WEST LOOP — The owner of a new Bikram Yoga studio defended guru Bikram Choudhury against allegations that include sexual harassment, asking students for massages and referring to his wife as a bitch.
“Every teacher knows that Bikram calls his wife bitch. People who know Bikram know it’s nothing new,” said Bikram Yoga West Loop owner Naveed Abidi, who did his teacher training with Choudhury in 2008.
“If he calls somebody a bitch, you should be happy he’s calling you something,” Abidi said.
On Thursday, Sarah Baughn, a former student of Bikram Choudhury — who pioneered “hot yoga” — filed a complaint accusing the guru of sexual harassment and sex-based discrimination, according to ABC News.
Baughn alleged Choudhury came on to her during a yoga teacher-training session with him in 2005. She also claims Choudhury would ask female students to brush his hair and give him massages, ABC news said. The suit claims Choudhury believed the pair were connected in another life, and that he once "pushed her down towards the floor after pulling her leg apart and opening her body."
Choudhury has not publicly commented on the lawsuit.
But Abidi, who also did a teacher training with Choudhury in 2008, said it was common for the yoga master to insult his students during class.
“He once shouted at me, ‘Hey you! Do you have boobs or do you have a d---? I can’t see it.’ But the reason he’s saying it is he just wants to have people get over their egos," Abidi said.
But, Abidi stressed the yoga master uses the words to challenge and push students, but that Westerners misinterpret those comments.
Abidi, 40, is originally from Michigan, but has lived and practiced yoga in Wicker Park since 2004. He opened his West Loop yoga studio in February and said he’s not worried about the effect the allegations could have on public perception of Bikram Yoga.
“This is nothing new. In this country, anyone can sue anyone,” Abidi said. “Bikram is very charismatic and Bikram is very powerful and rich.”