The company that brought hot yoga to the US files for bankruptcy after founder's sexual harassment scandals cost millions

  • Bikram Choudhury Yoga filed for bankruptcy.
  • Founder Bikram Choudhury was ordered to pay millions of dollars to former employees in lawsuits alleging sexual harassment and misconduct.
  • The yoga studio was a major force in bringing hot yoga to the US.

The yoga studio that brought hot yoga to the US has filed for bankruptcy.

Bikram Choudhury Yoga Inc. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Thursday, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The studio listed more than $US16 million owed in legal judgments, many apparently related to founder Bikram Choudhury’s alleged sexual misconduct.

The filing indicates the studio owes $US5.1 million to Petra Starke, a former White House lawyer who also served as CEO of Bikram’s Yoga College of India.

Starke filed a lawsuit claiming that she was essentially fired after she reported acts of apparent sexual misconduct in the company. Testifying in court, Starke said that she witnessed inappropriate actions while at the company, including seeing a 23-year-old yoga instructor giving the 69-year-old Choudhury oral sex in a limo, Law 360 reported.

Choudhury, Starke said, held meetings in his bedroom and called people “bitches” and “white trash.”

Creditors also include Miki Jaffa-Bodden, who was awarded $US7.4 million in a sexual harassment lawsuit against Choudhury. Jaffa-Bodden said in a civil complaint that Choudhury fired her when she did not help him cover up another woman’s rape allegation. Jaffa-Bodden also said Choudhury sexually harassed her and tried to get her to stay with him in a hotel suite.

Choudhury has denied all the sexual misconduct claims and is disputing judgments against him.

Bikram yoga is a style of yoga that’s typically practiced in room hotter than 95 degrees. Bikram, and hot yoga more generally, became a national trend roughly 15 years ago.

Choudhury long maintained an iron grip on the hot yoga industry — teachers have to undergo a nine-week course offered by Bikram Choudhury Yoga if they wanted to teach “Bikram yoga,” as opposed to simply “hot yoga.” With Coudhury’s downfall, Bikram is rebranding, changing its name to Bode Yoga earlier this year.

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