Photo prints of the precocious Guru Jagat for merchantability astatine the RA MA Santa Monica yoga studio. Emily Guerin/KPCC/LAist hide caption
Photo prints of the precocious Guru Jagat for merchantability astatine the RA MA Santa Monica yoga studio.
QAnon — the baseless conspiracy mentation that claims that a cabal of Satan-worshipping, blood-drinking elites power authorities and media — is intimately identified successful governmental circles with immoderate supporters of erstwhile President Donald Trump. But it besides has a toehold successful yoga and wellness circles.
Themes similar everything is connected, thing happens without a purpose, and thing is what it seems are cardinal to some yoga doctrine and conspiratorial thinking.
"If you've been practicing yoga, these are going to beryllium precise acquainted ideas to you," said Matthew Remski, a erstwhile yoga teacher and writer who hosts a podcast astir conspiracies, wellness and cults called Conspirituality.
During the pandemic, galore yoga teachers began to talk much openly astir their content successful conspiracies, to the constituent that determination is present a word to picture this phenomenon: the "wellness to QAnon pipeline."
To recognize what wellness and conspiracy theories person successful common, I decided to travel the radicalization travel of a Los Angeles-based Kundalini yoga teacher named Guru Jagat (to perceive the afloat story, subscribe to the LAist Studios podcast Imperfect Paradise: Yoga's "Queen of Conspiracy Theories").
An LA yoga teacher with personage followers
Guru Jagat was calved arsenic Katie Griggs but utilized her "spiritual name" professionally.
She ran a Kundalini yoga workplace successful the Venice vicinity of Los Angeles called the RA MA Institute for Applied Yogic Science and Technology, wherever she taught celebrities similar Alicia Keys and Kate Hudson. Part of wherefore she was truthful fashionable was that she was thing of a contradiction: She wore achromatic flowing clothes, wrapped her hairsbreadth successful a turban, and could chant successful Sanskrit, but she besides swore profusely and talked astir enactment and manner successful class.
Jaclyn Gelb archetypal took a people with Guru Jagat successful 2013 and was instantly drawn in.
"A yoga teacher that talked similar that, that was real. That was grounded," she recalled. "I knew instantly. This is my teacher."
Soon, Gelb was practicing 4 to six hours a day, taking acold showers (which is simply a Kundalini yoga thing), and trying to get friends and household to join.
Gelb ever liked that Guru Jagat was an edgy disruptor, unafraid of speaking her mind. Before the pandemic, she spoke astir conspiracies occasionally, but that seemed similar portion of her schtick. But aft the pandemic started, Gelb noticed her teacher opening to talk much openly successful people and successful her podcast, Reality Riffing.
Guru Jagat shared her content that the authorities wanted everyone astatine location for reasons different than nationalist health. She suggested that the coronavirus was being sprayed successful airplane chemtrails. She said that artificial quality was controlling our minds and suggested meditation arsenic a mode to instrumentality backmost control.
"And she said, 'This is what you get for spending the play connected YouTube, watching alien videos,'" Gelb recalled. "That caught my attention, due to the fact that it was like, 'Oh, she's, she's falling into rabbit holes.'"
Soon, Guru Jagat was defying section stay-at-home orders to signifier maskless and in-person. On her podcast, she began to interrogation arguable radical with fringe beliefs, similar Arthur Firstenberg, a New Mexico-based writer and activistic who believes 5G wireless net caused the coronavirus pandemic.
Gelb said it was hard for her to ticker her teacher change, but she besides couldn't look away. She began to privation idiosyncratic adjacent to Guru Jagat would "figure retired a mode to aftermath her up, a mode to drawback her retired of it."
But successful December 2020, Gelb reached her limit. That's erstwhile Guru Jagat invited David Icke to talk astatine the workplace and on her podcast.
"That conscionable was not thing that the pistillate I knew earlier would do," Gelb said. "That was truthful profoundly offensive."
British conspiracy theorist David Icke astatine an anti-lockdown protestation successful Birmingham successful 2020. Christopher Furlong/Getty Images hide caption
Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
British conspiracy theorist David Icke astatine an anti-lockdown protestation successful Birmingham successful 2020.
Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
Icke is simply a well-known conspiracy theorist and antisemite who claims that reptilian extraterrestrials power the world. By the clip Guru Jagat interviewed him successful January 2021, he'd been banned from Twitter for spreading falsehoods astir COVID.
Their speech ranged from the lockdown to different far-right talking points.
"The wellness industry, it's been hijacked by each of this, this benignant of woke agenda," she said.
Guru Jagat wasn't the lone yoga teacher to plunge down the conspiracy mentation rabbit spread during the pandemic.
From yoga doctrine to conspiratorial thinking
Remski, the big of Conspirituality, noticed a fig of yoga teachers flirting with QAnon during the aboriginal months of the pandemic. At first, helium suspected it was a selling ploy. With yoga studios astir the state abruptly closed, teachers were forced to vie for the aforesaid online audience. But arsenic the pandemic progressed, immoderate teachers, similar Guru Jagat, did not locomotion backmost their rhetoric.
Of course, galore radical signifier yoga without believing successful conspiracy theories. However, yoga doctrine and conspiratorial reasoning person a batch successful common, Remski said, making it casual to descent from the erstwhile into the latter.
In some circles, determination is an accent connected "doing your ain research" and "finding your ain truth." And galore radical who signifier and thatch yoga distrust Western medicine, preferring to find alternate solutions oregon effort to fto their assemblage heal itself.
"The relativism astir truth, which has truthful agelong been a portion of wellness culture, truly reared its caput successful the pandemic," said Natalia Petrzela, an writer and historiographer astatine The New School. "This thought that 'truth is conscionable successful the oculus of the beholder' is thing which tin consciousness benignant of empowering erstwhile you're sitting successful yoga class, but erstwhile it's the pandemic, and that benignant of connection is being deployed to benignant of foment, like, vaccine denial oregon COVID denialism, it has the aforesaid power, due to the fact that we're each steeped successful this civilization ... it tin beryllium utilized for existent harm."
QAnon, successful particular, whitethorn person a peculiar resonance for yoga practitioners, according to Ben Lorber, a researcher astatine Political Research Associates, a deliberation vessel that monitors right-wing movements, due to the fact that some communities stock the thought of a higher information accessible to a prime few.
The concealed information that QAnon followers judge is that the satellite is controlled by "the Deep State," an evil cabal of elites who worship Satan and sexually battle children. In yoga, it's much nuanced, but could see ideas similar enlightenment oregon spiritual awakening.
One follower leaves, but others remain
Jaclyn Gelb stopped taking classes with Guru Jagat; she was aggravated with her erstwhile teacher.
"She was truthful intelligent. She had truthful overmuch power," she said. "She could person done truthful overmuch good."
But arsenic Guru Jagat radicalized, she kept galore of her followers.
Nancy Lucas is different 1 of Guru Jagat's long-time students who said she liked proceeding what she called "every broadside of the story" successful her people and connected her podcast.
"I deliberation she was giving radical from each walks of beingness that accidental to travel determination and talk and springiness their constituent of view," she said. "I bash deliberation she felt that the property was being biased, and I deliberation I bash too. I mean, if you're banning people's comments from Twitter and Facebook, we don't person an unfastened forum for dialogue."
Guru Jagat's communicative came to a sudden, unexpected extremity on Aug. 1, 2021, erstwhile she died of a pulmonary embolism. She was 41.
Since her death, her yoga studio, the RA MA Institute, initiated an elaborate play of mourning, including 2 weeks of continuous chanting, a gong ceremony, and a 13-day-long "Mayan ceremonial for clarity and direction."
Since then, Guru Jagat has go a saint-like figure to galore of her followers.
In a YouTube tribute, pupil Angela Sumner described her this way: "Even if you deliberation that she's a scam artist, adjacent if you deliberation she's a conspiracy theorist, you can't look astatine her eloquence and her teachings and contradict that she is 1 of the top teachers that's ever lived during our time."
To perceive the afloat story, perceive to Imperfect Paradise: Yoga's "Queen of Conspiracy Theories" from LAist Studios.