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Bikram Yoga Guru Faces More Rape Claims

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A yoga guru who found fame and fortune after creating the popular hot-yoga practice Bikram is being sued by six women who claim he sexually assaulted them.

 

The latest lawsuit claims Bikram Choudhury raped a Canadian student after she attended his nine-week training programme in Los Angeles to become a yoga instructor.

The woman said she shelled out $10,000 (£6,500) for the course, but claimed she was soon asked to give Choudhury massages whilst he watched Bollywood films with hundreds of other students.

She claimed she was sexually assaulted on several occasions.

"Throughout the sexual abuse, defendant Bikram Choudhury offered multiple explanations and justifications for his behaviour," said the lawsuit, filed on 13 February in Los Angeles Superior Court.

"He would say 'I'm dying, I need to you to save me. If I don't have sex I will die. You are saving my life, you are helping me.' "

The woman is one of six alleged victims who claim Choudhury, 69, sexually harassed, groped or raped them over the years.

Bikram classes are carried out in a heated room. File pic

Another lawsuit against him, brought by a 29-year-old former yoga champion, is scheduled for trial in August.

The woman sued Choudhury for sexual assault, claiming there was such a cult-like atmosphere in the Bikram community that she endured his assaults as something that went with the territory.

Many of the alleged attacks are said to have taken place during Choudhury's rigorous training seminars, which he teaches in high temperatures wearing nothing by black speedos.

Choudhury has denied any wrongdoing and has never been criminally charged.

In a lengthy statement, his lawyers called the accusations "lurid" and claimed they were made to "exploit the legal system for financial gain".

"Their claims are false, needlessly bring shame upon the yoga community, and dishonor the health and spiritual benefits that Bikram Yoga has brought to the lives of millions of practitioners throughout the world," the statement said.

The Los Angeles district attorney declined to bring charges in a case against Choudhury in 2013 due to lack of lack of evidence, according to court spokesman Ricardo Santiago.

Born in Calcutta, Choudury has long developed the cult of himself as a quasi-spiritual leader whose yoga regime promises to heal the body and mind.

Bikram classes consist of 26 Hatha yoga poses carried out in a humid room heated to 40C (104F).

After popularising the routine in the 1970s, he now runs a yoga empire of 650 hot studios worldwide from his Los Angeles headquarters.

Celebrity devotees include Madonna, David Beckham, Jennifer Aniston and George Clooney.

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