Celebrities and dubious spiritual leaders have always gone hand in hand—Hollywood and cults practically grew up together.
“Faith Healer” Aimee Semple McPherson’s LA church, founded as the film industry was taking off in the West, attracted silent-era figures like Charlie Chaplin and the star who coined the phrase “It Girl,” Clara Bow.
Since then, Hollywood’s list of weird spiritual groups has grown along, from NXIVM to the Kabbalah Center and, of course, Tom Cruise’s beloved church.
Now, it seems there’s a whole new breed of super weird, possibly outrageous Hollywood spiritual group that’s sprung up in recent years – celebrity yoga cults.
Let’s explore the murky world of celebrity yoga cults
These gurus have attracted everyone from Russell Brand and Kate Hudson to Will Smith and Tony Robbins, often before being unmasked as frauds or criminals.
In his wake, another guru is rising, even joining British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s party—despite being wanted by Interpol on grisly criminal charges.
Katie Griggs, aka, Guru Jagat, who lured A-listers like Alicia Keys and Kate Hudson.
The turban-wearing, QAnon-following, COVID-denying Griggs, a white woman, claims mixed Indian ancestry and was a devotee of the Guru Yogi Bhajan at the center of dozens of sexual assault allegations.
Bhajan’s devotees included Russell Brand, Demi Moore and Jennifer Aniston, with Griggs’ lineage to create her own Los Angeles hotspot RA MA Yoga with her spiritual advisor Harijeevan, a convicted felon.
RA MA Yoga has lured Kate Hudson, Alicia Keys and influencers Shiva Rose and Amanda Chantal Bacon with claims of “healing” and “healing” – as well as yoga’s origins in the Bible.
Former devotees and staff say RA MA is a cult that operates on Griggs’ demands for “extreme devotion” and an “us versus them” mentality of yogic superiority.
They say she urged followers to avoid medical treatment and warned against spending too much time with family, lest they “regress spiritually.”
They also accused her of spiritual and verbal abuse and refusing to pay employees, and her investors sued her in 2016 for misappropriation of funds.
In 2020, Griggs began expressing public support for QAnon conspiracy theories and claims that COVID-19 is a hoax, among other far-right alignments.
She died in 2021. Neither Hudson nor Keyes, who publicly supported Griggs in the press, would comment on the allegations against her.
Sadhguru, a yoga guru loved by celebrities like Will Smith and Tom Brady, has also faced shocking allegations.
Ashram-owner Yogi Sadhguru, an environmentalist beloved of Tom Brady and Will Smith, has been criticized for claiming that “human suffering” like Covid-19 comes from a lack of spiritual development.
He has also expressed support for violent political extremism in India and is suspected by some of murdering his wife, who he claims died during her yoga practice.
And in 2018, He argued against it Harsh punishments for rapists in 2018 will lead to more victims being killed.
And then there is “Godman” Paramahansa Nityananda, the favorite yoga guru of British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.
Nityananda, who claims to be the physical incarnation of the Hindu god Shiva, doesn’t have the same celebrity pedigree as others—yet, anyway. And thank God for that.
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Nityananda, who claims to be able to teach cows Sanskrit and see through walls, is currently absconding from charges of kidnapping and sexually abusing minor girls.
However, this has not stopped British politicians from inviting its representative to the British House of Lords for the 2022 Diwali party.
The party included pamphlets from Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and former Home Secretary Priti Patel supporting Nithyananda.
Hopefully, the allegations against Nithyananda will keep him out of celebrity’s good graces.
But given Hollywood’s track record with problematic yoga gurus? We shouldn’t count our eggs before they hatch—or say hello, as it were.
Jon Sundholm is a news and entertainment writer covering pop culture, social justice, and human interest topics.