National controversy leads Atlanta yoga studio to change name
By Dena Mellick
Multiple rape accusations against the founder of the Bikram style of yoga has led an Atlanta yoga studio to change its name.
Bikram Yoga Decatur on Clairmont Road, across the street from Emory’s Clairmont campus, has become Still Hot Yoga. Owner Eric Jennings said while his studio has not had any legal affiliation with Bikram Yoga for a while, the studio wanted to further distance itself from Bikram Choudhury, the founder of the Bikram style of yoga.
Multiple women have accused Choudhury of rape, and a story on Yahoo said he now faces six civil lawsuits. The story said one woman recounted being assaulted and raped while attending a teacher training workshop. Choudhury is not facing criminal charges, and according to the article, his attorneys deny the allegations.
Jennings announced the name change on his website, saying, “since early 2013 there have been six lawsuits filed against Bikram Choudhury and Bikram Yoga, Inc, which contain very different, and disturbing, accusations, including sexual discrimination, sexual harassment and rape. We ended our legal affiliation with Bikram Yoga, Inc. in March 2013, just weeks after learning of the first of these lawsuits and at the same time we stopped referring people to the Bikram Yoga Teacher Training program.”
Jennings told Decaturish that while he doesn’t believe the Bikram controversy hurt his business, “the truth is I can’t know if there may have been people who have chosen not to practice at our studio because they may have assumed we were affiliated with Bikram Yoga, Inc. As I mentioned in my announcement, I can’t bear the thought that even one person may choose to stay away from us out of fear of association with or support of Bikram Choudhury or his company.”
Jennings said he’d been considering the change, but held off because his business has local brand recognition. He said the Yahoo article pushed the issue.
“Near the end of that article one of our former clients is quoted as having had a positive experience at our studio. But the author then refers to us as ‘a studio affiliated with Choudhury’s Bikram’s Yoga College of India curriculum and teaching practices’ which is not accurate. We do still teach Bikram Yoga but we are not legally affiliated with them in any way. I just don’t want this perception to continue,” Jennings said.
On his website, Jennings said that he is a rape survivor and has been a supporter of the DeKalb Rape Crisis Center and Male Survivor. “Our mission is to create a safe place where all practitioners feel welcome, comfortable and supported,” said Jennings.
Jennings said his wife actually came up with the new name Still Hot Yoga.
“She meant it to reassure people that, although we might be changing our name we are still the same studio teaching the same yoga. But it also could be meant to refer to the stillness we seek in our posture practice,” Jennings said.