerian in lawsuits filed against Choudhury and Bikram’s Yoga College of India. They accuse the defendants of sexual battery, gender violence, false imprisonment and other wrongdoing. "It's about the conduct of this person towards six very vulnerable, very vulnerable and innocent women," Shea told NBC 7 Investigates.

Those cases are expected to be in court beginning in April.

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