‘Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator’ Documentary Exposes Sexual Abuse of Famous Yoga Teacher
The new documentary Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator includes direct accounts from former students of Bikram Choudhury recounting sexual harassment and rape that occurred during private trainings.
Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator joins the slate of recent documentaries exposing public figures who abused their power with several counts of sexual assault.
Directed by Eva Orner (Oscar winner for 2007 documentary Taxi to the Dark Side) the new Netflix documentary centers on Bikram Choudhury, a world-famous Yoga instructor and entrepreneur boasting a clientele in the 1970s that included Richard Nixon, Elvis Presley, George Harrison and Frank Sinatra.
Arriving from India, Choudhury was touted by celebrities for his “hot yoga,” perpetuating his hype and giving him cult-like guru status.
Choudhury’s business centered on training instructors who attended intense workshops with him, which were held twice a year in isolated hotels for nine weeks at a time. Notably, Choudhury would don a mere Speedo and Rolex watch while instructing his protégés.
Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator includes direct accounts from former students, recounting sexual harassment and rape that occurred during these special sessions.
Reports were indeed made by women during this time period—accusing him of summoning them to his room at all hours and allegedly assaulting them. However, as one victim recalled: after reporting the incident to another instructor, she was merely told to separate the man from the teaching.
Choudhury was insistent on his innocence, claiming that he had no need to assault anyone because he allegedly had “millions” of volunteers. In fact, he has not faced criminal charges. Choudhury is still running teacher trainings overseas now, and there are still licensed Bikram studios in the U.S.
This year, there have been numerous documentaries released in the wake of #MeToo and its quest to expose sexual predators, including At the Heart of Gold: Inside the USA Gymnastics Scandal and Untouchable, the exposé about film mogul Harvey Weinstein. Both were released by HBO and Hulu, respectively. Surviving R. Kelly, which is available on Netflix, has drawn considerable attention this year with its revelation that the R&B singer engaged in sexual relations with several minors.
Unlike the subjects of those documentaries, Choudhury has long been out of the national spotlight. It may be curious that a new documentary features him at all, but the themes are clearly relevant today, regardless of the persons involved. His victims also want to highlight that it’s a high-profile example of an abuser who was able to evade punishment or responsibility for his actions.
It’s also been suggested that fields like Yoga and fitness, with its legions of devotees, can be a breeding ground for power, cult-like dedication, and subsequent abuse.