Johnny Nunez/Wireimage
Tara Fowler
February 24, 2015 09:40 AM

Bikram Choudhury, the 69-year-old yoga guru who built an empire on a series of 26 yoga poses that bear his name, has been accused of sexual assault by half a dozen women.

The yoga instructor faces civil lawsuits from no fewer than six women claiming he groped, raped and harassed them, The New York Times reports.

The most recent suit was filed on Feb. 13 by Jill Lawler, who says Choudhury sexually assaulted her during a teacher training in 2010. But the lawsuits date back much further, with the first surfacing two years ago.

“A lot of people have blinders on,” Sarah Baughn, 29, told the Times. “This is their entire world. They don’t want to accept that this has happened.”

Baughn brought her own lawsuit against Choudhury in 2013. In it, she says she considered him to be her hero – that is, until he made sexual advances against her.

But Choudhury, who includes Madonna, George Clooney and Jennifer Aniston among his devotees, staunchly denies the allegations.

“Their claims are false and dishonor Bikram yoga and the health and spiritual benefits it has brought to the lives of millions of practitioners throughout the world,” a statement from Choudhury’s lawyers reads.

After a thorough investigation, the Los Angeles County district attorney declined to file any sexual assault charges against Mr. Choudhury or the college for lack of evidence.”

In Lawler’s newly filed suit, she claims that she was only 18 when she took her first training course with Choudhury in 2010. Having spent $10,000 on the course, she says she became financially dependent on him and allowed him to assault her for more than two years, according to Law 360.

Finally, in July 2014, she abandoned yoga altogether in favor of becoming a waitress. For her part, Baughn, who has a trial date set for August, has also stopped practicing and tells the Times she could never go back.

“I went through total hell,” she said, adding: “What happened to me was awful. I’ll probably always have bad dreams.”

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