Episode 4: Yoga And the Wellness to Conspirituality Pipeline

What can’t yoga cure? Low back pain? Check. Hip soreness? Check. IBS? No problem. Infertility? Probably. 

In this episode, we focus on wellness through one of its most well-known practices: yoga. Philip Deslippe from UCSB and journalist Stacie Stukin, a former Yoga Journal editor, talk about the expansive health claims surrounding yoga. We learn how yoga emerged as an industry, the strategies of yoga influencers, and how they use social media. The big question this week is why conspiracy theories are rife in the yoga world. We analyze the idea of a ‘wellness to conspirituality’ pipeline, challenging the idea of radicalisation as an inevitable result of wellness practices like yoga.

For more information about research-based media by Axis Mundi Media visit: www.axismundi.us

For more information about public scholarship by the Institute for Religion, Media, and Civic Engagement follow us @irmceorg or go to www.irmce.org

Funding for this series has been generously provided by the Henry Luce Foundation. 

Creator: Dr. Susannah Crockford

Executive Producer: Dr. Bradley Onishi (@bradleyonishi) 

Audio Engineer: Scott Okamoto (@rsokamoto)

Production Assistance: Kari Onishi 

Dr. Susannah Crockford (@suscrockford): Ripples of the Universe: Spirituality in Sedona, Arizona

Further Reading:

Deslippe, Philip, “Yoga Landed in the U.S. Way Earlier Than You’d Think—And Fitness Was Not the Point,” History, June 20, 2019, https://www.history.com/news/yoga-vivekananda-america 

Deslippe, Philip, “Forgotten histories: Yoga’s popularity in the US long predates hippies and bead-wearing hipsters,” Scroll.in, May 21, 2018 https://scroll.in/magazine/878928/yogas-popularity-in-the-united-states-long-predates-hippies-and-mala-bead-wearing-hipsters 

Stukin, Stacie, “Yogi Bhajan Turned an L.A. Yoga Studio into a Juggernaut, and Left Two Generations of Followers Reeling from Alleged Abuse,” Los Angeles Magazine, June 15, 2020, https://lamag.com/featured/yogi-bhajan 

Foxen, Anya P. Inhaling Spirit: Harmonialism, Orientalism, and the Western Roots of Modern Yoga. New York: Oxford University Press, 2020.

Jain, Andrea R. “Who Is to Say Modern Yoga Practitioners Have It All Wrong? On Hindu Origins and Yogaphobia.” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 82 (2014): 427-71. https://doi.org/10.1093/jaarel/lft099 

Jain, Andrea R. Peace Love Yoga: The Politics of Global Spirituality. New York: Oxford University Press, 2020.

Singleton, Mark. Yoga Body: The Origins of Modern Posture Practice. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.

Yoga in the Modern World: Contemporary Perspectives. Edited by Mark Singleton and Jean Byrne. London: Routledge, 2008.

Alter, Joseph S. Yoga in Modern India: The Body between Science and Philosophy. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2004.

Ward, Charlotte, and David Voas. “The Emergence of Conspirituality.” Journal of Contemporary Religion 26 (2011): 103-21. https://doi.org/10.1080/13537903.2011.539846 

Nguyen, Terry, “The wellness world’s conspiracy problem is linked to Orientalism,” Vox, July 16, 2021, https://www.vox.com/the-goods/22577558/wellness-world-qanon-conspiracy-orientalism 

Lau, Kimberly J. New Age Capitalism: Making Money East of Eden. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2000.

Beres, Derek, Matthew D. Remski, and Julian Walker. Conspirituality: How New Age Conspiracy Theories Became a Health Threat. New York: PublicAffairs, 2023.

Yoga Alliance. “2016 Yoga in America Study,” https://www.yogaalliance.org/Get_Involved/Media_Inquiries/2016_Yoga_in_America_Study_Conducted_by_Yoga_Journal_and_Yoga_Alliance_Reveals_Growth_and_Benefits_of_the_Practice 

Cheetham, Joshua. “Does yoga have a conspiracy theory problem?” BBC News, February 19, 2021, https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-55957298

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