How conspiracy theories “infiltrated” the wellness community

Watch the CBS Experiences The documentary “Conspirituality: How Wellness Turned a Gateway for Misinformation” within the video participant above.


Susanna Barkataki, a yoga instructor in Los Angeles, noticed it unfold on her social media feed beginning final yr.

“It was so fascinating, as a result of they have been utilizing phrases that spoke to me and folks like me,” Barkataki instructed CBS Information’ Adam Yamaguchi. “They have been saying phrases and hashtags like, ‘The place we go one, we go all.’ That is like, OK, yeah, that sounds very yogic, proper? … Or the ‘Nice Awakening.’ I imply, that is samadhithat is enlightenment.”

The teacher, whose affect spans past her studio to over 68,000 Instagram followers, shortly realized these phrases stemmed from QAnonthe conspiracy idea that began as a fringe motion amongst supporters of former President Trump. She additionally observed folks questioning whether or not COVID-19 was a authorities conspiracy or a “plandemic” — echoing a infamous video that was banned from Fb and YouTube for spreading harmful falsehoods in regards to the virus.

“I used to be shocked, as a result of folks I knew, mates, colleagues, different yoga lecturers, have been beginning to soar on the bandwagon of those conspiracy theories. And I believed, ‘Wait, these are individuals who I do know and who I respect. Why are they sharing this misinformation?'” Barkataki recalled.

Conspiracy theories “infiltrated slowly,” she stated, helped alongside by the truth that some members of the yoga and wellness communities have been already inclined to query and diverge from mainstream authorities on well being and science.

“In order that made yoga practitioners and wellness practitioners actually weak to this time of misinformation,” Barkataki stated. She crafted a collective assertion with different yoga practitioners to take a public stance in opposition to QAnon and misinformation.

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Yoga instructor Susanna Barkataki says she has seen conspiracy theories and misinformation infiltrate the wellness group on social media.

CBS Information


Anusha Wijeyakumar, who’s the wellness marketing consultant at Hoag Hospital and founding father of the holistic wellness group Shanti Inside, has observed an identical pattern. She defined how the Western model of yoga — which she describes as a departure from its historical roots — spawned a subculture that has change into a “hotbed” of misinformation.

“In some ways, yoga and wellness has change into a spot of anti-science. So, just a few fast examples: folks peddling the juice cleanse that’s going to unravel your entire issues. After we see the fats shaming, the rise of the poisonous food plan tradition in yoga and wellness. We additionally see the love of crystals. I like a crystal … there’s completely nothing improper with liking crystals. Nonetheless, crystals curing most cancers? The place’s the science behind that?” Wijeyakumar stated.

There may be generally extra concerned than simply sharing messages and beliefs. As Barkataki identified, inside these circles, there’s cash to be made.

“There are additionally motives that perhaps aren’t so pure,” she stated, noting that “the wellness business truly did triple the quantity of progress that the pharmaceutical business had completed within the final three years up till the purpose that COVID occurred. And so, many of those yoga practitioners and wellness practitioners stood to learn financially a large amount if they might say, ‘Oh, do not take a shot. However this complement and these meals merchandise I promote will aid you keep wholesome.'”

For some, expertise and social media performed an important position as an entry level for pseudoscientific beliefs. UCLA professor Ramesh Srinivasan, who research the intersection of tech, politics and societies, stated tech corporations are constructing merchandise the place behavior-modifying algorithms are having “profoundly manipulative results.”

“So if I’ve a sure anxiousness about completely different vaccines, or Dr. Fauci, for instance, these anxieties are extraordinarily prone to be bolstered, and I’d additionally say amplified,” Srinivasan stated, including, “One of the best ways to feed somebody’s anxieties is to not simply echo what their present anxiousness is, however to bolster it with one thing worse. One thing a little bit extra hardcore.”

“So that you’re actually being dragged down the rabbit gap,” Yamaguchi stated.

“It is a rabbit gap,” Srinivasan agreed. “And that is one thing I’ve seen personally.”

Amid a pandemic that has taken the lives of greater than 4.7 million folks worldwide, together with over 675,000 in the USAthe results of this parallel pandemic of misinformation have gotten extra dire.

“We’re in an actual conundrum as a result of there’s suspicion and mistrust of virtually all the pieces besides one’s personal tailor-made, focused, customized world,” Srinivasan stated, stressing that we will not simply consider it as a tech downside. “Expertise has change into the gateway, and the language that mainly mediates all of our experiences.”

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