California's yoga, wellness and spirituality community has a QAnon problem

California's yoga, wellness and spirituality community has a QAnon problem

6/23/2021 3:17:00 PM

California's yoga, wellness and spirituality community has a QAnon problem

A world that has long embraced love, light and acceptance is now making room for something else: QAnon.

QAnon is the baseless conspiracy theory that President Trump is battling a powerful group of elites who, among other crimes, run a child sex ring.Holding influencers accountable for spreading those beliefs has proved difficult, as the vast majority of the industry is unlicensed and unregulated.

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“It has fostered an enormous amount of mistrust,” said Seane Corn, a L.A.-based yoga instructor and co-founder of “Off The Mat, Into the World,” a nonprofit organization that bridges yoga and social activism. “It has ended friendships.”Corn was among the wellness leaders who shared a

statement in Septemberwarning that QAnon’s tactics resembled cult psychology and that the ideology would sow confusion, division and paranoia. Corn estimates she knows at least 10 people who embraced “hardcore QAnon,” including two people who participated in the attack on the Capitol — and is aware of more than 30 colleagues and peers who subscribe to some forms of the ideology, as well as a “countless” number of yoga students.

AdvertisementCorn said she has watched bots and real-life QAnon devotees try to harness her social media comment sections as a recruiting ground, using “wellness language and nonviolent communication” in an attempt to lead her followers toward more conspiratorial thinking.

Her criticism of QAnon also triggered a flood of homophobic and violently sexual messages in her inbox, she said, and her Facebook page was hacked.After the failed insurrection at the Capitol, QAnon is now something of a “damaged brand,” said Matthew Remski, a cult researcher and co-host of the “Conspirituality” podcast. Corn said some of her acquaintances who have fully embraced the conspiracy theory would be embarrassed to be described that way.

When the world shut down in March of 2020, Eva Kohn of San Clemente created a group text to stay in touch with nine other women in the area. Niceties about families and lockdown hobbies devolved over the months into false conspiracy theories: that Democratic elites were harvesting adrenochrome from tortured children to use in satanic rites, that the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol was

, that the COVID-19 vaccine causes infertility.AdvertisementKohn, who studied engineering, pushed back again and again. What’s the evidence? What are your sources? Here’s a scientific study that disproves the theory.“I have a pretty analytical brain,” Kohn said. “No matter what evidence I would present, they would not hear it. They have gone through a rabbit hole and they won’t come out.”

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By the end of the year, seven of the 10 women in the group chat had embraced QAnon. Kohn eventually excused herself, but one of them still texts her anti-vaccine propaganda. She estimates that she knows of more than 30 people who’ve embraced Q-related conspiracies. For some, she said, “the influence of natural wellness is what has driven them to this type of thinking.”

Last spring, extremist researchers began to note with alarm that bigoted, far-right ideology was being laundered through vivid sunset photos and slickly designed “educational” slides on Instagram. That recruiting tactic, aimed largely at women, has since been dubbed “

.”Advertisement“Instagram is the platform where yoga and QAnon intersected,” said Cécile Guerin, a yoga teacher and extremism researcher at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue in London. She said the ideology was a clear fit for a community that has long been taught to search for and decode hidden meanings and patterns.

Federal officials have classified the conspiracy theory as a domestic terrorism threat. An intelligence reportreleased last weeksuggested that while some adherents will pull back as false prophecies do not come true, others will shift from “serving as ‘digital soldiers’ towards engaging in real world violence.”

The theory’s promised “Great Awakening” echoes the yogic views of ascension and consciousness. The anti-mask and anti-distancing rhetoric focused on bodily autonomy and sovereignty, themes embedded in New Age practices, too: that you are your own guru, that you know your body better than anyone else.

Those who have embraced the conspiracy belief and search for hidden clues often describe themselves as having been “red-pilled,” a reference to the 1999 film “The Matrix.” In a famous scene, Keanu Reeves’ character is offered a choice between a blue pill that will keep him in a clueless but contented dream state, and a red pill that will reveal the world’s harsh realities.

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AdvertisementSubscribers get early access to this storyWe’re offering L.A. Times subscribers first access to our best journalism. Thank you for your support.Yoga teacher Laura Schwartz saw that rhetoric rear its head last year, when one of her acquaintances in the yoga community in Alexandria, Va., began to rant on Instagram that the COVID-19 vaccine, which was still in development, contained aborted fetuses.

Then came a flood of even wilder conspiracy theories: that Bill Gates was using the vaccine to depopulate the world, that the Rothschilds were controlling the world’s banks, that Donald Trump would expose and arrest a global ring of elite pedophile Democrats.

“Every talking point QAnon had, she checked them off,” said Schwartz, 41, who has a master’s degree in public health and watched in horror as the posts piled up.AdvertisementSchwartz eventually severed ties with the acquaintance and moved to Carlsbad in San Diego County. Over the next year, as she watched more New Age clients, peers and acquaintances venture down the rabbit hole, Schwartz coined her own term for the phenomenon: “Woo-Anon.”

Laura Schwartz at her yoga studio in Carlsbad.(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)“People aren’t taking QAnon as seriously as they should, given how pervasive it is in these worlds — evangelical Christians, yogis — that otherwise have very little in common,” Schwartz said. “They’re creating a world where truth is whatever you feel like it is.”

The extent to which influencers are consciously embracing QAnon belief systems, or just picking and choosing the types of details that will do well online and attract a wider following, is “still a mystery,” Remski said. “Nobody will give you a straight answer.”

AdvertisementJen Pearlman, a certified life coach who has dabbled in holistic healing for years, also watched the conspiracy theories growing last year.First, theories that COVID-19 was caused by 5G wireless technology. Then an explosion of posts sharing the viral anti-vaccine movie “Plandemic,” coupled with criticisms of mask rules. In the summer, the embrace of the “Save the Children” campaign, an anti-sex-trafficking campaign co-opted by QAnon. By November, Pearlman said, people were talking about their 2nd Amendment rights and Trump’s reelection campaign.

Most alarming, she said, was that many of the posts seemed antisemitic, she said, with allusions to a New World Order and comparing the United States’ public health shutdowns and vaccination policies to the concentration camps of Nazi Germany.It felt “terrifying,” Pearlman said — a reminder that “even though as a community we’re really peppy, we love everybody, and it’s all very ‘kumbaya,’ there is a dark underlying worldview.”

Abraham, the energy healer from Trabuco Canyon, is Jewish. She said she struggled to reconcile the creep of extremist ideology into her inner circle, especially among people whom she had “put on a pedestal” when she first entered the New Age world.Advertisement

She unfollowed her dear friend and her reiki master, removed their photos from her home and took down her own training certificates from her walls.“I had to let go of really close mentors,” Abraham said. Her heart hurt so intensely, she said, that she designed and began wearing a bracelet made of crystals that are supposed to cure heartache.

Read more: Los Angeles Times »

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ReviewResist Folks got mad at Obama 4 saying that folks wanted to cling to their guns and their religion. But you see NOW that he was RIGHT. We in the Black community have always known this, it's just that now everything is out in the open for ALL TO SEE with their EYES if you pay attention! What is 'false conspiracy theory'?

Almost like people who are primed to believe pseudoscience and have extreme distrust for medicine and doctors are the type who are vulnerable to conspiracy theories 🤷‍♂️ yoga and meditation are often used for spiritual bypass. Instead of doing the healing work, trauma work, etc, an attempt is made to meditate or yoga through what’s actually here. Avoidance coping, essentially.

Woo woo is the new Q Lost my BFF who is in the wellness/yoga/self improvement communities to Q and vaccine conspiracies. Saw a correlation between this when the wellness accounts started to become more radical and pseudo-science based. Not surprised but also sad She is Andre Herring art Is there any law in America for prosecuting liers? Why is Donald Trump allowed to lie persistently and stir up violence? Unbelievable to see such happening in civilized countries like America.


QAnon supporter awaiting 'great reset' tried murdering girlfriend in bathAnthony Beckett has been jailed for 10 years for beating his girlfriend with hammer after becoming obsessed with the U.S. election. Unrelated Things 🙄🤣🤣💩💩💩💩💩 What a shit headline See Ya!

The on going GENOCIDE of Biafrans is not moving ur kind. Why? FreeNnamdiKanu a British Kidnapped & tortured in kenya taken to d Zoo nigeriA 4 torturing nigeriA = Terrorists Country UnityIsNotByForce Referendum =! War StopTheGenocide BiafraExit Referendum Oduduwa If you're doing yoga, and ur mind is filling up with conspiracy theories! You've joined the wrong kind of yoga club.

I liked it better when “Q” was all about StarTrek and johndelancie 'broken friendships, sadness', that's rough!😓 That's bent. Sounds more like California is the problem.. These two SEEM incompatible. But are they? JDsBunker Los Angeles Times trying to fight conspiracy theorist by out conspiracy theorying them.

What was it a professor once told the class, well me, be careful not to have a mind so open anything can fall in there.

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Q has connected Trumpers with those who see themselves as somehow ‘anti establishment’ - Yoga instructors, holistic medicine users, evangelical home schoolers, essential oil mlm moms, free spirit surfer dudes…. Sounds like the media. Nevada County. Check. '.....aspiring wellness influencers were told that “being controversial, taking definitive positions that make people love you or hate you, is a great way to build your brand,” 🙄 🙄🙄 Hard pass.

One of the best unintentionally hilarious quotes I've ever read. Good show. This has always been so strange to me, how many crunchy granola moms are wrapped up in Q anon conspiracy BS. 🤔 imagine being the author of this article ...........🤡 crazy how y’all are posting this after john mcafee 🧍🏾‍♀️ just suspicious

That last part carrying a lot of weight right now: They were afraid teaching yoga in schools would be teaching children India’s peaceful religious philosophies, but now instead they’re getting QAnon. That wild! WPS

As Mike Flynn stokes QAnon conspiracy theories, his brother commands U.S. Army in PacificRachel Maddow points out lingering questions and the unsettling fact that while disgraced former Donald Trump NSA Mike Flynn tours the country stoking conspiracy theories and entertaining the idea of a military coup to reinstall Donald Trump as president, his brother, Charles Flynn, has been put in charge of commanding the U.S. Army in the Pacific. maddow maddow Oh well at least one child didn't hit his head on the hospital floor during birth maddow Conflict of interest? Traitorous? Upholding the constitution? Hmmm!🤔

A group of 'wellness' folks getting caught up in conspiracy theories? Who would've thought? Also, now please buy my essential oils, Rodan + Fields lotion, and ItWorks face masks! A Call to Protect People and Nature! Thread to Watch/read, T'h'a'c'k'e'r Pass, Nevada: ChrisMegerian Duh. These yoga moms were the anti-vaxxer movement - of course, they are super susceptible to propaganda. And, just an observation - almost everyone who has told me they are all about spirituality and love and wellness - is usually a mean-spirited, thoughtless, selfish SOB.

Promoting 'wellness,' while subscribing to The (modern day) Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Media getting dumber Probably because all that pseudo-religious bullshit runs together

Jessamyn Stanley on Self-Acceptance and the Dark Realities of American YogaWhen the day comes that you no longer need to accept yourself, you're dying.” JessamynStan on self-acceptance and the realities of American yoga:

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