London: Bikram Choudhury, renowned Indian yoga guru who has celebrity devotees like Madonna, David Beckham, Jennifer Aniston and George Clooney, is facing sexual assault lawsuits in US.
Choudhury, who is also facing a stream of defections from his Bikram yoga brand, is accused of assaulting several of his young female acolytes, and now the yoga studios who follow his practice are dropping his brand name, the Independent reported.
There are 6 lawsuits now pending against Choudhury, the first of which came in 2013 with the alleged assaults stretching back a decade, and accusers have claim that his associates too either facilitate or turn a blind eye to the abuses.
The 69-year-old yoga master, who runs an empire of some 650 hot yoga studios worldwide, half of them in the US, has never been criminally charged and has denied the allegations.
In the most recent lawsuit, filed on 13 February, Canadian former Bikram yoga instructor Jill Lawler has claimed that she was one of many students invited to massage Choudhury during one of the mandatory late-night Bollywood movie marathons that were part of the training course.
She said that after she had massaged him "for hours," Choudhury groped her in 2010, when she was 18. Though he later reportedly apologized and promising to "make her a champion," he raped her in his hotel room several weeks later.
Lawler said that she stayed on for she had put in 10,000 dollars from her college fund to pay for Choudhury's tuition, adding that the sexual assaults continued until 2013, when public accusations against him began to surface.
Choudhury's lawyers have strongly denied the allegations saying that they were just "to dishonour Bikram yoga and the health and spiritual benefits it has brought to the lives of millions of practitioners throughout the world. After a thorough investigation, the Los Angeles County district attorney declined to file any sexual assault charges against Choudhury or the college for lack of evidence."