The pioneer of "hot yoga" Bikram Choudhury is now under fire himself, defending his yoga empire against lawsuits brought by women claiming sexual misconduct.
In the last year, five women have filed civil lawsuits against Bikram, one of the richest, most successful yoga gurus in the world. All five of them accuse Bikram of sexually assaulting them. Four of the women accuse him of rape.
“He’s a sick man,” plaintiff Sarah Baughn told ABC News' "Nightline" correspondent David Wright. “I hope he gets some help.”
Baughn was the first alleged victim to speak up, recently telling her story to Vanity Fair magazine. Her appearance on "Nightline" along with two other women pursuing lawsuits against Bikram and his Yoga College of India is the first time the alleged victims have detailed their claims on camera.
Baughn, a former yoga champion, told "Nightline" she met Bikram in 2005 when she attended his teacher training course. The grueling nine-week course, which costs thousands of dollars, is led by Bikram and is the only way to become a Bikram yoga teacher.
Baughn, 20 at the time, said Bikram took an immediate interest in her.
“He told me there was a connection between the two of us that he had never felt before,” Baughn said, adding he claimed to have known her in a past life.
“Part of me felt a little bit funny,” she added. "But still part of me felt like I might be his favorite. This is crazy!”
Baughn said Bikram repeatedly made unwanted advances, starting by giving her the gold Rolex watch off his wrist in the middle of class just three days into training. She said she gave it back after class.
She said Bikram later called her into his office and told her privately they should start a relationship. She said she rebuffed him and reported the incident to a teacher training staff member.
“He said, 'He may not be a very good man, but he's a very good teacher, and as a teacher you have a lot to learn from him, you can learn a lot from him,'” Baughn said.
“I wasn't sure what else I could do,” she said.
Baughn said unwanted sexual advances continued even after she had rebuffed him. She said during class one day he grabbed her extended leg and leaned into her from behind.
“He then started whispering things in my ear that no one else could hear,” she said. “Don’t you love me? Come to LA? Come be with me.”
“He displayed me in front of everybody,” she said, her eyes filling with tears. “It was so humiliating.”
Baughn said she was determined to complete the training and that Bikram eventually appeared to get the message. She said he backed off.
Baughn went on to compete in yoga competitions organized by USA Yoga, which was founded by Bikram’s wife, Rajashree – she is also named as a defendant in the lawsuits.
Baughn said eventually she felt comfortable enough to visit the Bikram's Beverly Hills mansion, at her coach’s urging, for feedback on her routine.
She said once she was alone with him, he pinned her down and tried to fondle her.
“He climbed on top of me, and he started saying it all again, that he needed somebody to love him,” She said he continued, "My wife's a bitch, and she doesn't love me. And I don't love my wife. And I need to someone to love me, to be with me, to massage me, to brush my hair, to have sex with me."