June 30, 2006

L.A. yoga guru accused of running illegal studio

By Aarthi Sivaraman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Los Angeles prosecutors charged
"hot yoga" guru Bikram Choudhury with operating a yoga studio
without a permit and other violations that could land the
controversial instructor in jail.

Choudhury, his landlord American Sunroof Corp. and company
president Christian Prechter were each charged on Thursday with
10 criminal counts including operating without a certificate,
overcrowding the yoga studio and not maintaining emergency
exits. Each faces a maximum sentence of six months in jail for
each count, and/or a $1,000 fine.

The yoga master's attorney, Victor Sherman, called the
charges little more than a publicity stunt.

"Who holds a press conference to announce fire code
violations? It is just because of his name. If there is a
violation we will take care of it," he said.

Choudhury, dubbed "Yoga's Bad Boy" in industry media, is
known to teach yoga in sweltering, 105-degree Fahrenheit (40
Celsius) heat. He believes the practice results in better
health.

The yoga instructor, known for his brash style and
aggressive business tactics, told CBS News in a past interview
that his clientele included Michael Jackson, Madonna, Brooke
Shields and even the late president Richard Nixon.

Los Angeles City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo claims Bikram's
Yoga College of India in Los Angeles has never been issued an
operating permit. The building and owner also have been cited
several times for fire and building code violations.

The studio was locked down in April after city fire
officials inspected it and found it overcrowded, violating
safety codes and lacking emergency facilities.

A disgruntled Choudhury told the Los Angeles Times on
Friday that he had "had it" with Los Angeles and was moving his
headquarters to Honolulu. Choudhury, 60, was born in Calcutta,
India, and came to the United States in 1971.

In hoping to stop others from teaching his methods with his
authorization, the yoga master argued in federal court last
year that the sequence of 26 postures, breathing techniques and
dialogues he taught was unique and he claimed copyright over
it. The lawsuit was dismissed when the parties reached an
agreement.