Yoga instructor on trial for molesting student during lesson

Rakesh Kumar Prasad allegedly molested a student thrice during a lesson last year.
Rakesh Kumar Prasad allegedly molested a student thrice during a lesson last year.ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

SINGAPORE - A 24-year-old yoga instructor from India allegedly molested a student thrice during a lesson last year.

Rakesh Kumar Prasad purportedly cupped and pinched the victim's breast while she was doing yoga poses as instructed at the Real Yoga studio in Tampines Grande.

He even tried to squeeze her breast after slipping his hand into her sports bra, a district court heard. When she protested, Rakesh allegedly smiled and told her: "It's not like there's anything to touch".

On Wednesday (Sept 21), the victim, who is now 26, took the witness stand on the first day of Rakesh's trial. He faces one charge of outrage of modesty and one count of using criminal force.

The court heard that the victim went for a yoga class scheduled for 12.30pm on April 26 last year. She was the only student at the session, instructed by Rakesh.

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 a yoga instructor in Kolkata.

During the lesson, Rakesh, then 23, told the victim to adopt a forward bending pose, while seated on the floor with her legs outstretched. She was supposed to get her chest to touch her thighs.

But barely 13 minutes after her yoga session started, Rakesh cupped her left breast with his left hand, she told the court. She hit his hand and told him not to touch her breasts. But 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.

Just eight minutes later, while she was in the same yoga pose, Rakesh molested her again. When the student objected, the instructor admonished her for shouting, she said.

Three minutes later, the victim was told to spread her legs while sitting and get her chest to touch the floor. While she was trying to adopt that yoga position, 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 yoga class ended at about 1.30pm, Rakesh sat in front of the victim. He smiled at her and asked why he could not touch her breasts. He also said: "It's not like there's anything to touch."

Later, as the victim was leaving the yoga studio, Rakesh grabbed the back of her neck, she said.

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

During her cross-examination, defence lawyer Genesis Shen repeatedly asked the victim why she did not seek help immediately after being molested. He also asked her if her actions were consistent with "how a molest victim would react".

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

The trial continues on Thursday (Sept 22) with a studio receptionist and the police investigation officer taking the stand.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Sharmila Sripathy-Shanaz is prosecuting the case 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.