Female yoga teacher says ‘hot yoga’ guru Bikram asked her to massage his private parts

Mumbai(dna): Mumbai yoga guru Mandeep Kaur Sandhu, who was a witness in the suit filed by Bikram Yoga guru Bikram Choudhury’s former legal officer, has said that she too was one of the several women sexually harassed by Choudhary.

In an interview to Mid Day, Sandhu said that the guru harassed her in 2009. She is one of the 70 witnesses to give their statements against Choudhury.
Sandhu said she signed up for Choudhury’s training course in Las Vegas in 2009. She had lost her husband in 2009. She said that she had lost her husband and her brother thought it would take her mind off the loss.

“A day before the training at Vegas, I met Bikram in the Los Angeles head office,” Sandhu told mid-day. “He kept staring at me and sent one of his officials to ask me if I knew how to give a massage. Having a Bachelor in Yoga through a correspondence course from Haryana, I did. I was asked to meet him in his office. He walked in in his underwear, which he wears during his sessions.”
Sandhu massaged him for an hour and half following which Choudhary commented that Indians were very weak because they were vegetarians. But Sandhu continued to help him out with massage sessions during the course of the training, which she says was very rigorous.

But then the guru went too far.
“Once, after a tiring day, he called me at 2 am for a massage (he is nocturnal),” said Sandhu. “That night, he asked me to massage his private parts and I was taken aback. I refused, and told him, ‘You are my guru. I cannot touch you inappropriately.’ He tried to convince me that it was okay, but I made an excuse and left.”
Sandhu tried to discontinue the course by demanding the return of Rs 10 lakh enrolment fee she had paid, but Bikram’s niece Manali passed it off as a ‘misunderstanding’.
“The next day, instead of sitting in the front row, I went to the back,” said Sandhu. “Bikram came and sat next to me, asking me if I was okay. I told him I was not, as he did not act as a guru should. I was all alone. I did not know what to do, which is why I did not file a case.”
What’s worse, Manali and other relatives of Choudhary started calling Sandhu for massages. Sandhu believes this was done in an attempt to discredit her.
Sandhu says that rumours spread among the classmates that she was a ‘lesbian and a lunatic’.
But Elizabeth Winfield, who was a physician at the coaching centre, finally helped Sandhu.
“I told Elizabeth my story and she also confirmed that someone was spreading rumours about me,” said Sandhu, who completed the course and moved to New York with her cousin before finally coming back to Mumbai in 2010.
In Mumbai, Sandhu founded her own hot yoga centre. She touched base again with Elizabeth, who asked her if she would speak to Minakshi Jafa-Bodden’s lawyer, Carla Minnard to help build a fool-proof case against Choudhury. “Miki’s (Minakshi’s) case was so similar to mine. I immediately agreed to be a witness and gave my statement over the phone,” she said.

Choudhary left India in 1971 and set up a lucrative ‘hot yoga’ business in the US. A Los Angeles jury ordered Choudhury, 69, to pay Minakshi Jafa-Bodden $6.47 million in punitive damages on Tuesday. Jafa-Bodden had alleged that Choudhury sexually harassed her while she worked for him and that she was fired after she began investigating claims that he had raped a yoga student. 6 other women havealso filed civil lawsuits accusing Choudhury of sexual assault. Choudhary also admitted to the court that he owned a fleet of 40 luxury cars, including Bentleys, Ferraris and Rolls-Royces.