Wellness Practitioners Take Stand Against Anti-Vax Conspiracy Theories Brewing in Industry

By Thierry Malleret, economist 

It’s been well documented that anti-vax conspiracy theories are infiltrating some corners of the wellness ‘family’–particularly in the yoga and alternative medicine communities (in the US, of course, much of the disinformation is coming from QAnon). This is becoming so pervasive that some wellness and yoga practitioners are now taking a public stance against the misinformation campaigns.  

Anusha Wijeyakumar is one example. Founder of the wellness organization, Shanti Within, she claims that the Western version of yoga is creating a subculture that has become a “hotbed of misinformation…a place of anti-science”–arguing that the wellness industry needs to stand strong against this spawning anti-science.  

The far-right is still lurking in the wings. A fact now on full display, with evidence ranging from the recent victory of an anti-vaccine party in Austria’s regional parliament to the inability of the US authorities to vaccinate a substantial portion of its population. The same pattern emerges everywhere: anti-vax attitudes grounded in anti-science and anti-establishment sentiments serve as a lightning rod for all sorts of grievances. They are gaining some traction as the “normalization trap” (when things become more common, they also become more acceptable) gives them legitimacy. This fuels populism, illiberalism, and tribalism. In some extreme cases, such as in the US, it is indicative of a possible impending constitutional crisis looming before the 2024 elections.  

Strangely and counter-intuitively (or maybe not?) there is a wellness spin to this. Observations points to signs and rising evidence that some conspiracy theories are infiltrating segments of the wellness ‘family,’ particularly among yoga and alternative medicine communities. This is becoming so pervasive that some yoga practitioners are taking a public stance against misinformation and disinformation (in the US, much of the disinformation itis coming from QAnon).  

Anusha Wijeyakumar is such an example. A wellness consultant at California’s Hoag Hospital and founder of the holistic wellness organization Shanti Within, she claims that the Western version of yoga — which she describes as a departure from its ancient roots — is spawning a subculture that has become a “hotbed” of misinformation: “In many ways, yoga and wellness has become a place of anti-science. So, just some quick examples: people peddling the juice cleanse that is going to solve all your problems. When we see the fat shaming, the rise of the toxic diet culture in yoga and wellness. We also see the love of crystals. I love a crystal … there’s absolutely nothing wrong with liking crystals. However, crystals curing cancer? Where’s the science behind that?” This VIDEO elaborates and shows the real need for a concerted effort to counter anti-science.  

As the work of the GWI demonstrates, evidence-based wellness is an absolute must. The wind is in the sails of the wellness sector, but to expand soundly and sustainably it must ensure that its offering is science-based. 

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