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 (540 pounds).
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 authorisation, 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.