Vancouver hot yoga studio feels blowback from scathing Bikram Netflix documentary
VANCOUVER -- A B.C. hot yoga studio owner is feeling the heat after the release of a Netflix documentary detailing allegations of sexual misconduct by infamous Indian guru Bikram Choudhury.
Christian Betancor-Leon owns the only remaining Bikram yoga studio on Vancouver's Commercial Drive.
Since the Netflix debut on Nov. 20, he says, he's been trolled online by strangers and been getting negative reviews on Yelp.
"It's hard not to take it personally," said Betancor-Leon in an interview with CTV News Tuesday. He said he's received messages that call him "'a rape supporter,' and this is coming from people who've never been here and haven't asked me any questions."
Betancor-Leon has also been pressured to change the name of his studio, taking out "Bikram" due to associations with the guru. He told CTV News he isn't planning to change anything.
"None of the money goes to Bikram," he explained. "It never has. It never will."
He said all he had to do in order to have Bikram's name on his studio is make a promissory note that he would never change the series of poses that bear the same name.
Bikram yoga is a method of yoga, Betancor-Leon explained. It's a set sequence of postures, which is what he teaches.
"The guy named the method after himself. OK, crazy ego thing, whatever. But it doesn't matter," Betancor-Leon said.
The documentary, dubbed "Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator," delves into allegations of years of misconduct and lawsuits. It shows how Choudhury rose to stardom by setting 26 postures and two breathing exercises done universally at every studio with Bikram in its name. It also looks at how the yoga community continues to struggle with the difference between the man and his teachings.
Flo Rescolan is an instructor at Betancor-Leon's studio. She told CTV News she's "saddened by the way Bikram was unable to take responsibility for whatever he did do in regards to the claims.
"For me, it opens a platform for conversation: for how power comes with responsibility and people have to meet that responsibility when they're in those positions of power."
CTV News interviewed Choudhury's publicist from London about the documentary. Richard J. Hillgrove VI, founder of six Hillgrove PR, said in the Skype interview that Choudhury has seen the film and denies all the allegations made against him.
"This documentary is just a package of rehashed material," Hillgrove said. "It hasn't said anything new but he's very disappointed in Netflix."
Hillgrove said Choudhury wants the film to be removed from the streaming platform and has written to Netflix co-founder and CEO, Reed Hastings, to "express his disappointment with such character assassination which he sees as very unfair."