Bikram Choudhury, an Indian immigrant with a Beverly Hills base, was a born entertainer, known for dressing in nothing more than a black speedo and a Rolex. His teaching style was tough love sprinkled with salty language and punctuated by spontaneous bursts of singing and/chanting. His followers lauded him for helping them gain confidence, lose weight, and overcome physical ailments through his specialty of hot yoga. He built a franchise empire with hundreds of Bikram studios around the world. I was one of those followers. Bikram saved my knees…literally. Bikram Yoga was my go to practice 4-5 times a week that provided me with a physical and spiritual outlet for my sometimes hectic, stressful and intense lifestyle. I looked forward to my series of standing and sitting poses which gave me a much needed positive boost for the day. So, imagine how I felt when rumors began to circulate that some unsavory situations were threatening my outlet for peace and tranquility.
Over the years, Bikram Choudhury’s story had received steady press coverage, but now with key figures going on camera to describe their complicated, abusive journey there was a cloud looming to destroy the empire. Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator doc raises questions about the nature of leaders and followers and the corruption of messianic figures. To this day, Choudhury has evaded prosecution and continues to attract yoga students from all over the world, bringing added tension to this rigorous investigation.
Like most gurus of this type, embellishment of the truth seem to go hand in hand. Bikram insists that he is an Indian Yogi Champion. Nope. Bikram insists that President Nixon granted him a green card in exchange for helping with his physical ailments. Nope. Bikram insists that he and Governor Jerry Brown have an arrangement for housing dozens of his vehicles in an LA hangar at no financial obligation. Nope. Those are just a few of the untruths. Not to mention the fact that he vehemently denies sexually and verbally abusing certain female employees which contributed to his God-complex behavior.
With Bikram: Yogi, Guru Predator, Filmmaker Eva Orner traces Choudhury from his rise in the 1970s to his disgrace in accusations of rape and sexual harassment in more recent years. She taps a vast trove of archival footage that demonstrates Choudhury’s charm and offers clues to his dark side and conducts extensive interviews with his one-time loyal practitioners who now feel betrayed, including yoga devotee Sarah Baughn who brought serious charges against him years before the reckoning of the #MeToo movement, and Choudhury’s long-time lawyer Micki Jafa-Bodden.
Upon Jafa-Bodden being award 7 Million dollars, Bikram fled the US without paying a dime and continues building the Bikram brand around the world in Mexico, Spain and elsewhere. As for the US studios, most of them have removed Bikram from the studio name or shuddered altogether. Produced by Netflix – Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator is totally worth the watch. Whether you practice or not, you will be enlightened, educated and aware from now on.