An alleged sexual harassment scandal involving an international yoga guru and one of his female students has sent shock waves through the yoga community.
Bikram Choudhury, the world-renowned founder of Bikram yoga, has been slapped with a lawsuit this month by 28-year-old former student Sarah Baughn, who accuses him of sexual harassment, discrimination and defamation, according to The New York Times.
In the complaint, Baughn accuses Choudhury of pressing his body against hers during a yoga training session in 2005. While “pretending to assist her, [Choudhury] pushed her down toward the floor after pulling her arm and leg apart and opening her body. Defendant Bikram Choudhury then pressed his body into hers, and began whispering sexual things to her until she collapsed into sobs,” the complaint stated, according to ABC News.
Baughn, who was 20 when she first met Choudhury, also alleges that her former teacher hurt her yoga career because she pushed back against his advances.
In a statement on BikramYoga.com, a representative says Choudhury is "disappointed by the false charges made in this lawsuit" but will not comment at this time. The rep concludes by thanking those who have "reached out to express their love and support."
Choudhury, 67, started Bikram Yoga in the early 1970s, the Times notes. Since then, Choudhury's eponymous yoga system -- which involves a now-copyrighted yoga sequence practiced in a sweltering hot room -- has become extremely popular around the world, with several high-profile celebrities, including Madonna and Jennifer Aniston, swearing by the benefits of the practice.
This isn't the first time in recent years that a yoga master has been tangled in an alleged sex scandal.
In 2012, John Friend, the founder of the Anusara style of yoga, was slapped with allegations of both sexual and financial misconduct, according to an NBC News report.
Friend was accused of having sexual affairs with several married employees and yoga teachers, the Washington Post reported last March. He was also accused of substance abuse and financial mismanagement, among other things.
Clarification: The headline of this story has been amended to more accurately reflect the accusations against Bikram Choudhury.
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