Katie Holmes: How to Know if You Were in a Kult. ~ Michelle Marchildon

Via Michelle Marchildon
on Jul 9, 2012
get elephant's newsletter
wikimedia commons

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?”

Me: “What?”

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, 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 percent true, here are some ways to tell 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 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 which is why she filed for divorce. I read that in People Magazine, so you know it is 100% true.

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.

Like elephant kult-free spirituality on Facebook.


About Michelle Marchildon

Michelle Berman Marchildon is the Yogi Muse. She’s an award-winning journalist, and the author of Finding More on the Mat: How I Grew Better, Wiser and Stronger through Yoga. Her second book, Theme Weaver: Connect the Power of Inspiration to Teaching Yoga, is for yoga teachers who want to inspire their students. Michelle is a columnist for elephant journal and Origin Magazine and a contributor to Teachasana, My Yoga Online and Yoga Journal. She is an E-RYT 500 with Yoga Alliance and teaches in Denver, Co where she is busy raising two boys, two dogs and one husband. You can follow her on Facebook at Michelle Marchildon, The Yogi Muse. You can find her blog and website at www.YogiMuse.com. And you can take her classes on www.yogadownload.com.


23 Responses to “Katie Holmes: How to Know if You Were in a Kult. ~ Michelle Marchildon”

  1. Please fact check says:

    Iyengar yoga is a great alignment system as well as Anusara and just as trademarked, so can't call yourself an Iyenfar teacher without a license. what does the license read?????

    Mark Image
    Word Mark IYENGAR YOGA
    Goods and Services IC 035. US 100 101 102. G & S: Promoting public awareness of the art, science and philosophy of yoga according to the teachings of BKS Iyengar. FIRST USE: 19930100. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 19930100

    IC 041. US 100 101 107. G & S: Educational services, namely, providing classes, seminars, workshops, teacher training, in the field of yoga according to the teachings and philosophy of BKS Iyengar. FIRST USE: 19840900. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 19840900
    Standard Characters Claimed
    Mark Drawing Code (4) STANDARD CHARACTER MARK
    Serial Number 76656123
    Filing Date March 6, 2006
    Current Basis 1A
    Original Filing Basis 1A
    Published for Opposition May 29, 2007
    Registration Number 3278337
    Registration Date August 14, 2007
    Owner (REGISTRANT) IYENGAR, B.K.S. INDIVIDUAL INDIA Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute 1107-B/1 Shivaji Nagar Pune 411016 INDIA
    Attorney of Record Richard J. Ward, Jr.
    Prior Registrations 1198285;2601357
    Type of Mark SERVICE MARK
    Register PRINCIPAL-2(F)
    Live/Dead Indicator LIVE

  2. ilona says:

    There’s nothing wrong with hula hoops — they are fun, for all ages. Don’t let the Anusarans tarnish a perfectly innocent object.

  3. massage_yogi says:

    fortunately, I never drank the kula-aid.

  4. Michelle Marchildon says:

    Iyengar Yoga, as well as many other yoga systems, do trademark aspects of their school. My point was only that Anusara is not the ONLY school that focuses on alignment. Also, Anusara trademarked the actual principles of alignment, versus claiming ownership of a philosophy. I am not a trademark lawyer, clearly, but I think it is a subtle difference I probably could have been more careful in describing.

    Second, I love to watch the hoopers. It’s really fun. I am just having a little laugh at myself and how I got caught up in the thing.

  5. yogasamurai says:

    Kidney loops
    Hula hoops
    Fruit loops

    Enjoyed your humor, M.

  6. Lauren says:


  7. Raven says:

    There's a lot of cultishness in the yoga community. Probably isn't really the case. Just nutty people doing nutty stuff.

    I am, however, skeptical of Jivamukti folks. The people that run that thing fairly wreak of some sort of sacrifice with a long, curvy blade: chickens -> goats -> the mailman… then some chanting after.

  8. yogasamurai says:

    Do watch your back, by the way. Cults tend to escalate. They can't help themselves. Steve Hassan, a former Moonie and one of the leading cult experts – and deprogrammers – was on Piers Morgan this evening. I have discussed Anusara and other yoga "movements" with him in the past. All of these groups' modus operandi, especially vis-a-vis "critics," is very well-established. – YS

  9. Will Space says:

    not far off.. why you have to abuse Katie Holmes to feel good about yourself I'm not sure though..

  10. Amy says:

    Abuse? I thought this was a tongue in cheek, fun and witty story. That was free of abuse. Thanks for the chuckle Michelle.

  11. @yogatwit says:

    Thanks a lot. 🙂 Sometimes it is hard to shake off the past, and the 'bits' you pick up along the way. Sounds like you are well on the way. All the very best.

  12. Dana says:

    Hilarious! Thanks so much for sharing and giving me a great chuckle this morning!
    I too appreciate a little cynicism and skepticism…. As for everyone else, lighten up!!

  13. Vanita says:

    So cute. (Also loved your Origin Magazine piece!)

  14. I now know with absolute certainty that John Friend is a cult leader, because I read it on elephant journal, which is 100 percent accurate.

    THanks for the laughs M


  15. Nathalie says:

    Michelle, when I saw it was you, I had to read it. And made my husband listen…Awesome post, you make me laugh. My daughter mentioned how much kids laugh in a day and how (little) adults do. No need to read something into everything cause you always can, right? Choose and just enjoy.

  16. yogasamurai says:

    lol, good one!

  17. Natalie Baginski says:

    Anecdote from a girl in an organization that people often think is VERY cult-like:

    Isn't Patanjali the "person at the top" when it comes to yoga? Many people have translated the Yoga Sutras and come up with their own version of the "path" and the "states" that result from the path, like Swami Satchitananda, Paramahansa Yogananda, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi…and newbys such as Shannon and David of Jivamukti. If that definition is really it, we are all in a cult.

    I also want to say that taking money for techniques and classes, and putting a 'stamp' on your particular 'brand' might just be the best way to ensure that the specific techniques you have come up with are kept pure and unchanged. Shannon and David wouldn't appreciate it if I advertised Jivamukti classes without being certified by them, and you can't say you do Transcendental Meditation unless you've been taught by a certified TM teacher, and might I add, paid a hefty price for the technique. I wish it were all free, but I kind of understand why it isn't. I can totally see why some Anusara teachers feel like they were in a cult. The whole thing is a bummer. But we all make mistakes…

    I am in an organization with a guy at the "top" but his particular teaching of the yoga sutras works for me, and seems to be the least changed from the original Vedic texts, in my opinion. The reason I do not feel like I'm in a cult is because to answer every question about my yoga and meditation path, I am encouraged to go straight to the Vedas, straight to the Gita, straight to the Sutras and even straight to reading it in original Sanskrit, if just for the vibration. It's just me and the Vedas. No one told me to stop smoking or drinking, no one asked me to change who I am in anyway, no one criticized my life in any way, there are really no rules at all. I am advised to meditate, do asana and pranayam, follow Ayurveda as much as is convenient, and just live my life. But noo one checks up on me unless I seek it out. I am my own Guru, I am encouraged to look within and always follow my inner teacher. For such a cult-like organization, it's amazing how free I am.

    We need our teachers, we need the science behind what we are doing, we need classes. Some of us need community. But if your practice encourages you to go within rather than without, if the emphasis is about inner space and all stems from the original Vedic literature and you feel AMAZING and your health and happiness is improving and what you are studying resonates deepy within the quiest depths of your consciousness, then enjoy your "cult". If you're being taken for a ride, you will eventually figure that out. And then leave. And forget about it. That's what I'll do if one day I wake up and realize I'm in a cult. Until then, Jai Guru Dev…

  18. yogasamurai says:

    Great post, Natalie. I don't know anything about the Jive-Ass Muckety-Mucks but if your Bling King actually encourages you all in this way, it sounds good to me. I am sure there are plenty of people in your ranks who want too much "from without," because of their own sense of dependency. You see this everywhere. Still, if the "official" approach is to encourage more autonomy and less "group-think" and idolatry, that would be ideal — from your description of it. Namaste. Thanks.

  19. Irene says:

    Just putting the name into the Title for SEO purposes is not a yogic way…

  20. Justin says:

    I'll join your cult anytime.

  21. guest says:

    well, a cult is a religion where the cult leader is still alive..
    I'm glad I am doing yoga at a studio that is lululemon-pressure, kula-pressure free. Come as you are, no strange spiritual teachings, just yoga.

  22. Love this post and your point of view. Thanks for sharing!

  23. click here says:

    Congratulations to Katie Holmes for finally chewing all the way through her leg.