When I heard that Katie Holmes was divorcing Tom Cruise possibly because of the Scientology thing, I thought I might offer her some advice, especially since I just found out that I was also in a cult.
Given that I have trust issues, am uber-cynical and from New York, it was particularly crazy that this happened to me. My husband knew it first, of course. He realized I had gone down the rabbit hole the day I came home from a yoga conference with a hula hoop.
Husband: “What the hell is that?”
Husband: “That huge hoop hanging on your shoulder.”
Me: “What hoop hanging on my shoulder?” Because this is how you have a happy marriage: Deny, deny deny.
Furthermore, a solid partnership often means that one partner keeps the other in line. However, my husband completely failed to keep me out of the Anusara Yoga cult, which I blame him for because he was busy earning a living so I could spend nearly all of our money on yoga trainings.
Of course, my husband should have known I was in a cult when I started talking about the “Kula,” which were all my new yoga friends and that was our cool new name. Yes, I was in the Kula, which meant, I’m “cool-a,” and you’re not-a. Since I was an odd duck in high school, this felt pretty good.
Katie Holmes, listen up: according to the “Universal Definition of a Cult,” which I found on Wikipedia so you know it is 100% true, here are some ways to know if you are into something weird:
“A cult is any group which has a pyramid type authoritarian leadership structure with all teaching coming from the person at the top.” Anusara Yoga was created by John Friend, who trademarked the thing so not only did he own it, but he could sue your pants off if you taught it without permission.
“A group is called a cult because of their behavior.” Can you say hula hoop? I am 51 years old. What the heck do I need with a hula hoop?
“A cult will have an elitist view of itself.” Anusara teachers will tell you they are the only ones who understand alignment. Right? Well, there was this man named Mr. Iyengar, and I believe he taught alignment he just didn’t see the need to trademark it.
“They use intimidation to keep members loyal to their ranks.” Not only were teachers shunned if they strayed, I am still being harassed by creepy people who do not like what I have to say. Hey Anusarians, have you heard of the First Amendment?
When the Anusara yoga scandal broke, I had to face the truth about the last five years of my life. So I went to my husband and said, “Um, honey we are out of milk. And by the way, I think I’m in a cult.” That is not a sentence an I.B.M. executive expects to hear, that his wife is in a cult.
Because we are rational, we went through the Cult Definitions and when I got to the part where Friend was asking for 10% royalties from certified teachers, Mike said “bingo.” Once money was involved, it was clear I was definitely in a cult.
Now I have a hula hoop hanging in the garage, and a whole new outlook on yoga. I am more attuned to my inner guru; you know the cynical one that was raised in New York. I hope this has been helpful to Katie Holmes, who might have thought that Scientology was pretty weird.
Lastly, the next time someone invites me to be a member of the kula, I’m going to make sure it isn’t a kult instead.
Michelle Berman Marchildon is the Yogi Muse. She’s an award-winning journalist, a former corporate executive and a survivor of 50+ years of life. Known as the “Erma Bombeck of the Mat,” Michelle is the author of the memoir “Finding More on the Mat: How I Grew Better, Wiser and Stronger through Yoga,” and a Columnist for Elephant Journal and Origin Magazine. She is an E-500 RYT with Yoga Alliance and teaches Aligned Vinyasa in Denver, Co. Even though she is uber-fabulous, she is NOT an Ambassador for Lululemon, and has been promised she will never be one. You can take her with you on your computer or I-thing by downloading her classes from www.yogadownload.com.