Listen to this and more in-depth storytelling by subscribing to The California Report Magazine podcast.
Yoga isn't just an ancient practice. It can also be a lucrative business, especially in fitness-conscious California. What’s more, yoga teachers can often have a lot of influence over their followers, making suggestions about their diet, sleep and sometimes even politics.
As the coronavirus pandemic dragged on, many people started noticing a surprising overlap between some of the alternative theories circulating in the wellness community and the conspiracy theories espoused by followers of QAnon — for example, that the world is controlled by "the Deep State."
Producer Emily Guerin from LAist Studios spent months looking into this connection. This week, we feature part one of her series, "Imperfect Paradise: Yoga's Queen of Conspiracy Theories."
Guerin focuses on one Los Angeles-based yogi who went by the name Guru Jagat. She had a studio in Venice and was beloved as a charismatic, down-to-earth practitioner of Kundalini yoga. She had a book deal, a fashion line, celebrity clients like Alicia Keys and Kate Hudson and tens of thousands of Instagram followers.
But within months of the first lockdown orders, Guru Jagat had started questioning vaccines, holding in-person classes in defiance of lockdown orders, and wondering out loud whether the virus had something to do with alien invasions and secret space programs.