NEW YORK - Mr Bikram Choudhury, founder of the Bikram hot yoga empire, has denied that he sexually assaulted six students, saying that he would not have to force himself on women as he has many offers of sex.
"Women likes (sic) me. Women loves (sic) me," he said in a CNN interview, the first time he has addressed the rape allegations. "So if I really wanted to (be) involved with the women, I don't have to assault the women."
Mr Choudhury, 69, is the founder of Bikram Yoga, a form of hot yoga conducted in rooms heated to 40 deg C. Bikram Yoga devotees have included celebrities such as Brooke Shields, Shirley MacLaine and Madonna.
But the Bikram brand is now in jeopardy after six former students accused Mr Choudhury of rape or sexual assault.
"I never assaulted them," Mr Choudhury said in the interview, "The answer is I feel sorry for them."
"I don't think they are bad people. It's not... (them who) are saying that (the allegations)," Mr Choudhury added. "They are entranced by... lawyers."
The first complaint against Mr Choudhury was filed two years ago, and five more accusers have since surfaced. The most recent complaint was filed in February this year by a Canadian yogi, Ms Jill Lawler, who said she was raped by Mr Choudhury during a training course to be a yoga teacher in spring 2010, according to a New York Times report.
The recent allegations have led to some yoga studios dropping the Bikram name, CNN said. The lawsuits have also damaged Mr Choudhury's relationship with his family.
When asked about his wife's reaction to the rape allegations, the yoga guru, who has been married to Mrs Rajashree Choudhury for 30 years, teared up.
"My wife never looks at me any more. My children, my wife... We die only once in our life, (but) I'm dying every day," he told the cable network. "Twenty-four hours a day, I work harder than any human being... and this is the reward? I'm a rapist? Shame... on the Western culture."
This article was first published on April 3, 2015.
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