In 1969, Swami Vishnudevananda pioneered what has become a life transition ritual for the GenX and Millennial precariat: the Yoga Teacher Training (YTT) Programme. He was a cult leader rapist who thought yoga would help the world understand messages sent by UFOs. Not exactly confidence-inspiring.
Not every YTT programme is bad—today's bonus host Matthew has worked in some good ones for over a decade. But on the whole, we're talking about an industry that has graduated up to 500K ppl over 50 years through a pseudo-educational process that has greased the epistemological pipeline towards conspirituality.
YTTs are unregulated by any academic or professional consensus. They are driven by the anxious charisma of urban yoga studio entrepreneurs who need to sell big-ticket products to counter the rising overheads of the gentrification they're helping to drive. Their curricula offers a pastiche of uncited resources. They pad contact hours with sermons and meditation sessions.
The typical YTT training manual is an unironic postmodern meat-grinder in which Iron Age philosophy and high school anatomy are blended with quotes from Carl Jung and Rumi. As an example, Matthew looks at a Jivamukti Yoga School manual from a 2007 training hosted at Omega Institute.
Again: not all YTTs are bad, or lead to QAnon. But the ritual and charismatic pedagogy that most offer has a lot in common with the sacrament of redpilling—albeit more socially acceptable and aspirational.
Conspirituality went viral in 2020. It's time to ask whether the YTT industry compromised a culture's immunity to it.
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