Toronto Film Review: ‘Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator’

Never trust a man in Speedos who promises to change your life. That’s advice from director Eva Orner’s “Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator,” a doc that bends and snaps the self-described God status of megalomaniac yoga coach Bikram Choudhury, who sexually assaulted his female students while bragging he was the smartest and most spiritual man they’d ever be lucky enough to meet. The women were paying for the privilege: $10,000 each for a nine-week teacher training camp at a hotel where Choudhury slept in the presidential suite. Or rather, as Choudhury claims he only needed one hour of rest a night, where he instead summoned pupils to his bedroom for a 3 a.m. massage — and they went, because he alone controlled their future. Some say they were pressed against walls or pressured to touch his penis. Some say they were raped.

“Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator” is more than an indictment of a man. Orner cross-examines the community that protected a bully for four decades, ever since Bikram pranced before TV cameras flexing his pecs for a cheering audience. His body was incredible. So was his story: He was a three-time National India Yoga Champion who’d earned a green card healing President Nixon’s left leg. And Orner structures her doc so that if you, too, believe him, you’ll understand how easily his fans fell in line.

As Choudhury’s former students explain, his classes sculpted abs and brainwashed minds. No one has a complaint about the 26-posture routine, which he claimed merited a patent as he’d composed it like a song. Yet, the 90-minute session in a 105-degree room left them feeling like they survived a “near death” experience and were now pliable in more ways than one. Choudhury demanded obedience in exchange for tangible results. In re-created footage, cinematographer Jenna Rosher zooms in on the perspiration; there’s a visceral shudder when one girl squeezes her foot and releases a river of sweat.

Archival tapes of Choudhury’s original sessions reveal a man who sat above the herd on a throne with his own personal air conditioner. According to his disciples, he’d scream they were fat or weak, and called at least one woman a “black bitch.” Occasionally, he’d descend clad only in skivvies and a Rolex, to bend ladies into vulnerable positions and whisper come-ons into their ear. Editor Kimberley Hassett repeatedly comes back to an image that appears to have been Choudhury’s signature move: a woman bent backward in a circle with her chest open to the sky as the yogi stands on her belly, triumphantly commanding applause.

Choudhury still does that move, now abroad, where he fled in 2017 after losing his first civil suit from former employee Minakshi Jafa-Bodden, one of a dozen subjects in the film. The first to come forward, however, is a young mother and yoga teacher named Sarah Baughn who demonstrates true inspiration and strength. If “Bikram” is a test case for how the courts, and the culture, will handle reputable accusations against powerful men (you can probably think of a few others in the news), it doesn’t bode well for victims. Orner asks several times why Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacey has failed to file criminal charges, giving excuses that leave the plaintiffs’ lawyers unsatisfied. Perhaps this doc will twist Lacey’s own arm.

Related:

  • Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator premiered on Netflix on November 20.
  • The documentary exposes the dark side of Bikram Choudhury, the charismatic, founder of the Bikram Yoga empire.
  • After a series of sexual assault and harassment lawsuits, Choudhury fled to Mexico in 2017, where he lives today.

Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator, Netflix’s latest documentary, tells the dark origin story of Bikram Yoga, a hot yoga that began in a basement in San Francisco in 1973 and became a global empire by the mid-2000s—before filing for bankruptcy in 2017.

The studio’s success and its downfall all stems back to one man: celebrity yogi Bikram Choudhury, now 75.

Lording over his classes wearing nothing but a Speedo and a Rolex watch, Choudhury struck quite an image. “Welcome to Bikram’s torture chamber, where you’ll kill yourself for the next 90 minutes,” Choudhury would say before class started. For the next 90 or so minutes, participants would go through a cycle of 26 strict postures and two breathing positions, all in 105-degree heat. During class, Choudhury would often make fun of participants for their weight and appearance, according to the documentary.

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The practice was extreme, often causing participants to faint or vomit in class (Choudhury did not believe in bathroom breaks, naturally). Some people loved the feeling of being pushed to the limit. After her harrowing first class, Patrice Simon, a former Bikram Yoga teacher, recalled in the Netflix documentary that she remembered thinking, “It felt so good.”

Others had the opposite reaction to Bikram’s pressure-cooker of a class. “Bikram felt like punishment. It was just like 90 minutes of dripping sweat on a carpet that stunk next to other yogis who were clearly in pain and feeling competitive. It took the idea of using yoga to better yourself to an unhealthy extreme,” journalist Courtney Tenz told us over Twitter. She never returned to a Bikram Yoga class.

Courtesy of Netflix

Though some certainly found, and continue to find, Choudhury’s eponymous hot yoga studio life-changing, Choudhury allegedly harmed some practitioners. The documentary suggests that Choudhury built his $100 million empire with 650 studios in America alone on a bed on lies, manipulation, and verbal and sexual abuse. Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator identifies the purported sins of Bikram Choudhury—and speaks to the people caught in their crosshairs.

Choudhury reportedly preyed on women in his teacher training courses, which cost upwards of $10,000. According to ABC News, since 2013, six women have come forward accusing Choudhury of alleged sexual assault and rape. Choudhury denies the allegations, in addition to denouncing the Netflix documentary itself. In a statement to the L.A. Times, Choudhury’s publicist wrote, “Bikram Choudhury totally refutes all the allegations of sexual misconduct and harassment presented in the film and is deeply upset by the continued character assassination.”

According to ABC News, Choudhury settled three sex and rape and sexual assault cases out of court.

The only woman to win a lawsuit was Minakshi “Miki” Jafa-Bodden, Choudhury’s former lawyer who sued him for wrongful termination and sexual harassment. In 2016, Choudhury was ordered to pay Jafa-Bodden $6.5 million in punitive damages and $924,000 in compensatory damages.

However, as of 2017, it was reported that he did not pay any of the millions owed to Jafa-Bodden. Instead, he fled the country in 2016. According to ABC News, Choudhury was tracked down to Thailand; the documentary shows he now teaches teacher training classes in Acapulco, Mexico.

Perhaps it isn’t surprising that Choudhury escaped justice. Choudhury, whom many call the “Harvey Weinstein of Yoga,” was getting away with his behavior all along. The documentary suggests was an open secret in the close-knit community.

After Choudhury propositioned Sarah Baughn the first time, she says in the Netflix film that she reported the incident to a senior staffer, who wasn’t shocked by her encounter. “If you decide to stay, I recommend you do what I do: Separate the man from the teacher.” Baughn eventually sued Choudhury in 2013. According to the documentary, she settled out of court.

Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator exposes how a system of enablement can be constructed and upheld; how women can be silenced; how groupthink can take hold. But it’s the documentary’s final twist that’s the most devastating: There is no long-deserved comeuppance in sight for Choudhury.

For now, women all over the world fly to Mexico to take Choudhury’s teacher training classes, held in the Princess Mundo Imperial Hotel. Similarly, studios inspired by his practices continue to proliferate.

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In a blog post for a Nashville Yoga Studio, a woman who attended Choudhury’s training class in January 2019 wrestles between her love for the practice and her disappointment in its founder: “I don’t condone the deviations he’s taken in his personal life or the way he used his power to exploit other people, willingly or unwillingly. I hope his heart bears a heavy burden and that justice and truth prevail. But, I still believe in the yoga, and to summarize my trip to meet Bikram, my pilgrimage to the source, I am very glad I went.” She expresses a sentiment parsed often in the documentary: Can Bikram devotees separate art from the artist, yoga from the yogi?

Ultimately, the greatest impact of Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator won’t be Choudhury, who’s escaped in Mexico—but on the viewer. The documentary pierces the fairy tale notion that justice will be served, that speaking up will be enough. Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator may be a must-watch for the #Me-Too era, but it’s a real bummer.

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Why Bikram Yoga’s founder is in hot water in a new Netflix documentary

In the time it takes to complete a hot yoga class, Netflix is giving viewers a whole new perspective on the man who popularized posing in a 100-degree-plus room.

The streaming service’s new documentary “Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator” (available now) telegraphs how Bikram Choudhury, the eponymous founder of torturous yoga classes, allegedly created a cycle of abuse where his victims felt obligated to stay silent.

The nearly 90-minute film begins as an appreciation for Bikram (he’s usually referenced by just his first name) and the classes he led. But it quickly takes a turn, peeling back the layers of the perennially sweaty and Speedo-wearing instructor who accused of brainwashing his students and allegedly uses his power over practitioners – especially women who aspire to teach Bikram Yoga, a certification he bestows upon them. The film features a group of women who saw Bikram as a father figure, and allege that he sexually assaulted them.

Choudhury’s representative accuses the film of resurfacing old material, saying financially motivated lawyers are behind the smearing of Bikram’s name. The yogi “totally refutes all the allegations of sexual misconduct and harassment presented in the film and is deeply upset by the continued character assassination,” his spokesman Richard J. Hillgrove VI told USA TODAY in a statement.

Before becoming the subject of Netflix’s new film, Bikram was the focus of a “60 Minutes” special in 2005, and last year was the subject of an entire season of ESPN’s 30 for 30 podcast about his behavior. Director Eva Orner’s “Bikram” documentary screened in September at Toronto International Film Festival before its Netflix release.

Who is Bikram Choudhury?

Bikram Yoga is a style of exercise class that rose to popularity in Los Angeles in the ’70s, and by the late ’90s had gained celebrity acclaim. Indian yogi Bikram Choudhury, 75, is the guru who brought the exhausting series of 26 yoga postures in a heated room to the U.S. He’s known for yelling in class, singing to students and curing his followers’ body ailments.

Bikram created a huge franchise of hot yoga studios that bear his name (though some have been renamed since allegations against Bikram were made public).

What got Bikram into legal trouble?

As the film details, six rape and assault cases were filed in civil court against Bikram in the last decade, but no criminal charges have been brought against him, despite lawyers’ urging of Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office to pursue such charges. (This is something that Orner hopes to change.)

Four of the cases were settled. One was brought by former yoga teacher Sarah Baughn, who alleges in the documentary that Bikram attempted to force himself on her in his hotel room after a teacher training seminar.

Baughn said she spoke out in 2013, five years after the alleged assault took place, because she overheard her daughter say she wanted to teach yoga like her mom, and Baughn couldn’t bear the thought of her child experiencing what she had.

After Baughn publicly told her story, yoga teacher Larissa Anderson decided to come forward with her allegation of being raped by Bikram in his home.

He’s been compared to Harvey Weinstein

Fallen movie mogul Harvey Weinstein was in a position of power when he allegedly assaulted more than 80 women, often in his hotel rooms, who knew speaking out could harm their film careers. (He has maintained the encounters were consensual.) Bikram is accused of doing the same thing with women pursuing yoga careers, and has denied or pleaded the fifth on all allegations made about him.

Bikram’s pattern of alleged abuse, as explained by accusers in the documentary, often included these components: He asked students to come to his hotel room late at night during teacher training; he had a Bollywood movie playing loudly; he asked for a massage and then requested a more sexual massage or forced himself on the women who refused his advances.

The women say they were scared to come forward because they knew Bikram had the power to start or end their careers. Anderson said she settled her claim out of court, because “my option was to go to court and get re-traumatized and he wasn’t even going to be there. Or settle and move on.”

Bikram lost the one civil suit that went to trial

In 2015, Bikram was ordered to pay more than $7 million in compensatory and punitive damages to his former lawyer Micki Jafa-Bodden, who said he unfairly fired her and sexually harassed her. But Jafa-Bodden’s lawyer says in the film that her client has yet to see the damages she was awarded.

Where is he now?

The documentary notes that Bikram continues to conduct teacher training out of the country, including earlier this year in Mexico. Hillgrove confirmed that he taught in Acapulco recently, saying that “Bikram’s obligation is to help people keep their jobs and believes it’s his duty and obligation to maintain them financially. They are the ones that run teacher training programs worldwide.”

The yogi also continues to attend third-party seminars to speak. Hillgrove noted that his upcoming India Legacy Tour 2020, which starts in January, “is simply a tour and does not involve teacher training.”

Bikram, who left the country in 2016 without handing over proceeds from his global fitness business, remains a fugitive in the U.S. A Los Angeles County Superior Court issued a warrant for his arrest in 2017.

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Hot yoga studio owners are spending thousands of dollars to invest in rebranding their businesses after sexual assault allegations resurfaced against the founder of Bikram yoga.

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Bikram Yoga Scarsdale, a family-owned hot yoga studio in New York, has been grappling over changing the name of its business for more than a year. Next month, it will rebrand as Sweat Central and change the name of its Bikram classes to “original hot yoga.”

“We got a few emails from people who don’t come very often, or haven’t been here in a long time asking why we haven’t changed our name and if we’re going to,” Nicole Pike, a yoga instructor and co-owner of Bikram Yoga Scarsdale, told FOX Business.

The concern comes after Netflix debuted its documentary “Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator,” out now, which sheds light on the rise and fall of Bikram Choudhury, the embattled yogi who made a fortune building a trademarked Bikram hot yoga empire cultivating a cycle of sexual abuse among women. A number of yoga studios across the country have changed the name of their studios and classes since the initial allegations came to light six years ago.

“While the classes themselves are amazing, Bikram the person has done terrible things we in no way want to be associated with,” Pike said.

“We want people to feel comfortable at our studio, and confident that their money is in no way supporting him,”

– Nicole Pike, co-owner of Bikram Yoga Scarsdale

In doing so, her business is spending up to $20,000 to rebrand with new signage, merchandise and revamped marketing on its website and social media channels.

Instead of giving up the beloved practice, many yogis have decided to separate it entirely from the alleged predator and the culture of silence among victims he fostered. Choudhury was idolized as a physical and mental healer among yogis in the community for popularizing the Bikram sequence of 26 postures done in a room heated to 105 degrees for 90 minutes. Research has shown that the grueling exercise has myriad mental and physical health benefits, including lowering stress levels and improving endurance, according to the American Council on Exercise. And yogis have said the practice has a positive impact on mental strength and mindfulness, in addition to boosting flexibility, improving balance and muscle tone.

Netflix’s “Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator” follows the rise and fall of Bikram yoga founder Bikram Choudhury. (Netflix)

The yoga market is now worth $80 billion in the U.S., according to yoga statistics compiled by TheGoodBody.com. Americans spend $16 billion on yoga classes, clothing, equipment and accessories each year, and more than half of Americans (56 percent) use it for stress relief, while 59 percent say it helps improve sleep, according to the same report.

Cleve Willis, a yoga studio owner based in Druid Hills, Georgia, decided to change the name of his studio from Bikram Yoga Decatur to Still Hot Yoga back in 2014, around the time the assault allegations around Chaudhry surfaced so students wouldn’t associate the practice with an alleged predator.

He invested upward of $1,500 to change the name of the studio, rebranding with a new sign outside his storefront, an updated website and merchandise, like water bottles and T-shirts.

“We saw this coming,” Willis said of backlash and upheaval brought forth again following Netflix’s “Bikram” release.

Willis, however, decided to maintain the name “Bikram yoga” on class schedules because he said changing the class name can cause confusion among clients who might be searching specifically for Bikram classes online.

“They can still see we’re not associated with the guy, but we do the actual traditional class. Someone new coming into town may not know what it is. That’s why we didn’t change the name of the class,” Willis said.

The sexual assault allegations surrounding Bikram practitioners have sparked a #MeToo-like reckoning in the yoga community as a whole. An estimated 36 million Americans practice some form of yoga, according to data compiled by The Good Body from 2016, up from 20.4 million in 2012. Of those, 72 percent of yoga participants are women.

Bikram Choudhury, the embattled yogi who has been accused of sexual assault by multiple victims. (Netflix)

And yoga students and teachers are speaking out against unwanted touching in classes where many instructors — like Chaudhry can be seen doing in the “Bikram” documentary — have given hands-on adjustment for years without consent.

NETFLIX DOC ON ‘HOT YOGA’ FOUNDER IN HOT WATER FOR COPYRIGHT BREACH

“As a sexual assault victim myself, it’s out there. It’s happened to me. I’m not shocked,” Kelsey Lowe, a 29-year-old yoga instructor at Bikram Yoga Harlem in New York, said of a male instructor that touched her inappropriately at a separate New York City studio downtown. “He was coming to adjust me, but it was a little too close for comfort. You can feel someone’s body up against yours and it’s like, ‘I don’t even know this guy’s last name’ kind of thing.”

She changed studios as a result and has continued teaching and practicing at her current studio. She says the yoga culture of teachers with cult-like followings like Chandury had is what continues to perpetuate sexual misconduct.

“You can’t give all this power to one person.”

Dating from long before the #MeToo movement took off, the victims of sex crimes have always had a particularly hard time getting people to listen to or believe them. Most cases without hard evidence come down to a he said/she said impasse, and that’s only when women rise above the potential shame of going to the police to actually report the crime in the first place. The system all too often fails these women. Bikram reveals how the criminal justice system in California mirrors that of New York City’s, where District Attorney Cyrus Vance mysteriously chose not to pursue charges against Harvey Weinstein for years, only caving in to pressure after the New York Times exposé. Aside from Choudhury himself, the villain that emerges in Orner’s documentary is California D.A. Jackie Lacey, who opts not to criminally prosecute Choudhury. (She also declined to be interviewed for the film.) In Bikram, Lacey comes to represent the legal hurdles impeding #MeToo’s progress at punishing men who abuse their power over women.

“I feel like we’re gaining ground, but I think there’s a long way to go,” Orner says. “And I think that a lot of men get away with it: the Charlie Roses and Matt Lauers. Those two got fired and that was kind of it. Sure, they lost their status and their fantastic lives and may have to sell their $30 million homes, but so what? They committed crimes. I think losing their position in life is huge for them because they’re very narcissistic, but I don’t think it’s enough.”

Bikram Choudhury Looming large over the film is the specter of Donald Trump. He is never mentioned by name or even alluded to directly. However, anyone who has ever born witness to the president’s superlative self-congratulation (“I’m the smartest man you’ve ever met in your life”) or the snide ways he’s deflected some of the many, many sexual assault charges against him will see something similar in Bikram Choudhury. Orner deliberately chose to leave it to the viewer to work out the resemblance between the two alleged abusers who, as of this writing, have both avoided legal consequences. Although a fugitive from America, which he fled in 2016, Choudhury is still making money from yoga. He held workshops in Mexico and Spain as recently as earlier this year.

The director hopes her documentary inspires more women to speak up about their abuse to help hold predatory men accountable in the future. Beyond that, however, she takes solace in the idea of more people knowing who Choudhury is and just what he’s allegedly gotten away with.

“I hope feels how many people see this film when he is gallivanting around the world, living his life,” she says. “I hope that when he’s in airports, people give him a hard time, and I’m hopeful that this will be so widely seen that it’ll have an impact on his life. I’m hopeful that every country he goes to, he’ll see people staring at him, cursing him out and challenging him for who he is. And I hope that takes a toll on him.”

Yet, perhaps it is this need that explains why there are many high profile cases of wellness scams; our desire to get “well” making us more vulnerable. Take Belle Gibson, who was exposed in 2015 for tricking the public into believing that she had cancer in order to sell more copies of her book, which focussed on the diet plan which she said had cured her. Or Brittany Dawn, the Texas fitness coach who transformed herself and then was accused of fraud in 2019 after taking money from her followers but not delivering on her courses. Or even Goop, who have been sued for making false claims about their jade vaginal eggs and levelled with multiple accusations of giving unauthorised health advice. Ruby Tandoh has documented how she discovered wellness diets when she had an eating disorder, and how it did not make her well.

Choudhury’s schemes arguably took advantage in the same way: people in the film talk about how they discovered Bikram yoga when they were suffering injuries, or having difficulties with their mental health. Their so-called “guru” took a sacred practice, offered it up as a potential cure, and capitalised off it, using any means necessary to squeeze as much money as possible out of his followers, until he was dressed head to do in designer clothes and driving Bentleys.

The thousands of people who forked out for his classes or training courses, without questioning the ethics, the price tag, or the business model, are in some ways all of us. Looking at the $4.2 trillion wellness industry to achieve health or enlightenment. As well as seeking justice for Choudhury’s victims, Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator reminds us that, as the wellness industry continues to grow, sometimes, we really do need to interrogate what we’re buying into.

But what is most shocking about the documentary is not that he was a man who abused his power (that is disgusting, but sadly we’re too used to it by now). It’s that some of his yoga practitioners, featured in the documentary, continue to be devotees, or defend Choudhury’s brilliance and, even more shockingly, he is still teaching yoga courses. This demonstrates the power of an abusive leader, yes, but also the enduring power of pseudo-spirituality shrouded in clever marketing.

The new Netflix documentary “Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator” is the Oscar-winning filmmaker Eva Orner’s portrait of the rise and fall of the yoga magnate Bikram Choudhury. The film first traces how Choudhury built his “Bikram” empire of hot yoga studios, training celebrities and amassing devotees as America’s favorite yogi. The narrative then turns to the accusations of sexual abuse that unmasked the sordid man behind the wellness phenomenon.

Choudhury arrived in the United States from India in the 1970s claiming that Richard Nixon had gifted him his green card for helping the president overcome chronic pain. (The film disputes the assertion.) With his distinctive mullet, he led his trainings dressed in a Speedo and a Rolex, earning his fortune with costly teacher trainings and by franchising the Bikram brand.

Unlike previous coverage of the Bikram scandal, the film has an extraordinary advantage in its trove of archival footage from inside his training sessions. Choudhury is shown calling students bitches, climbing onto women in mid-pose and ruling over his broiling studios while sitting on an air-conditioned dais. After the first accusations of rape against Choudhury were made, he told CNN he had never needed to force sexual encounters because millions of women in the world “would simply volunteer.”

‘Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator’: Inside Netflix’s Bikram Yoga documentary

1173 Views by: Nicole Zamlout

Yoga gets both loved and hated on. It’s been satirized and stereotyped; however, it also has a giant, almost cultlike, following. Many are unaware of the way this practice became a cultural phenomenon due to the actions of one man: Bikram Choudhury. The new Netflix documentary Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator takes a look at the scandal surrounding Choudhury. Here’s what we know about the documentary so far.

No new information

Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator, which premiered at the Toronto Film Festival, comes to Netflix on November 20th and brings no new information to the table. However, it does showcase what we do know of Choudhury’s crimes, so it’s a good place to start with the subject.

Bikram Choudhury came to the United States from India in the 1970s with much fanfare. He was apparently a three-time India Yoga Champion and earned his green card by healing President Nixon’s leg.

Choudhury brought yoga to Beverly Hills and invented “hot yoga”, teaching everywhere he could and quickly becoming a success via aggressive marketing tactics. He charged potential teachers $10,000 for a nine-day course, which is where the darker parts of the story emerge.

Choudhury used these sessions to prey on young women, resulting in a tight-knit circle of abuse, assault, and deception. His followers were brainwashed and broken. Sarah Boughn, a young instructor and mother, decided to step forward. The story went viral and, after losing the first civil suit against former employee Minakshi Jafa-Bodden, Choudhury fled back to India, where he still teaches yoga today.

Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator, like The Ted Bundy Tapes, elaborates on the story’s details, creating a powerful emotional effect, especially since the culprit has yet to answer for his crimes. Thanks to the documentary and the effort by one woman, that may change.

Directed by Eva Orner

Eva Orner is an Australian director and producer who won an Academy Award in 2008 for her work as a producer for Taxi to the Dark Side. This is her fourth documentary after Chasing Asylum, Out of Iraq, and The Network.

Orner directed this Pulse Films documentary because, despite the well known patterns of serial predators which have come to light due to the #MeToo movement, many of them continue to fly under the radar, leaving victims without justice.

Mix of interviews and dramatization

Like many documentaries today, Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator features a mix of interviews with the real-life victims and supporters of Choudhury, along with dramatic retellings of those events.

The interviews will showcase the effects Choudhury had on his students. One male interviewee recounted colorfully in the trailer: “He sees himself as a cross between Mother Teresa and Howard Stern.”

The interviews are paired with the dramatizations, which portray Choudhury standing over women as he “corrects” their poses and searches for his next victims in his well known black speedo and Rolex. Viewer discretion is advised with these disturbing images.

Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator reveals how abuse can exist in the most unlikely of places. It also shows just how far this #MeToo movement can go, giving more and more women a chance to tell their stories in the hope of enacting lasting change.

All you need is a clear living room floor and a pair of stretchy pants. Photo: Steve Prezant/Corbis

The Cut’s guide to self-improvement without spending a million dollars.

As yoga has skyrocketed in popularity, teachers — typically paid a pittance for group classes — have realized that putting their routines online can be lucrative. There are now plenty of options for all levels, but most are secured behind a paywall. You really have to search to find great, free options, but they’re out there. We’ve tracked down the five best free sites for both newbies and experienced practitioners.

1. Do Yoga With Me

Do Yoga With Me is a massive site (it survives on donations) that offers everything from full classes to tutorials to meditation practices. There’s an incredible variety of instructors and yoga styles, including Hatha, Vinyasa, Yin, Kundalini, and Ashtanga as well as power and prenatal classes.

Best for: Intermediate-level yogis who are interested in broadening their horizons with new breathing techniques, meditations, and yoga styles.

2. Be More Yogic

You have to register to use this website, but the process is relatively painless. Afterward, you can browse a library of videos, all filmed outdoors in locations like Zanzibar and Andalusia. Be More Yogic works with a short list of instructors, so it’s easy to follow your favorites. Sign up for a premium membership ($67.50 per year) to unlock a larger selection of classes.

Best for: Dabblers who’d like to test a few different short workouts before committing.

Adriene launched her YouTube channel a little over three years ago, and has amassed more than a million followers thanks to her friendly, approachable demeanor and clear instruction. Sessions have names like “Yoga for Anxiety and Stress,” “Yoga at Your Desk,” and “Yoga for Bedtime.” Classes are short — 20 to 30 minutes — and there are also quick tutorials on arm balances and the like.

Best for: The person that doesn’t take yoga too seriously; beginners.

4. Fightmaster Yoga

This channel, run by YogaWorks teacher Lesley Fightmaster — that’s her real name — is great for more advanced yogis. Fightmaster releases a new class every Monday and most are 45 minutes to an hour long. Her voice-overs are well-paced (there’s no music), and she offers all sorts of helpful tips throughout regarding modifications and prop usage. Class styles include Hatha, Vinyasa, Ashtanga, and more.

Best for: Those who want powerful, fast-moving, sweat-inducing sequences.

5. Yome

Instead of searching through YouTube for yoga tutorials, click over to Yome. The site catalogs hundreds of YouTube yoga videos and can be sorted by level, style, even topic (“detox,” “knee pain”). Yome allows users to save videos to a list of favorites, so it’s easy to build a library of routines.

Best for: People who want to try a new routine every day.

Full List of TV Shows On Gaia

Here’s Gaia’s complete library of TV shows. Click “Sort By Default” to rank this list by popular, IMDB score, release date, or alphabetical. Click “Filter” to restrict the list by movies, TV shows, release year, or genre. Use More Than Gaia? Reelgood lets you browse the libraries of multiple streaming services in one place. To browse movies and shows across Hulu, Amazon, Netflix, HBO, Showtime, and hundreds more, all you have to do is select the services that you use, create a free Reelgood account, and start tracking the shows and movies you want to watch. Reelgood will let you know when new episodes are available of your favorite shows and let you get to whatever you want to watch with just one click and no need to open up multiple streaming apps to find your content. What Is Reelgood? Reelgood is the world’s most extensive streaming guide, with every TV show and movie available to stream online. Browse through every TV series and movie and sort by title, release year, genre, IMDB rating, and, most important, see where to watch it, and play instantly. The Best TV shows on Gaia By default, content is displayed in order of popularity. You can change this to browse by top IMDB score, release date, or get an A-Z list by clicking “Sort By Default.”

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