Los Angeles-based self-styled `hot yoga’ guru Bikram Choudhury, who came to the US from Kolkata in 1973 and is today a multi-millionaire who lives in the Hollywood Hills and boasts a fleet of 40 Rolls-Royces, now faces heat from one of his former students for sexual assaulting and harassing her.
Wearing nothing but the skimpiest of swimming trunks and a microphone, Bikram Choudhury won a legion of celebrity acolytes with his brand of ‘hot yoga’, which sees devotees exercise in temperatures up to 40C (104F), reports Daily Mail.
Now, according to allegations by one of Choudhury’s young protegees, it seems all that heat might have gone to his head.
Lawsuit: Sarah Baughn (above) is suing Bikram Choudhury, whose yoga regime has become a global phenomenon.
Sarah Baughn has accused him of sexually assaulting and harassing her, then sabotaging her career when she rebuffed him.
In a lawsuit filed in the Los Angeles Superior Court, Miss Baughn, 29, says Choudhury, whose devotees include Madonna and Pippa Middleton, pressed his body against hers and whispered sexual comments.
The 67-year-old also supposedly told her that his wife Rajashree was a ‘bitch’ and that she had to save him from her.
The sex harassment and discrimination lawsuit states that Miss Baughn was a college student when she first started taking Bikram Yoga classes.
In 2005 he supposedly propositioned Miss Baughn for the first time at a teacher training course at a Bikram centre in Los Angeles, saying: ‘I know you from a past life. We have a connection. It is amazing. Should we make this a relationship?’
She claims she was ‘mortified’ and told her boyfriend. But ‘non-stop harassment’ ensued, according to the lawsuit, which also says that Choudhury would ask her to kiss him in front of other people.
At one point Choudhury allegedly told her: ‘My wife is such a bitch, you have no idea. She is terrible to me. She is so mean. You have to save me.’
The most serious allegation is that he pushed Miss Baughn ‘down toward the floor after pulling her arm and leg apart’, then ‘pressed his body into hers and began whispering sexual things until she collapsed into sobs’.
The lawsuit also states that Choudhury’s behaviour was ‘vindictive’ and that he treated Miss Baughn like a ‘pariah’ because she would not submit to his demands.
Choudhury began practising yoga in Calcutta at the age of four.
He went to the US in 1973 at the invitation of President Nixon, who was suffering from phlebitis or inflammation of veins in the leg.
With the encouragement of other celebrity supporters, such as actress Shirley MacLaine, his fitness regime became a global phenomenon, with 720 yoga schools in 220 countries, including dozens in the UK.
Over the years his celebrity devotees have included Michael Jackson and George Clooney. Andy Murray put his ascent to number three in the world tennis rankings down to Bikram Yoga and David Beckham supposedly tried it.
Choudhury is now a multi-millionaire, living in the Hollywood Hills with a fleet of 40 Rolls-Royces.
He is known for being outspoken in his self-belief and has in the past likened himself to Superman or Buddha.
He once told a business magazine the key to his success was ‘because I have b**** like atom bombs… Nobody ***** with me’ and He reportedly asks his most devoted followers to ‘brush his hair and massage his body’.
Popular: Bikram Yoga, is a patented series of 26 poses and two breathing exercises performed in a room heated to a sweltering temperature of 40.5C (105F)
The lawsuit outlines two other incidents where Choudhury is said to have tried to engage Miss Baughn in sex.
At a Thanksgiving dinner at his house in 2007, after his wife had gone to bed, Miss Baughn was shocked to see him ‘placing a hand on her leg, lying down and whispering sexual demands in her ear. He then embraced her from behind and pressed his penis into her leg’.
In 2008 Choudhury again tried to molest her, the lawsuit claims, when they were alone in his office and he ‘pinned her against the door and sexually assaulted her by kissing her neck, chest and face, and grinding his penis against her leg’. She claims she tried to fight him off.
Last night, despite several requests for a response, Choudhury was unavailable for comment.