She was a preferred yoga instructor who embraced QAnon: NPR

Photograph prints of the late Guru Jagat on the market on the RA MA Santa Monica yoga studio.

Emily Guerin/KPCC/LAist

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Emily Guerin/KPCC/LAist

Photograph prints of the late Guru Jagat on the market on the RA MA Santa Monica yoga studio.

Emily Guerin/KPCC/LAist

QAnon — the baseless conspiracy principle that claims a cabal of Devil-worshipping, blood-drinking elites controls politics and the media — is intently recognized in political circles with some supporters of former President Donald Trump. However it additionally has a toehold in yoga and wellness circles.

Themes like every little thing is related, nothing occurs with out a goal, and nothing is what it appears are central to yoga philosophy and conspiracy pondering.

“In the event you’ve practiced yoga, these are going to be very acquainted concepts to you,” stated Matthew Remski, a former yoga instructor and journalist who hosts a podcast about conspiracies, wellness and cults known as. Conspiracy.

In the course of the pandemic, many yoga lecturers started to talk extra brazenly about their perception in conspiracies, till now there’s a time period to explain this phenomenon: the “properly achieved to QAnon pipeline.”

To grasp what wellness and conspiracy theories have in widespread, I made a decision to observe the radicalizing journey of a Los Angeles-based Kundalini yoga instructor named Guru Jagat (to listen to the total story, subscribe to the LAist Studios podcast). Imperfect Paradise: the “Queen of Yoga Conspiracy Theories, which publishes on January 3).

THE yoga instructor with a well-known following

Guru Jagat was born as Katie Griggs however used her “non secular identify” professionally.

She ran a Kundalini yoga studio within the Venice neighborhood of Los Angeles known as the RA MA Institute for Utilized Yoga Science and Know-how, the place she taught celebrities like Alicia Keys and Kate Hudson. A part of why she was so standard was that she was one thing of a contradiction: She wore white flowing attire, wrapped her hair in a turban and will chant in Sanskrit, however she additionally swore profusely and talked about intercourse and style at school.

Jaclyn Gelb first took a category with Guru Jagat in 2013 and was instantly drawn.

“A yoga instructor who spoke like that, that was actual. That was grounded,” she recalled. “I knew immediately. That is my instructor.”

Quickly, Gelb was training 4 to 6 hours a day, taking chilly showers (which is a Kundalini yoga factor), and making an attempt to get family and friends to hitch.

Gelb at all times favored that Guru Jagat was an edgy interrupter, not afraid to talk his thoughts. Earlier than the pandemic, she talked about conspiracies sometimes, however that appeared a part of her shtick. However after the pandemic started, Gelb seen her instructor beginning to communicate extra brazenly at school and on her podcast, Actuality Riffing.

Guru Jagat shared her perception that the federal government wished everybody at house for causes apart from public well being. She steered that the coronavirus is sprayed in plane chemtrails. She stated that synthetic intelligence is controlling our minds and steered meditation as a strategy to take again management.

“And she or he stated, ‘That is what you get for spending the weekend on YouTube, watching alien movies,'” Gelb recalled. “That caught my eye, as a result of it was like, ‘Oh, there she is, she’s happening rabbit holes.'”

Quickly, Guru Jagat defied native family orders to observe unmasked and personally. On her podcast, she started interviewing controversial individuals with fringe beliefs, comparable to Arthur Firstenberg, a New Mexico-based author and activist who believes 5G wi-fi web induced the coronavirus pandemic.

Gelb stated it was onerous for her to look at her instructor change, however she additionally could not look away. She started to want that somebody near Guru Jagat would “work out a strategy to wake her up, a strategy to snap her out of it.”

However in December 2020, Gelb reached her restrict. That’s when Guru Jagat invited David Icke to talk within the studio and on her podcast.

“That simply wasn’t one thing the girl I used to know would do,” Gelb stated. “That was so deeply offensive.”

British conspiracy theorist David Icke at an anti-lockdown protest in Birmingham in 2020.

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British conspiracy theorist David Icke at an anti-lockdown protest in Birmingham in 2020.

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Icke is a well known conspiracy theorist and anti-Semite who claims that reptilian aliens management the world. When Guru Jagat interviewed him in January 2021, he was already banned from Twitter to unfold falsehoods about COVID.

Their dialog ranged from the lock to different far-right speaking factors.

“The wellness trade, it has been hijacked by all of this, this type of woke agenda,” she stated.

Guru Jagat wasn’t the one yoga instructor to dive into the conspiracy principle through the pandemic.

From yogic philosophy to conspiracy pondering

Remski, the host of Conspiracy, seen some yoga lecturers flirting with QAnon through the early months of the pandemic. At first, he suspected it was a advertising and marketing ploy. With yoga studios across the nation all of the sudden closed, lecturers have been pressured to compete for a similar on-line viewers. However because the pandemic progressed, some lecturers, like Guru Jagat, didn’t again down on their rhetoric.

After all many individuals observe yoga with out believing in conspiracy theories. Nonetheless, yoga philosophy and conspiracy pondering have rather a lot in widespread, Remski stated, making it simple to slide from the previous into the latter.

In each circles, there may be an emphasis on “doing your individual analysis” and “discovering your individual reality.” And many individuals who observe and educate yoga mistrust Western drugs, preferring to seek out various options or attempt to let their physique heal itself.

“The relativism round reality that has been a part of the welfare tradition for thus lengthy has actually reared its head within the pandemic,” stated. Natalia Petrzela, writer and historian at The New College. “This concept that ‘reality is barely within the eye of the beholder’ is one thing that may really feel just a little empowering if you’re sitting in a yoga class, however when it is a pandemic, and that type of language is deployed for some type of stimulus, like vaccine denial or COVID denial, it has the identical energy as a result of we’re all steeped on this tradition … it may be used for actual hurt.”

QAnon, specifically, could have particular resonance for yoga practitioners, in response to Ben Lorber, a researcher at Political Analysis Associates, a assume tank that screens right-wing actions, as a result of each communities share the thought of ​​a better reality accessible to the elect. few

The key reality that QAnon members imagine is that the world is managed by “the Deep State”, an evil cabal of elites who worship Devil and sexually assault kids. In yoga, it’s extra nuanced, however may embody concepts comparable to enlightenment or non secular awakening.

One follower leaves, however others keep

Jaclyn Gelb stopped taking courses with Guru Jagat; she was indignant along with her former instructor.

“She was so good. She had a lot energy,” she stated. “She may have achieved a lot good.”

However when Guru Jagat grew to become radicalized, she stored lots of her followers.

Nancy Lucas is one other of Guru Jagat’s longtime college students who stated she favored listening to what she known as “each facet of the story” in her class and on her podcast.

“I believe she gave individuals from all walks of life that chance to come back on the market and speak and provides their perspective,” she stated. “I do assume she felt the press was biased, and I believe I do too. I imply, if you happen to ban feedback from individuals on Twitter and Fb, we do not have an open discussion board for dialogue.”

The story of Guru Jagat got here all of the sudden, sudden ending August 1, 2021, when she died of pulmonary embolism. She was 41.

Since her loss of life, her yoga studio, the RA MA Institute, has initiated an elaborate interval of mourning, together with two weeks of steady chanting, a gong ceremony, and a 13-day-long “Mayan ceremony for readability and route.”

Since then, Guru Jagat has change into a saint-like determine to lots of her followers.

In youtube tributescholar Angela Sumner described her this manner: “Even if you happen to assume she’s a fraud, even if you happen to assume she’s a conspiracy theorist, you possibly can’t have a look at her eloquence and her teachings and deny that she’s one of many best lecturers. that when lived throughout our time.”

To listen to the total story, take a hear Imperfect Paradise: Yoga’s “Queen of Conspiracy Theories.” from LAist Studios beginning January third.

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