She was a well-known yoga guru. So she embraced QAnon conspiracy theories

She was a famous yoga guru.  So she embraced QAnon conspiracy theories

Photographic 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/LAista

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

Emily Guerin/KPCC/LAista

QAnon’s baseless conspiracy concept {that a} cabal of Devil-worshipping, blood-drinking elites controls politics and the media is carefully recognized in political circles with some supporters of former President Donald Trump. Nevertheless it additionally has a foothold in yoga and wellness circles.

Themes like every thing is linked, nothing occurs and not using a objective, and nothing is what it appears are central to each yoga philosophy and conspiratorial considering.

“For those who’ve been into yoga, these concepts will probably be very acquainted to you,” stated Matthew Remski, a former yoga instructor and journalist who hosts a podcast about conspiracies, wellness, and cults referred to as Conspirituality.

Through the pandemic, many yoga academics have begun to talk extra brazenly about their perception in conspiracies, to the purpose that there’s now a time period to explain this phenomenon: “wellness to QAnon pipeline”.

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

A Los Angeles yoga instructor with well-known followers

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

She ran a Kundalini yoga studio within the Venice neighborhood of Los Angeles referred to as the RA MA Institute for Utilized Yogic Science and Expertise, the place she taught celebrities reminiscent of Alicia Keys and Kate Hudson. A part of the rationale she was so common was that she was one thing of a contradiction: she wore flowing white clothes, wrapped her hair in a turban, and will sing in Sanskrit, however she additionally swore profusely and talked about intercourse and trend at school.

Jaclyn Gelb first attended a course with Guru Jagat in 2013 and was instantly drawn to it.

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

Quickly Gelb was working towards 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 all the time preferred that Guru Jagat was an edgy disruptor, unafraid to talk his thoughts. Earlier than the pandemic, he sometimes talked about conspiracies, however that appeared like a part of his schtick. However after the pandemic started, Gelb seen his instructor beginning to converse extra brazenly at school and on her podcast, Riffing of actuality.

Guru Jagat shared his perception that the federal government wished everybody at residence for causes aside from public well being. He urged that the coronavirus was being sprayed within the chemtrails of planes. He stated AI was controlling our minds and urged meditation as a technique to regain management.

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

Quickly, Guru Jagat defied native stay-at-home orders to follow mask-free and in individual. In his podcast, he has begun interviewing controversial individuals with fringe beliefs, reminiscent of Arthur Firstenberg, a New Mexico-based author and activist who believes 5G wi-fi web triggered the coronavirus pandemic.

Gelb stated it was arduous for her to look at her instructor change, however she additionally could not look away. She started wishing that somebody near Guru Jagat would “discover a technique to wake her up, a technique to get her out of her”.

However in December 2020, Gelb hit his restrict. It was then that Guru Jagat invited David Icke to talk within the studio and on his podcast.

“It wasn’t one thing the lady I knew earlier than would have performed,” Gelb stated. “It 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.

Christopher Furlong/Getty Photos

Icke is a well known conspiracy theorist and anti-Semite who claims that reptilian extraterrestrials management the world. When Guru Jagat interviewed him in January 2021, he had been banned from Twitter for spreading falsehoods about COVID.

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

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

Guru Jagat wasn’t the one yoga instructor to dive down a conspiracy concept rabbit gap in the course of the pandemic.

From yoga philosophy to conspiratorial considering

Remski, the host of Conspirituality, famous plenty of yoga academics flirting with QAnon in the course of the early months of the pandemic. At first, she suspected it was a advertising ploy. With yoga studios throughout the nation abruptly shuttered, academics have been compelled to compete for a similar on-line viewers. However because the pandemic has progressed, some academics, like Guru Jagat, haven’t let go of their rhetoric.

In fact, many individuals follow yoga with out imagine in conspiracy theories. Nevertheless, yoga philosophy and conspiratorial considering have lots in widespread, Remski stated, making it simple to modify between the previous and the latter.

In each circles, there’s an emphasis on “doing all of your analysis” and “discovering your fact.” And many individuals who follow and train yoga are cautious of Western medication, preferring to search out workarounds or attempt to let their our bodies heal themselves.

“The relativism round fact, which has been part of feel-good tradition for therefore lengthy, has actually reared its head in the course of the pandemic,” stated Natalia Petrzela, writer and historian of The New College. “The concept that ‘fact is just within the eye of the beholder’ is one thing that may give some form of energy whenever you’re sitting in yoga class, however when it is the pandemic, and that sort of language is used to form of fomento, like vaccine denial or COVID denial, has the identical energy, as a result of we’re all immersed on this tradition…it may be used to do hurt.”

QAnon, particularly, could have explicit resonance for yoga practitioners, in accordance with Ben Lorber, a researcher at Political Analysis Associates, a assume tank that screens right-wing actions, as a result of each communities share the concept of ​​the next fact accessible to a choose few.

The key fact that QAnon followers imagine is that the world is managed by the “Deep State”, an evil elite cabal that worships Devil and sexually assaults kids. In yoga it’s extra nuanced, however may embrace concepts reminiscent of enlightenment or non secular awakening.

One follower leaves, however others stay

Jaclyn Gelb has stopped taking classes with Guru Jagat; she was mad at her former instructor of hers.

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

However when Guru Jagat radicalized, she stored a lot of her followers.

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

“I feel it was giving individuals from all walks of life a chance to come back there and converse and provides their standpoint,” she stated. “I feel she felt the press was biased, and I feel I’m too. I imply, if you happen to ban individuals’s feedback from Twitter and Fb, we do not have an open discussion board for dialogue.”

Guru Jagat’s story got here to a sudden and sudden finish on 1st August 2021, when she died of a pulmonary embolism. He was 41 years outdated.

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

Since then, Guru Jagat has grow to be a saint-like determine to a lot of his followers.

In a YouTube tribute, pupil Angela Sumner described her thus: “Even if you happen to assume she’s a con artist, even if you happen to assume she’s a conspiracy theorist, you’ll be able to’t have a look at her eloquence and her teachings and deny that be it of the best masters who’ve ever lived throughout our time.”

To listen to the complete story, hear up Imperfect Paradise: Yoga’s ‘Queen of Conspiracy Theories’ from LAist Studios beginning January third.

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