A yoga guru denied Wednesday that he habitually abused women in the workplace, but insisted he was freer to use off-color language in general during teacher training sessions.
Bikram Choudhury, 69, took the stand in his own defense during the Los Angeles Superior Court trial of a lawsuit brought against him by Minakshi Jafa- Bodden. She is a former personal lawyer for Choudhury who alleges she was fired for investigating mounting legal actions filed against her boss by employees and teacher trainees.
Choudhury called many of the accusations levied at him by Jafa-Bodden and others “lies” and “big lies.” He said Jafa-Bodden’s claim that he told her she would lose her job if she kept probing into his accusers’ claims fell into the latter category.
Asked by plaintiff’s attorney Carla Minnard what distinctions he made between “lies” and “big lies,” Choudhury replied, “It depends how I feel.”
Choudhury’s answer to that question and others drew occasional smiles and even chuckles from some jurors.
Jafa-Bodden, who sued Choudhury and his West Los Angeles-based Yoga College of India in June 2013, alleges she was fired three months earlier after complaining about the treatment of women in the Bikram workplace and for his alleged inappropriate conduct toward her.
Choudhury’s lawyers maintain Jafa-Bodden was fired because she did not tell them she wasn’t licensed to practice law in California. They also maintain she worked for a law firm and that neither Choudhury nor the college employed her, even though she says he gave her office space, supplies and yoga college business cards.
Jafa-Bodden is a native of India who had practiced law internationally after obtaining her law degree in Great Britain. Choudhury hired her in 2011 to handle legal matters for him and took steps to enable her to work in the United States, according to plaintiff’s attorney Mark Quigley.
Choudhury said Jafa-Bodden and another of his lawyers convinced him to lie in a deposition in another civil case. He answered many of Minnard’s questions about his use of derogatory language toward women by saying, “I don’t remember.”
Choudhury admitted that he said during a television interview that women readily volunteer to have sex with him and that some have committed suicide when he refused. But pressed by Minnard to name those females who took their lives due to his rejections, Choudhury said he could not immediately identify them.
Choudhury also acknowledged that inappropriate remarks about women attributed to him by other accusers would violate the yoga college code of ethics if made in the company headquarters. But he said the atmosphere is more relaxed during training classes.
“When I teach the class, I say anything to do my job,” he said. “I teach my yoga class exactly the way I want to.”
Choudhury further agreed that he has boasted he is the world’s most successful businessman in what he does and that four presidents and many congressman have benefited from his teachings. His “hot yoga” methods consist of sessions in temperatures sometimes higher than 100 degrees.
Asked by Minnard if he has said that women have an obligation to make themselves ready for sex and have babies, Choudhury answered, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
–City News Service