One yoga website seems to do little if any meaningful research before recommending classes or “styles” to potential yoga beginners.

At Yoga under “choosing a yoga style” “beginners” will find the “most common types” of yoga listed for their consideration includes “Swami Kriyananda,” “Swami Satchidananda” and “Yogi Bhajan.”

Sherry Roberts the editor of the site suggests, “Find a teacher that you can relate to and a style that furthers your own personal growth.”

However, these three teachers have all been historically referred to as “cult leaders.” And former students claimed their “yoga” was often a means of recruitment and basis for abuse.

Roberts writes, “Swami Kriyananda” (J. Donald Walters) “devoted 45 years of his life to studying the teachings of Parmahansa Yogananda.”

But she doesn’t mention that the Self-Realization Fellowship founded by Parmahansa Yogananda has disavowed Kriyananda.

Walters was also sued by the Fellowship for copyright infringement and lost. He certainly must have been busy “studying the teachings.” The swami paid $29,000 in damages.

More importantly Roberts fails to mention the plight of some of Walters former acolytes. Kriyananda lost a sexual abuse lawsuit filed by former students and was forced into bankruptcy.

Swami Satchidananda, now deceased, had his share of sex scandals. Former secretaries said he was more of a predator than a celibate. Many of his followers left in the 90s.

More recently a controversy arose regarding an Integral Yoga International (IYI) student in New York City who attended a 30-day retreat at “Yogaville,” the group’s retreat in Virginia.

That IYI student was only at the ashram for two weeks before marrying one of its “swamis she had never met,” who was old enough to be her father. She stayed on to become a devotee and “yoga teacher.”

Yogi Bhajan of 3HO is perhaps the most controversial figure listed by Roberts.

She says that his “practice is designed to awaken Kundalini energy.”

Well, if “Kundalini energy” means collecting cash and sex scandals, Bhajan certainly has conducted something of a “wake up call.”

The yogi makes money from businesses run by his yoga disciples, but was sued for “assault, battery, fraud and deceit.” He decided to settle out of court.

One of Bhajan’s top leaders and yoga enthusiasts was busted for smuggling guns and marijuana and then sentenced to prison.

Did this “style” somehow “awaken” criminal “energy”?

Ms. Roberts doesn’t appear to do much research before listing “yoga” teachers?

Hopefully, visitors to her website will do some cursory checking before becoming involved with some of the groups listed. Some yoga students say these “common types” are simply “cults.”

Once Christy Turlington appeared to be primarily concerned with her modeling career, but now it seems the “Supermodel” has become increasingly focused on other pursuits—such as her practice of yoga.

In her new book “Living Yoga: Creating a Life Practice” Turlington touts her yoga lifestyle. She has also launched a yoga clothing line.

The message seems to be—if want to look like Christy, do yoga like Christy. And for a nation increasingly inhabited by overweight people, the United States seems posed to embrace such advice.

However, there is more to Turlington’s book than just that.

Most Americans who initially become involved in yoga simply want to get in shape. But Turlington’s book isn’t just about healthy exercise; it’s also concerned with reshaping your mind or consciousness. And the fashion diva’s thinking seems to have been influenced by some pretty controversial “gurus.”

Christy Turlington’s personal odyssey in yoga apparently has included a few groups called “cults.”

The Supermodel cites 3HO, “Siddha Meditation” and “Integral Yoga International” (IYI) positively within “Living Yoga.” However, these three groups share more than the practice of yoga in common. All three have been called “cults” and have a history of abuse claims made by former members, which has included sexual exploitation.

“Yogi Bhajan” who founded and still leads 3HO, settled a lawsuit with a former secretary rather than go to court over her abuse claims. Supposedly celibate “Swami Satchidananda,” the now deceased creator of IYI, weathered a sex scandal in the early 90s. And some of Siddha’s late leader Muktananda’s former disciples also reported that he sexually abused them.

Christy Turlington’s latest teacher is Eddie Stern who runs a yoga studio in lower Manhattan. He isn’t a “cult leader,” but has generated some complaints and concern.

Ms. Turlington seems to have come through all these groups unscathed. But despite their histories, she offers no warnings or even a footnote within her book to would-be yoga buffs.

The Publisher’s Weekly review at says Christy Turlington’s book goes “beyond getting a nice butt” and that “there’s a lot to digest” within its pages. Maybe that’s an understatement.

Yoga still means firming up, not flipping out to most people. And readers might just choke on some of the groups and gurus Turlington includes in her eclectic yoga buffet.

One Turlington admirer at posted, “I look at Christy as a true role model.” Perhaps as a celebrity role model Turlington should be more prudent about who and what she promotes publicly.

Yogi Bhajan of 3HO may only be a relatively obscure “cult leader” to most folks, but to the people of Milford Massachusetts he is “the head of the Sikh religion in the Western Hemisphere,” reports the Milford Daily News.

It doesn’t seem Daily News reporter Aaron Gouveia did much research for his story “Pretzel Logic,” which reads like a promotional press release from the guru and his group. This must have made the yogi happy, but probably not many mainstream Sikhs who often see him as an embarrassment and say his teachings are spurious.

Sikh historian Trilochan Singh once called Yogi Bhajan’s teachings “a sacrilegious hodgepodge.” And his supposed title of “supreme leader” is non-existent. Such titles are not historically conferred by Sikhs.

Instead of leading Sikhs throughout the Western Hemisphere, Bhajan actually is the leader of a relatively obscure group known as “3HO” that is located largely within three states in the US—California, New Mexico and Arizona. The dwindling sect reached its peak in the 70s and now has perhaps 2,000 members.

3HO devotees are rarely Indian Sikhs. Instead they typically come from white middle-class backgrounds and were recruited as converts by the guru in the 70s. And 3HO members virtually worship Bhajan, which is typical for “cults,” but not for Sikhs.

Bhajan himself is a former customs agent from India with a history of sexual misconduct allegations. And 3HO has been plagued by scandals, including a drug bust by DEA that ultimately put one of the group’s top leaders in prison.

Aaron Gouveia is not the first reporter to apparently be duped by Bhajan & Company. CNN was also taken in, they featured him as a Sikh spokesman after the murder of an Indian Sikh in Mesa, Arizona. That man was mistaken for a Muslim in a hate crime shortly after September 11th.

Whatever happened to fact checking?

The burgeoning growth industry of self-improvement within the United States continues to include exotic spiritual mentors. And India has been a fount for a litany of purported “gurus,” “swamis,” “yogis” and other would-be “god-men” that have enthralled Americans.

But in India such supposedly “spiritual” types are increasingly seen as simply tricksters or confidence men. And the police in Bombay are busting them, reports Reuters.

One Indian official who has exposed more than a few explained, “[Our] campaign is meant to be an eye-opener. We want to put a complete stop to those posing as god-men.”

But in the United States the First Amendment precludes putting a “complete stop” to any “religious” endeavor. So many of the “god-men” of India have immigrated to a more open market. After all, why work Bombay when you can come to America and make the big bucks?

Since the sixties a virtual wave of Indian gurus has washed upon the shores of North America. And seemingly gullible Americans have proven over and over again that they are willing to buy the wares of these “god-men” and a few “god-women” too.

The list of such spiritual entrepreneurs keeps growing.

There was Swami Satchidananda (now deceased), Guru Sri Chinmoy (still carrying on in Queens New York), Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (perhaps the richest guru on earth), Guru Maharaji (a boy wonder), Swami Prabhupada (deceased founder of “Krishna Consciousness”), Sai Baba, Swami Muktananda (deceased founder of Siddha), Yogi Bhajan of 3HO, Swami Rama and let’s not forget the notorious Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh who was deported before he died.

A new female “guru” is breaking into the American market named “Chalanda Sai Ma.” She is apparently a former pupil of Sai Baba and others, but is now touring solo.

Of course the United States appears to have plenty of homegrown flim flam, which includes an assortment of psychics, faith healers, mediums and even snake handlers. And American authorities are often far less vigilant than their Indian counterparts, when it comes to protecting the public.

Still, despite easily accessible homegrown holy men, there seems to be something about flowing saffron robes, mantras and exotic India that exicites the imagination of many within the US spiritual marketplace. Many “god-men” seem to know how to tap into that market, or that is, turn on the tap to cash in.

The historic success of Indian gurus in the US seems to have inspired a growing list of American wannabes that have taken on Indian names and titles.

Frank Jones from Brooklyn is now “god-man Adi Da,” Fred Lenz was called “Zen Master Rama,” a former New York housewife Joyce Green calls herself “Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati,” Mike Shoemaker became “Swami Chetananada” and Donald Waters became “Swami Kriyananda,” just to name a few.

Some of the “god-men” have turned out to have feet of clay. There have been several scandals and a few lawsuits regarding sexual misconduct and other allegations.

The old consumer adage “buyer beware” seems to be equally appropriate advice within the spiritual marketplace.

One Indian activist intent upon exposing “god-men” as simply con-men said, “It’s easy money — without any investment. As long as fear exists among people such god-men will thrive.”

For many yoga enthusiasts the practice is simply good exercise. But it seems for some it’s all about profits, ego and power. Some yoga schools and related businesses apparently are more concerned with maintaining their franchise and market share than the bodies of their clients, reports Business 2.0.

The article takes readers on a tour of prominent yoga entrepreneurs, who appear to be the antithesis of what you would expect, much more about the bottom line than something transcendent.

The yoga notables covered include seemingly status-driven celebrity name-dropper Bikram Choudhury, who likes flashy watches and John Abbot former banker and now the owner of “Yoga Journal” magazine, who seems intensely focused on his market share.

The article is an interesting look at how yoga has become little more than a business to make money for many of its advocates.

But another aspect of the yoga business is the use of the now popular and fashionable practice to proselytize. That is, some groups called “cults” or “cult-like” draw in adherents through an apparent kind of “bait and switch” process. These groups seem to feed off yoga as a vehicle to bring people into their subculture and/or mindset. And this process can be intensified through the use of “meditation,” often more like hypnotic trance induction, which makes students more malleable.

Yoga practitioners involved in this process may eventually become more than just exercise buffs. They can become devotees of some charismatic leader and/or sect.

This recruitment process is not uncommon. After all, yoga’s actual roots are religious not secular. Anyone interested in taking classes should check out the background of their school before becoming involved, to make sure it doesn’t have a hidden agenda.

Some groups, which have raised concerns are 3HO led by “Yogi Bhajan,” Integral Yoga International (IYI) and “Yogaville” founded by Swami Satchidananda, Dahn Hak Tao “Healing Society” led by “Master Lee” and a Patanjali Yoga Shala studio in Manhattan run by teacher Eddie Stern.

Madonna once sang about “getting into the groove,” but now it seems she’s stuck in a rut. The middle-aged pop icon persists in her “spiritual” trip, which includes “yoga” and “Kaballah” lessons, reports Reuters. But her teachers of these respected traditions are from controversial fringe groups that have been called “cults.” One of her yoga teachers is a devotee of 3HO and her “Kaballah” lessons come from an organization run by Philip Berg, which he named the “Kaballah Center.”

But the “material girl” apparently feels any controversy surrounding these groups is somehow immaterial.

Perhaps Madonna, like most celebrities involved in groups called “cults,” never sees or is subjected to the dark side of these organizations. Like most celebrities involved, she is more likely to be catered to and fawned upon, rather than exposed to the demands made upon regular members.

Hollywood types are known for gathering “yes people” around them and indulging in self-centered pursuits. And it seems that for some “spirituality” is not unlike using drugs or partying and is simply another journey down the road of narcissism and/or hedonism.

However, regardless of the fun Madonna and other stars may have in indulging themselves, they often become a lure used by groups to promote products, courses and recruitment. In this sense they take on some of the responsibility of the harm, which may be done to others.

Madonna is certainly not some wide-eyed naïve type, “like a virgin.” Hopefully, some day she will be a more mature mother and offer her fans a better example

Gurus are a burgeoning growth industry. The Observer in Great Britain reports that the guru craze, which includes everything from a “Life Coach” to a “Yoga” teacher is a booming business.

It seems like some people are so lonely and/or lost they are willing to pay for a friend, sycophant or supposed “seer” to answer life’s questions or simply tell them what to do.

There is even a “blow job” guru, who instructs housewives, how to keep husbands happy, which apparently is not a spiritual approach.

Celebrity guru Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa has her own guru, “Yogi Bhajan” leader of 3HO, which has been called a “cult.” So does this mean Bhajan has a guru franchise, or are Khalsa’s students getting two gurus for the price of one?

One thing is for sure; there is money to be made in Guruland.

A prison inmate, who says he is a “Wiccan,” is suing the Wisconsin Department of Corrections because authorities did not let him wear a necklace, reported Associated Press. The AP reporter compared his neck ware to a “Catholic Rosary.”

However, prisoners are notorious for “running games.” That is, using whatever means possible to obtain special treatment and/or harass their jailers. Frivolous lawsuits filed by inmates are frequently little more than a tool used to play such games out.

A prisoner’s claim that a “religious right” is somehow being violated is a common ploy often used to obtain special diets or other privlidges. Supposed “Sikh” inmates (actually associated with the “cult group” 3HO) have used this strategy to grow long hair, or receive special diets. Another recent controversy involved alleged “Jewish” prisoners who want Kosher food.

Now it seems “New Age” religions may become yet another device used by some inmates in an attempt to play prison officials. The problem is differentiating between the convict who is a true believer, and the simple con.

Madonna, Rosanna Arquette, Melissa Etheridge. Cindy Crawford, Courtney Love, David Duchovny and Sherilyn Fenn have something in common. According to LA Times reporter Gina Piccola (“Earth Mother, Yoga Star,” August 16, 2002) they all have been influenced by “Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa,” their yoga teacher, who is a devoted follower of “Yogi Bhajan” the founder of 3HO, the “Healthy, Happy, Holy Organization.”

But there are a few details the LA Times article left out.

3HO has been called a “cult.” Guru Jot Singh Khalsa, one of its top leaders, was indicted for RICO violations and large-scale international drug trafficking. He was sent to prison in 1988. But that did not deter the Hollywood yoga teacher, who has been an active devotee since 1971.

According to the Times Khalsa an “ex-hippie,” former “LSD” tripper, now cult follower is, “the teacher whom much of prenatal Hollywood has come to trust.”

Interestingly, Khalsa’s guru had some advice for his followers in 1974, “Your dead bodies will lie on these roads, your children will be orphans, and nobody will kick them, rather, people will eat them alive! There will be tremendous insanity. That is the time we are going to face.” So much for “baby talk.”

But in Hollywood it seems that after achieving star status, the next right of passage those serious about celebrity frequently pass through, is some sort of cult involvement. Or, it appears that many stars at least opt for a few culty classes.

Ms. Khalsa’s students are told that through “Kundalini, movements,” “special breathing,” “meditation and chanting” they can “balance the energy centers of the body and harmonize…physically, emotionally and spiritually.” Courtney Love says it’s “better than Prozac.” And with endorsements from someone like Love, how can you doubt it? Well, at least not in Hollywood.