Posted on 6/11/18

Recently, ESPN launched a series about former hot Yoga guru Bikram Choudhury as part of its 30 for 30 series. Bikram Choudhury branded his yoga style by raising the heat to 104 degrees and performing fast-paced moves. From one small studio in San Francisco in the 1970s, his business grew to over 300 Bikram Yoga studios in the United States in 2012. Starting in 2013, six women came forward accusing Bikram of sexual assault and rape. This article will discuss criminal defense methods with respect to Bikram Choudhury’s potential criminal case.


From humble roots as a boy in Calcutta to a brand name in Yoga, Bikram Choudhury seemed to have it all. He was a renowned Yoga guru; he drove Rolls Royces; he had famous clientele, including Quincy Jones, Kareem Abdul-Jabar, Madonna, and Raquel Welch. He was in with the Hollywood elite.

To further expand his burgeoning empire, Bikram started Yoga training courses in the late 1990s. Through his training courses, Bikram would certify those instructors who would then open their own studios with Bikram’s name on them. Certified instructors using his name on their studios must use Bikram’s techniques and his language, as taught at the training.

These trainings would attract 400 or more people to resort hotels at a cost of $10,000-$16,000 per person. At the training, people would learn Bikram’s techniques in a hot room for several hours over a nine-week period. Because the room was hot and the training was intense, people wore very little while training. When the trainees arrived, Bikram gave them a number of rules to follow. One of those rules was no sex with other trainees.

Some of the women who came forward alleging rape and sexual harassment claimed that Bikram raped them during these trainings. A prosecutor, speaking in front of a jury, would likely point to these factors as an environment ripe for sexual predators. Bikram was the guru and they needed his certification to get ahead in the world; everyone was scantily clad due to the extremely hot temperatures; there have been several other complaints of sexual harassment and sexual assault by Yoga gurus. A prosecutor would claim that Bikram ran a pseudo-sex cult. To note, Bikram’s rules were that the trainees could not engage in sex, but Bikram, as cult leader, could.

Taking in the factors, combined with accuser testimony, Bikram would likely be facing a hostile jury.


In Bikram’s defense, the reasons suggesting that he committed rape may be the reasons that he should be found not guilty. It may be that Bikram’s behavior was improper and there may have been serious issues, but the case may lack sufficient proof to compel a jury to find him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Bikram may claim that all sex with these women was consensual. Because, as mentioned, he was the guru and they wanted certification, they wanted his sexual favors to make sure that they would be successful. What is more, in such a sexually-charged environment, it could be difficult to claim rape. It is not a professional office setting where people are dressed appropriately and working on computers; it is a hot Yoga environment where people are wearing next to nothing working on sculpting their bodies.

Facing criminal charges? Contact the criminal defense firm of Christopher Abel.

(image courtesy of Geert Pieters)


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