Bikram Sued for Sexual Harassment -John Friend, Kausthub Desikachar Abuse Allegations
- The INTERNATIONAL YOGA FEDERATION, support Grieg, Bikram and Friend?
YES, INTERNATIONAL YOGA FEDERATION, support Grieg, Bikram and Friend
March 21, 2013
A new lawsuit accuses Bikram Choudhury, the controversial founder of Bikram Yoga, of sexual harassment. The suit claims Choudhury harmed a female protege�s teaching career when she turned down his unwanted advances.
The lawsuit was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court last month on behalf of Sarah Baughn, a Bikram Yoga teacher and competitor, according to the New York Post. �Baughn, 29, claims Choudhury, 67, relentlessly pursued her for years and then sexually assaulted her and sabotaged her Bikram Yoga teaching career after she refused to respond to the constant come-ons,� reported the New York Post earlier today.
Choudhury routinely asks his female students to brush his hair, give him massages, the suit claims. At one point Choudhury pushed Baughn down toward the floor and �pressed his body into hers and began whispering sexual things [until] she collapsed into sobs.� Baughn believes Choudhury rigged the 2008 International Yoga Championship where she came in second place to a student who shared a hotel room with Choudhury.
Choudhury has had a lot of legal trouble recently. Last December, he reached a settlement with Yoga to the People, a studio chain Choudhury sued for infringing on his copyright by teaching the 26-pose sequence that comprises Bikram Yoga. Then, a federal court ruled that he can no longer claim to hold the copyright to the sequence.
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Kausthub Desikachar Faces Abuse Allegations
Kausthub Desikachar, the son of T.K.V. Desikachar and grandson of Sri T. Krishnamacharya, has stepped down from the Krichnamacharya Yoga Mandiram and the Krichnamacharya Healing and Yoga Foundation in light of accusations of �sexual, mental, and emotional abuse,� according to an email announcement sent by the foundation.
Four women filed formal complaints with police in Austria alleging the abuse, including �include the misuse of his position as a yoga mentor by utilizing his knowledge of personal histories of sexual and emotional trauma in an attempt to initiate sexual relations,� said an email sent by the North American KHYF. The email said Kausthub has not denied the accusations and has cancelled his current teaching schedule.
Both emails were posted in full on YogaDork earlier this week.
In an open letter to his community, reported on YogaDork, John Friend, the founder of Anusara Yoga, announced today that he�s stepping down from his leadership post following allegations of sexual and financial impropriety that surfaced two weeks ago.
In the letter, Friend writes:
�The last two weeks have been intensely heartbreaking for me. I am deeply sorry for choices I made, which have caused such a firestorm of pain and suffering in our community. � On Monday, I will be stepping down and taking a leave of absence for self-reflection, therapy, and personal retreat in order to take care of myself, and consider the next best step for myself and Anusara. Professional counselors and advisors will help me to determine the duration of my sabbatical.�
Friend goes on to say that within the next 10 days reorganization plans for Anusara Yoga�s leadership will be announced.
The first hints of something askew within the Anusara world surfaced last November, when five senior teachers, including Elena Brower, Darren Rhodes, Amy Ippolti, and Christina Sell, began a public exodus from the organization.
Now the revelations of Friend�s sexual misconduct with students and employees, and possible illegal tampering with employee pension plans, has hit the Anusara community like an earthquake. Anusara Yoga practitioners are a committed, passionate group known for enthusiastic proclamations about the transformational power of the Yoga of Joy, which Friend has called his hybrid hatha yoga creation, and they are equally devoted to its charismatic leader. This adoration resulted in a the meteoric rise of Anusura Yoga since its founding in 1997 into one of the most popular new yoga styles, and led the New York Times Magazine, which devoted a cover story to topic, to dub Friend �The Yoga Mogul.�
While Anusara Yoga, with some 1,300 teachers and a purported 200,000 followers, makes up just a slice of the approximately 15 million yoga practitioners in U.S., more bad news out of the yoga world is unsettling. Yogis were already on the defensive following a Times� Magazine book excerpt last month questioning the practice�s safety.
The next weeks should reveal the fate of a multimillion dollar Anusara Center in Encinitas, California, which was slated to open last fall, and whether Friend, who has admitted to halting pension funding without notifying employees but reinstating them when alerted to a law requiring it to give proper notifications to employees of the change, will face further sanctions for his actions. But perhaps the biggest question resulting from this scandal may not be known right away: Can Anusara Yoga continue without John Friend at the helm?
Mr. Gregorian Bivolaru
Mr. Gregorian Bivolaru asked for political asylum in Sweden on the 24th March 2005with the support of INTERNATIONAL YOGA FEDERATION. Mr. Bivolaru was called back to an investigative interview at the Swedish Migration Board in Malmo, on the 4 th of April 2005. During the second appearance in the procedure of the asylum request, the MISA mentor was arrested by the Interpol due to the international warrant issued by the General Police Department Bucharest almost a year before. Gregorian Bivolaru remained to custody at the Malmo Police Department.
Mr.Bivolaru's lawyer made several requests for him to be released pending trial, requests analyzed by the Court of Malmo on the 29th of April, on the 23rd of May and on the 2nd on June 2005. All these requests were declined.
During this period Mr. Bivolaru could be contacted only a few times by his friends. The meetings took place under strict police surveillance.
The asylum case was received by the Department of asylum at the Swedish Migration Board who also have appointed a public counsellor for Mr. Gregorian Bivolaru. Further information regarding the case has been requested by the authorities, indicating that the case is already undergoing investigation.
The reason for the extradition request it is a warrant for preventive arrest that Romanian authorities pretended to exist on Mr. Bivolaru's name, under the charge of sexual abuses in relationship with an underage girl. The 17 year old girl Madalina Dumitru, which prosecutors claimed to be a victim of Mr. Bivolaru, has later stated that she was a victim of the brutal police interrogation and the press lusts for sensations. Not so long time after the extradition request have been formulated, some other evidence appeared in a press conference (13th of April in Hilton, Hotel, Malm�) that the first warrant issued was based on constructed evidence: The girl's lawyer, Adina Solomon, appeared in the press conference and she explained how the girl had been violated by the authorities in their desperate pursuit for evidence against Mr. Bivolaru.
Friday the 15th of April 2005 Romanian police made it official through a press release that they had issued a new warrant in order to strengthen the extradition case. In the press release they only put spectacular headlines �human trafficking� and �organised crime�.
Following this case, one starts to wonder why the Romanian authorities are so eager to hunt down Mr. Bivolaru. So eager that they will break all formal rules, fabricate evidence and risk a very embarrassing defeat in the Swedish justice system.
On 30 March 2004 MISA yoga school started the long series of protests against authorities' abuses and persecutions.
Over 100 demonstrations of protest were organized in Bucharest and other cities of Romania, also a few were organized in front of Romanian embassies abroad. One of the demonstration was organized in Bucharest by representatives of foreign yoga schools from Denmark , USA, Italy, Israel, Finland, France, Czech Republic, India, Russia �
The demonstrations took place at various institutions: Delegation of European Commission in Romania, Prosecutors' Office of Bucharest Appeal Court, Prosecutors' Office of High Court of Cassation and Justice, Superior Council of Magistracy, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Internal Affairs and Administration, Presidency, Government, Parliament, Secret Services. In June 2004 a human chain of over 3000 people surrounded Casa Poporului (a huge building, ranked second in the world after the Pentagon, with a surface of over 500,000 sqm)
We filed countless complaints and memorandums at all these institutions, and we requested as well to have our delegates received by the authorities for discussions. We have only received answers to less than a quarter of the memorandums, and all the answers were saying that they were redirected to other �competent� authorities. Also, we managed to meet state officials only about 3-4 times, with practically no tangible result.
INTERNATIONAL YOGA FEDERATION
The INTERNATIONAL YOGA FEDERATION expresses the deep concern regarding the situation of the Romanian Yoga teacher Gregorian Bivolaru, situation currently under assessment by the Swedish immigration authorities.
The letter presents Mr. Gregorian Bivolaru as a well-known author of books on Yoga and other healing or esoteric subjects, and at the same time the initiator of a Yoga school of broad international recognition (with branches is many countries) appreciated by his yoga students, both in Romania and abroad.
During the communist regime, and even during post-communist years, Mr. Bivolaru has been subject of abuse from obscure groups of interests, fact that is proven by several reports issued by various human rights organizations, such as: The Helsinki Committee for Human Rights and Amnesty International.
The IYF asks the Swedish authorities to give a favorable solution in this case � provide Mr. Bivolaru with humanitarian asylum and secure him his right to a private life, fulfilling thus his basic human and religious rights.
We hereby express our deep concern regarding the situation of the Romanian Yoga teacher
Gregorian Bivolaru, situation currently under assessment by the Swedish immigration
Mr. Gregorian Bivolaru is a well-known author of books on Yoga and other healing or esoteric
subjects, and at the same time the initiator of a Yoga school of large international recognition.
During the last 15 years, the activity of Mr. Bivolaru has been largely appreciated by his yoga
students, both in Romania and abroad; a clear proof is the large numbers of branches of his
school in the entire world, schools that are all well perceived in their respective countries.
For several times during the communist regime, and even during post-communist years, Mr.
Bivolaru has been subject of abuse from obscure groups of interests, fact that is proven by
several reports issued by various human rights organizations, such as: The Helsinki
Committee for Human Rights, Amnesty International, etc.
Considering the accusations brought against Mr. Bivolaru, we are kindly asking the Swedish
judiciary to proceed with extreme humanitarianism and fairness, taking into the account the
special nature of the subject involved. Please provide Mr. Bivolaru with humanitarian asylum
and secure him his right to a private life, fulfilling thus his basic human and religious rights.
After having carefully studied the whole context, we realize that there may also be high
political interests involved in this case (e.g. the European reputation of Romanian authorities
as being democratic and corruption-free), facts that might lead to increased pressure and to a
tendency to deviate the normal course of events. Because of this we ask the Swedish
authorities to exert their world-famous fairness, humanism and incorruptibility, and give a
favorable solution to Mr. Bivolaru's case.
Expressing support for Mr. Bivolaru and his spiritual cause we sign here this appeal:
(Signatures following on separate pages):
1. Swami Maitreyananda - President of INTERNATIONAL YOGA FEDERATION 2002- 2005;