He was never her guru.
In an open letter to the community — posted on Instagram this week — the owner of Bikram Yoga studios in Bayport and Setauket distanced herself and her business from the controversial founder of hot yoga, Bikram Choudhury, the subject of a new Netflix documentary, “Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator.”
“At the time of my training in 2009, there were no published accusations of sexual misconduct,” Suzanne Thompson, the owner of the two popular local studios, wrote. “At no time did I ever view him as my guru, maybe my teacher but never my leader.”
Choudhury, a native of Calcutta, India, introduced Beverly Hills and rest of the western world to hot yoga in the 1970s. He quickly became a celebrity, building a worldwide fitness empire.
The Netflix movie recounts horrific allegations of rape and other acts of sexual abuse against Choudhury that emerged by the 2010s, while delving into his aggressive cult-like training environment.
Bikram — or hot — yoga features 26 different yoga poses done in a specific sequence inside a room heated to 105 degrees. The heat is believed to improve the body’s flexibility and remove toxins.
Thompson noted that when she fell in love with Bikram yoga, the only way to gain certification to teach it was to endure Choudhury’s grueling nine-week hot yoga college.
“During training I heard things that were offensive everyday but it seemed to be like hazing or part of the training,” Thompson said in her Instagram post. “He often said that if he ‘was able to steal your peace, then you never had it in the first place.’
“I was fortunate to have separated the man from the yoga from the very beginning, and I have made the grievous mistake of assuming you did also,” she added.
Thompson stressed that the studios’ union has been with “the yoga that has changed so many lives.” and not Choudhury. She said that the studios will be working toward changing the name of the business in the New Year.
“Rebranding and re-marketing is a gigantic and expensive task on the shoulders of a small, woman owned business,” Thompson said in her letter, noting that there have been many long discussions about a name change.