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Organizers of the controversial “Boss is Back!” event featuring hot yoga founder Bikram Choudhury have announced that it will not take place on February 20 in Vancouver as originally scheduled.
“The Boss is Back event will be rescheduled due to a scheduling conflict. We thank those that supported the event,” begins the statement released Saturday by the Canada Yoga Sports Federation (CYSF) on its homepage and social media accounts. The “event” refers to a week-long series of classes and lectures with Choudhury.
Choudhury has been the defendant in seven civil lawsuits alleging sexual assault, harassment, creating a hostile work environment, wrongful termination, or rape. Six of the lawsuits were by former students.
In 2016, jurors in Los Angeles unanimously decided against Choudhury, finding him liable for harassment, gender discrimination, and wrongful termination of his former legal advisor following her investigation into multiple sexual assault allegations. The jury awarded her more than $7.4 million in damages. Choudhury left the country and his failure to pay the ruling resulted in a warrant for his arrest.
Choudhury has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.
In recent weeks, Canadians and others engaged in vigilante online activism in response to the news of Choudhury returning to teach in Canada. Opposition to the “Boss is Back!” event included a petition on Change.org as well as various social media reels and posts. Several comments on the petition and posts encouraged others to email the JW Marriott Parq Vancouver, where the event was to be held, and ask management to reconsider its role. Other comments—some polite, some disparaging—appeared on the hotel’s most recent Instagram post from January.
RELATED: Online Protestors Express Outrage in Response to Bikram Choudhury’s Scheduled Classes in Canada
Carla V. Minnard, one of the attorneys who represented Choudhury’s former legal advisor, also protested Marriott’s involvement in the event. On February 3, Minnard sent a letter to executives at Marriott International outlining Choudhury’s legal history. It states, “We have, of course, asked our own Department of Justice to work with Canadian authorities to arrest and extradite Mr. Choudhury should he in fact travel to Vancouver.”
On February 8, the general manager of the JW Marriott Parq Vancouver emailed Yoga Journal and other news sources with the statement, “Although as a matter of privacy, we do not comment on specific groups or guests with whom we do business, we can share that the event in question is not on our schedule.”
The CYSF announcement does not mention a date for the rescheduled event. It does, however, state that the federation is “assessing legal action” against some of those who had criticized the event: “The allegations suggesting that directors of Canada Yoga are complicit or condoning of criminal behaviour are demeaning and defamatory.” A spokesperson for Canada Yoga previously declined to comment unless the interview could be broadcast live on social media, counter to journalistic norms.
Prior to the announcement, a video posted on February 4 to the Bikram Choudhury YouTube channel featured a close-up of Choudhury speaking to the camera. He mentioned an upcoming yoga teacher training in Thailand and other seminars, including “Vancouver, London, maybe Barcelona or Madrid or Rome. We are talking maybe Sydney, Australia…Tokyo….all over,” said Choudhury. “And restart once again from the scratch to rebuild. Bikram Yoga to save the world. Thousand times bigger scale than what I have done in my life.”
In a phone interview this week, Minnard said, “Wherever he tries to go, I’m going to do whatever I can to pursue him and dismantle this enabling infrastructure. It’s important to me if you are a woman in Thailand or Mexico or the farthest corners of the Earth, that you at least know what has happened and you can make an educated and informed decision whether you want to go to that training.”
RELATED: He Faced Allegations of Sexual Assault and Rape. Now Bikram Choudhury is “Back” Teaching in Canada.
About Our Contributors
Sarah Herrington is a writer and educator who has been teaching for more than a decade. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and Yoga Journal and she’s passionate about safety in yoga and meditation spaces. For years she taught yoga in NYC public schools and out of that experience founded the OM Schooled teacher training. She now runs Mindful Writing Workshops combining writing and meditation and loves holding space for other writers to speak from the heart. She holds MFAs from NYU and Lesley University and has more than 500 hours of yoga training. She is grateful for both the paths of writing and yoga.
Renee Marie Schettler is a senior editor at Yoga Journal and has worked on staff as an editor at The Washington Post, Real Simple, and various online media platforms. She started studying yoga nearly 20 years ago with teachers in New York City who emphasized the challenging of finding precise alignment in a posture. Her understanding of yoga changed when she began studying with teachers who believe the practice is less about how we execute the posture and more about whether we can surrender into the experience of it. Renee finds that editing, writing, and practicing yoga are each about becoming more aware of truth. She has been teaching yoga since 2017.