LOS ANGELES – The city attorney’s office charged yoga magnate Bikram Choudhury with 10 criminal safety violations at one of his studios.
Choudhury, his landlord, American Sunroof Corp., and its president, Christian Prechter, were charged Thursday with overcrowding, failure to maintain emergency exits and obstructing exits in the converted warehouse. Each misdemeanor count carries a maximum penalty of six months in jail and/or a $1,000 fine.
“Los Angeles is not known as a place that has fires in warehouses and we would like to keep it that way,” City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo said.
Choudhury denied the charges and said employees of the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety have engaged in a five-year campaign to harass him. As a result of the charges, he will move the world headquarters of his Yoga College of India to Honolulu.
“Thanks a lot, L.A.,” Choudhury, 60, told the Los Angeles Times in a phone interview from Bangkok, Thailand, where he is opening a studio. “I’ve made up my mind.”
Bikram yoga consists of a sequence of 26 postures, repeated twice and performed in a studio heated to between 100 and 105 degrees.
Choudhury pioneered what was believed to be the world’s first yoga franchising operation and made headlines last year in a legal fight over his claim of a copyright on his yoga poses.
Delgadillo said Choudhury repeatedly ignored notices from the city’s fire and building and safety departments that his studio didn’t have enough fire exits for its student population.