News: Singapore yoga teacher sentenced for molestation

SINGAPORE: On April 2, 2018, a yoga teacher from Real Yoga was sentenced to nine months of prison with a $1,000 fine for allegedly molesting a student and forcefully grabbing the back of her neck during a yoga class.

Rakesh Kumar Prasad, 26, an Indian teacher from Real Yoga, was found guilty of outraging the modesty of a 25-year-old working woman during a one-on-one yoga session at Real Yoga’s Tampines studio on April 26, 2015. The teacher is on bail and may appeal the sentence, said Real Yoga CEO and yoga instructor, Saumik Bera, who has been very supportive of the teacher and claims the CCTV footage didn’t reveal much.

“For a yoga teacher, it is very hard to assume who will not want the teacher to help because we get complaints if the teacher does not help the students in the class,” said Saumik in his email statement to Yoga Journal Singapore. He said his studios have “No Touch” cards that students can put in front of their mats if they don’t want a teacher to adjust their poses.

This is a rare incident in stringent Singapore, which has close to 700,000 people who have an interest in yoga, and where an accused can be jailed for up to two years and fined or caned if found guilty for outrage of modesty.

As yoga grows worldwide into a fitness and spiritual practice, yoga studios have mushroomed on the tiny island with many Singaporeans flocking to studios that offer cheaper deals, and many attend back-to-back classes to make the most of the package they signed.

“What is my personal experience through the years is that some students are overly sensitive, and they should let the teacher know beforehand not to help them during the class,” Saumik said. “Every yoga pose can be an accusation of molestation as help is needed by adjusting shoulder or thigh or any other part of the physical body, and most of the time students wear minimum in the class.”

Real Yoga has four studios in Singapore, and most teachers are yoga experts from India.