Two Women Claim Yoga Guru Bikram Choudhury Raped Them
LOS ANGELES (CN) - Millionaire yoga guru Bikram Choudhury raped two students, and his acolytes recruit women for him knowing what's in store for them, two Jane Does say in separate lawsuits.
Jane Doe No. 2 sued Choudhury and Bikram Yoga College of India in Superior Court on Monday, alleging sexual battery, false imprisonment, discrimination, harassment and seven other counts.
Jane Doe No. 1 filed a similar complaint Tuesday against the same defendants in the same court.
The two lawsuits follow one from another former student, Sarah Baughn, who claimed in March this year that Choudhury made sexual advances while she was training to be a teacher in 2005. That complaint alleged sexual harassment, but not rape.
In her complaint, Jane Doe No. 2 claims that Choudhury raped her in November 2010 after her boyfriend gave her a gift to be trained as a teacher at Choudhury's Bikram Yoga studio in San Diego.
Doe No. 2 says in the complaint that defendant Does 1-25, "other persons in defendant Bikram Choudhury's inner circle, were aware of defendant Bikram Choudhury's pattern and practice of causing, inducing or persuading young women to enroll in teacher training classes to become yoga instructors only so he can sexually assault and/or rape them." She claims the Doe defendants knew this was in the cards, but "did nothing to prevent this from happening to plaintiff or to protect her."
Her 36-page complaint claims there is a disturbing cult-like environment in the studios, where studio owners and instructors enroll attractive, vulnerable young women for Choudhury to sexually assault or rape.
Choudhury's Bikram Yoga franchise is a form of Hatha Yoga practiced in studios heated to 105 degrees.
Doe No. 2 claims the brutal nine-week teacher training program cost $13,000. During the program, students must abstain from sex, are taught that Bikram Yoga can cure cancer and other diseases, and instructed that Choudhury is akin to a God, she says in the complaint.
During teacher training, "every moment of a student's day is controlled by the schedule set by defendant Bikram Choudhury," the complaint states. "The day usually starts at 7:00 a.m., and ends between 2:00 and 3:00 a.m. Students are required to attend each and every class and spend eight plus hours a day being instructed. When they can eat, what they can drink during class (water only, and even that is heavily frowned upon by defendant), what they wear (must not wear color green and must wear tight, skimpy clothing), the expressions on their face, the words that come out of their mouths and the position of their bodies are all controlled by defendant Choudhury and other instructors."
Doe No. 2 claims the grueling schedule was designed to "break down her body, will and spirit," and brainwash her with Choudhury's "vision and teachings."
She describes Choudhury as a combustible tyrant who orders students during classes to remain mute, and treat him "with unquestioning obedience."
"Students are also often required to attend evening lectures, where defendant Choudhury rants on subjects including his negative views on certain races; negative views on homosexuality; the moral lassitude of Americans; his guru; his views on sex, marriage, and relationships; and whatever else he should care to talk about," the complaint states.
Some students are pushed so hard they faint, vomit, urinate on themselves, or suffer heat strokes and seizures, Doe says in the complaint.
"Other students have reported that it is common for students to collapse and be unable to rise, or to be overcome with weeping in a room full of hundreds of people due to the sheer physical exhaustion," the complaint states.
Doe claims that before she entered into teacher training, she was a "happy carefree person."
Though she was initially flattered by the "special attention" and compliments she received from Choudhury in class, she says that changed when he made advances and professed his love for her.
She says she rebuffed Choudhury and reminded him that she had a boyfriend and that he was married. But his advances continued until he sexually assaulted her on Nov. 18, 2010 in his room at the studio, she says in the complaint.
Doe claims that on the night of the attack, Choundhury told her he wanted to discuss a job offer in his room.
"Defendant Bikram Choudhury said he saw himself in plaintiff (he had said that to her before) and that, 'I need to spiritually enlighten you. In order to do that, we need to become one.' Then, without warning or consent, defendant Bikram Choudhury forcefully pulled plaintiff towards him and had one hand around her and the other was unbuttoning her jeans. He hooked his hand at the top of her pants and tried to pull them down with force," the complaint states.
Though in a "weakened state" from her training, Doe says she pushed Choudhury away, but he threatened her, grabbed her by the wrist and forced her into his bedroom.
"Defendant Bikram Choudhury pulled her pants down and forced her onto the bed. Plaintiff Jane Doe No.2 could not stop crying and kept begging him over and over to stop. He forced his unprotected penis in her vagina. Within moments it was over. The only thing defendant Bikram Choudhury said was, 'How many times did you come?' Plaintiff Jane Doe No.2 was in pain, in shock and could not speak. Defendant Bikram Choudhury then ordered plaintiff to watch him until he fell asleep," according to the complaint.
Doe adds: "The next day during lecture, defendant Bikram Choudhury made offensive sexual comments to the whole class. It was demoralizing and humiliating. He told the plaintiff and rest of the class that when he first moved to the U.S. women raped him all the time and taught him how to have sex. Defendant Bikram Choudhury said he would have sex marathons. Then he started talking about women's bodies and how he liked 'pussy' without hair on it. Defendant Bikram Choudhury said, 'I can't stand fat unattractive women.' As he spoke, his voice was becoming more and more intense and his language more vulgar.'"
Doe claims the defendant studio did nothing to protect her from Choudhury. She claims that a male instructor her to finish the program, telling her: "'We all know how Bikram is, that's just part of it.'"
She claims: "During graduation, defendant Bikram Choudhury insisted that plaintiff stay by his side the whole time. By this point her spirit was drained and she was operating out of total fear. Defendant Bikram Choudhury made her sit next to him at the dinner table even though his wife Rajashtee (Raj) was there. It was humiliating. At one point during the dinner, as if knowing what had happened, Raj told defendant Bikram Choudhury to 'let her go.'"
Doe claims that when she told Choudhury she planned to leave the studio, he told her, among other things, "'If you fuck with me, I'll fuck with you.' ...
"Plaintiff Jane Doe No. 2's life unraveled after she returned home. Her long term relationship fell apart, she went into a severe depression, attempted suicide, started drinking, doing drugs, engaged in uncharacteristically impulsive behavior, quit her job and cut off communication from almost everyone in her life," the complaint states.
She says she "lived in constant fear" that Choudhury would come to her home and attack her. Doe claims that some people enter the United States illegally to "volunteer" in the program.
"Once in the United States, these 'volunteers' are required to serve defendant Bikram Choudhury for zero or little pay. Their duties include grooming him, massaging him, making his tea, bring him food and being forced to submit to sexual assaults and rapes against their will," according to the complaint.
Doe seeks punitive damages, lost wages, and costs.
Jane Doe No. 1's complaint is substantially the same. She claims that Choudhury raped her twice.
Both women are represented by Mary Shea Hagebols with Shea Law Offices, of Oakland.