A yoga class of true devotion?

MSNBC/February 20, 2002
By Jeanette Walls

Is Gwyneth Paltrow's yoga instructor doling out more than exercise? Paltrow and other bold face names such as Christy Turlington are devotees of Eddie Stern, who runs the Patanjali Yoga Shala studio in lower Manhattan. But one expert in cults and alternative religions says he's concerned about complaints he's received regarding Stern's studio.

Rick Ross, a professional deprogrammer who runs, says that a number of Stern's students are encouraged to become intensely devoted to the yoga instructor. Students say that some of them were warned they will go insane if they take yoga courses outside of Stern's classes and are told that they will be met with a horrible fate if they ever say anything negative about Stern.

"A lot of the people who go to his classes just get a really good workout," a former student told The Scoop. "But some devotees are brought into an inner circle that requires absolute and utter devotion to his every word. I saw people lose all ability to decide things for themselves. It was a situation that was encouraged. There was no doubt in my mind that it was a cult-like situation."

"It is certainly not my belief that mixing yoga systems will lead to insanity," Stern told the Scoop. He denies that he pressures people or that there is any cult-like behavior in his classes, saying that he has "encouraged students to grow in whatever path or whatever direction they need to go."

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