Bikram Choudhury And Yoga Rape Culture: What Happens When The Student-Teacher Dynamic Becomes Twisted


Yet another woman has stepped forward accusing Bikram Choudhury, the guru and founder of the now-ubiquitous Bikram yoga, of rape.

Choudhury now faces six civil lawsuits. In the most recently filed suit on Feb. 13, a woman said she was assaulted and raped by Choudhury while attending a teacher training workshop in 2010, according to a report from The New York Times. The training workshop is run by Bikram’s Yoga College of India organization, which Choudhury leads and instructs.

Choudhury is not facing criminal charges. Repeated calls by Yahoo Health to Bikram headquarters were met with “no comment”; Choudhury’s legal team also declined to provide comment to Yahoo Health. However, in a statement issued to CNN, Choudhury’s lawyers denounced the accusations, saying:

The women did not independently come forward to tell their stories of sexual assault after years of keeping them secret. Instead, they signed on to become plaintiffs in these cases following a world-wide and lengthy period of solicitation through letters and social media seeking to convince women to sue Mr. Choudhury.

The Power Dynamics Of The Student-Guru Relationship

Teacher training for Bikram yoga — which itself is a series of 26 poses performed in a 105-degree heated room — is not for the faint of heart. As reported by Vanity Fair last year, the training programs are comprised of a “nine-week boot camp, featuring two 90-minute classes six days a week, plus anatomy lessons, posture clinics, and meandering Choudhury soliloquies.” Attendees spend hours memorizing precise scripts in order to teach Bikram-style classes themselves. They must ask permission to use the bathroom; they may not wear the color green because of Choudhury’s dislike of the hue. And electing to participate in this experience is far from cheap: Attendance fees are anywhere from $12,500 to $16,600.The student-teacher dynamic in yoga is unique. “Traditionally, speaking in terms of pre-modern yoga, there was a guru-disciple model in terms of how yoga was taught and transmitted,” Carol Horton, PhD, a writer, educator and activist who studies the intersection of yoga, social science, and social justice, explains to Yahoo Health. “As a student, you are to submit yourself to a true guru — someone not just a teacher, but someone who has achieved a higher level of knowledge.”



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