Yoga instructor accused of groping student

Yoga instructor Rakesh Kumar Prasad is accused of molesting a female student during a solo class at Real Yoga in Tampines last year. His actions were caught on CCTV camera and played in court.
Yoga instructor Rakesh Kumar Prasad is accused of molesting a female student during a solo class at Real Yoga in Tampines last year. His actions were caught on CCTV camera and played in court.ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

A yoga teacher groped one of his female students three times as she adopted poses during a solo lesson, a district court heard yesterday.

Rakesh Kumar Prasad, 24, allegedly cupped and pinched her breast at the Real Yoga studio in Tampines.

On one occasion, he is said to have slipped his hand into her sports bra and, after she protested, he smiled and told her: "It's not like there's anything to touch."

Yesterday, the victim, now 26, took the witness stand on the first day of Rakesh's trial. He faces one charge of outrage of modesty and one of using criminal force.

The court heard that the woman - who cannot be named to protect her identity - went for a class with Rakesh on April 26 last year and found that she was the only student there.

According to his profile on Real Yoga's website, Rakesh has more than eight years of yoga teaching experience. He was trained and certified as an instructor in Kolkata, India.

During the lesson, Rakesh, then 23, told the woman to adopt a forward bending pose while seated on the floor with her legs outstretched. But minutes after her session started, Rakesh cupped her left breast with his hand, she told the court. She hit his hand and told him not to touch her breasts.

Undeterred, he pinched her breast and told her to bend lower, threatening to pinch her even harder if she did not do as told, she said.

Eight minutes later, while she was in the same pose, Rakesh molested her again. When she objected, the instructor admonished her for shouting, she testified.

Three minutes later, the victim was told to spread her legs while sitting and get her chest to touch the floor. Rakesh slipped his left hand into the left side of her sports bra and tried to squeeze her breast, but she knocked his arm away.

After the class ended, Rakesh sat in front of the victim. He smiled at her and asked why he could not touch her breasts. Later, as she was leaving the yoga studio, Rakesh allegedly grabbed the back of her neck.

Video footage of the incidents, captured on closed-circuit television, were played in court.

During cross-examination, defence lawyer Genesis Shen repeatedly asked the victim why she did not seek help immediately after being molested.

The victim reiterated that she had been alone and did not know any studio staff. Tearfully, she said: "I was helpless, what did you expect me to do?"

The trial continues today. Deputy Public Prosecutor Sharmila Sripathy-Shanaz is prosecuting before District Judge Luke Tan. The maximum penalty for molestation is two years' jail, a fine and caning; and for using criminal force, three months' jail and a $1,500 fine.

Amir Hussain

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 22, 2016, with the headline 'Yoga instructor accused of groping student'. Print Edition | Subscribe