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Why Did Bikram Choudhury Go to Prison?

Bikram Choudhury was a yoga guru who founded the popular Bikram style of hot yoga. He built a devoted following through his yoga schools and celebrities flocked to his classes. However, in recent years, Choudhury became embroiled in multiple lawsuits alleging sexual harassment and assault. In 2017, he fled the U.S. after being ordered to pay millions in damages. A warrant was issued for his arrest. This article will examine the controversial fall of Bikram Choudhury and the events that led to his prison sentence.

Background on Bikram Choudhury

Some key facts about Bikram Choudhury and his rise to yoga fame:

  • Born in India in 1944 and began studying yoga at age 5.
  • Immigrated to the U.S. in the 1970s to teach his yoga method.
  • Created and patented his own style of hot yoga performed in 105° heat.
  • Opened multiple Bikram yoga studios and teacher training programs.
  • Published book Bikram’s Beginning Yoga Class in 1978 about his practice.
  • Taught celebrity students like Madonna, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Andy Murray.

Choudhury basked in the glow of his yoga empire and lavish lifestyle for decades. But troubling accusations began surfacing by the late 2010s.

Sexual Harassment and Assault Allegations

Starting in 2013, multiple female yoga students and teachers began filing lawsuits against Choudhury alleging sexual misconduct:

  • Former student Sarah Baughn claimed Choudhury repeatedly sexually harassed and assaulted her.
  • Multiple additional women levied accusations of harassment, assault, and rape.
  • Allegations dated back decades and involved teacher trainings and classes.
  • Choudhury’s former in-house counsel accused him of threats for investigating claims.
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Choudhury denied the allegations and fought the lawsuits. But the claims dismantled his reputation as more former devotees came forward.

Lawsuits and Judgments Against Choudhury

Despite his denials, Bikram Choudhury began losing judgments in the mounting sexual misconduct lawsuits:

  • In 2016, he was ordered to pay $6.8 million in damages to his former legal advisor.
  • In 2017, he lost a $1 million lawsuit and was ordered to pay additional millions to Sarah Baughn.
  • Courts issued warrants for his arrest for failing to pay the judgments against him.
  • Choudhury fled the U.S. to avoid arrest and went into hiding abroad.

Choudhury was essentially a fugitive as more decisions went against him and he refused to pay damages owed to victims.

2020 Conviction and Sentencing in Absentia

With Bikram Choudhury in hiding and failing to appear in court, further legal proceedings continued without him:

  • In May 2019, an Indian court issued an arrest warrant on charges of sexually harassing a female student.
  • In 2020, he was convicted in absentia of sexually harassing the woman who accused him.
  • Sentenced to 7 years in prison for the harassment conviction by Indian court.
  • Still has not served prison time as he avoided extradition back to India.

Despite avoiding arrest thus far, Choudhury is a convicted felon wanted for incarceration in India. The accusations destroyed his reputation and yoga empire regardless of his prison status.

Conclusion: Allegations Ended Career and Freedom

In summary, Bikram Choudhury went from beloved yoga guru to international fugitive after being accused of rampant sexual misconduct by female students. Despite his denials, he lost successive lawsuits and was ordered to pay millions in damages he never paid. This led to warrants for his arrest in the U.S. along with a conviction and 7-year prison sentence in India. While so far avoiding incarceration by hiding abroad, his career and reputation are irreparably tarnished. Choudhury’s once highly respected yoga schools have nearly all shut down after the shocking revelations. His current status as a convicted felon and fugitive wanted by Interpol marks a dramatic fall from fame.

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Timeline of Legal Cases Against Bikram Choudhury

DateLawsuit/ChargeResult
2013Sarah Baughn sexual assault lawsuitCivil lawsuit filed
2016Legal advisor wrongful termination suitOrdered to pay $6.8M
2017Baughn lawsuitOrdered to pay $1M+
2017Arrest warrant issued in U.S.Flees country
2019Harassment charges in IndiaConvicted in absentia
2020Sentencing in India7 years prison sentence

Conclusion

In conclusion, Bikram Choudhury went from being a world-renowned yoga guru to an international fugitive after being accused of sexual assault and harassment by former students. Despite denying the allegations, he lost repetitive lawsuits and was convicted in absentia in India, receiving a 7-year prison sentence he has so far avoided through hiding abroad. While not yet incarcerated, Choudhury’s reputation and yoga empire collapsed under the weight of the disturbing misconduct claims made against him. The dramatic downfall serves as a cautionary tale about the consequences rich and powerful men finally face after years of exploiting underlings.

Prison Inside Team

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Welcome to ‘Prison Inside,’ a blog dedicated to shedding light on the often hidden and misunderstood world within correctional facilities. Through firsthand accounts, personal narratives, and insightful reflections, we delve into the lives of those who find themselves behind bars, offering a unique perspective on the challenges, triumphs, and transformations that unfold within the confines of these walls.

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