Lululemon, fitness apparel company and purveyor of $100 yoga pants, has announced the resignation of CEO Laurent Potdevin. In an enigmatic statement released Monday, the company claimed that Potdevin “fell short” of the company’s standards of conduct.
The company hinted that the departure may be due to an undefined indiscretion. The statement read: “lululemon expects all employees to exemplify the highest levels of integrity and respect for one another.” For now, that’s all we know about the reason behind Potdevin’s resignation.
The current #MeToo moment has spread from Hollywood to fashion to media and more, and the yoga world is no exception. Pop culture has a penchant for sexualizing yoga — remember the Sex and the City episode when Samantha hit on her instructor during class? — but in reality, the goal of a yoga class is to create a safe space. In fact, many instructors start class by offering students the opportunity to decline hands-on adjustments. As recent litigation shows, however, some instructors abuse their power.
Lululemon is currently facing a lawsuit from a store employee who claims that her supervisor raped her after the company “created the perfect environment for a sexual predator.” According to the lawsuit, when the company learned about the allegations, the supervisor was simply transferred from one store location to another. Equinox has also dealt with claims of harassment after a San Francisco man accused a teacher of sexual assault. The man alleges that when he reported the instructor to Equinox, the gym retaliated by canceling his membership.
In December 2017, famous yogi Rachel Brathen asked her more than 2 million social media followers to send in their own stories of sexual harassment in the yoga industry. Brathen compiled the accounts into 300 anonymous #MeToo stories that span inappropriate adjustments in class to violent assault. “But people have known about these abuses in the yoga community for decades,” Brathen told Yoga Journal. “So, for now, the work is empowering women, to encourage them to keep the stories coming.”
The yoga world was also rocked by Bikram Choudhury, the yoga guru who created a new form of yoga while reportedly attacking and assaulting female yogis. He was eventually sued for breach of contract and wrongful termination by his own lawyer, Minakshi Jafa-Bodden, who claimed that Choudhury had “created a hypersexual, offensive and degrading environment for women by, among other things, demanding that female staffers brush his hair and give him massages.”
The court ruled in Jafa-Bodden’s favor, and Choudhury was ordered to pay her $6.5 million worth of punitive damages and $924,000 in compensation. Choudhury has yet to pay the damages and is rumored to have left the country. If he comes back, it will be to go to jail: In May 2017, a California judge issued an arrest warrant against him.
It’s unclear whether Potdevin’s lack of “integrity and respect” falls into a #MeToo category, and if Lululemon remains mum, we may never know exactly what led to his resignation. But one thing is for sure: It’s time for a sexual assault reckoning to hit the yoga industry.
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