A business with the goal of inducing relaxation reached a critical stress level when it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Bikram's Yoga College of India LP has filed for bankruptcy in the wake of numerous sexual harassment claims against its founder, Bikram Choudhury.
Yoga systems often form around charismatic figures like Choudhury, who has prepared a hot yoga regime that requires practitioners to adopt poses in 100-degree-plus heat. Choudhury's variant of yoga is involves hatha yoga postures based on texts over 1,000 years old.
Choudhury has found himself in media heat over allegations that he sexually harassed his own yoga practitioners.
Talk of the guru's behavior has swirled for years, and allegations were reported publicly at the end of 2013 in Vanity Fair's "Bikram Yoga's Embattled Founder: The Alleged Rapes and Sexual Harassment Claims Against Guru Bikram."
The founder was prone to making dramatic appearances.
"In outward appearance, Choudhury is a flashy showboat who wears crocodile shoes and gangster fedoras," Vanity Fair said in December 2013.
"He owns dozens of Rolls-Royces, Bentleys, and the like (including Howard Hughes's Royal Daimler, with a toilet in back), and lives in an 8,000-square-foot Beverly Hills mansion seemingly built entirely from gold, stone, and mirrors. He claims to sleep only two hours a night, and he is given to swaggering pronouncements-e.g., 'I have balls like atom bombs, two of them, 100 mega-tons each. Nobody fucks with me.'"
Choudhury has denied harassment allegations, according to Vanity Fair.
"Choudhury has repeatedly denied the accusations. In a 2016 interview in India with HBO's 'Real Sports,' Choudhury called his accusers 'trash,' and said that he would never need to resort to sexual assault because he has 'the most beautiful, famous, rich women in the world lined up to sleep with him every day.' He added that there were four separate instances of women taking their own lives because he would not have sex with them."
More recently, the yoga company has run into another problem—it ran out of money.
"Miki Jaffa Bodden, Bikram Yoga's former head of legal, is owed $8 million, according to court papers," the New York Post reported. "Petra Starke, a former Obama White House lawyer who became the chief executive of the Bikram Yoga College of India in 2013, is owed $5.1 million."
The company's Chapter 11 filing in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Central District of California's Los Angeles division referenced debtors including Ferrari Financial, Boden and Starke.
The bankruptcy filling lists minimal assets and over $10 million in debt.