Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Sahaja Yoga is a Dangerous Cabal of Quacks

"If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, we have at least to consider the possibility that we have a small aquatic bird of the family Anatidae on our hands."

Douglas Adams

"I just visited an exhibition in a yoga school at Naddi," I told my Tibetan Spirit Guide™ over dinner at McLlo's. "I saw a picture of its founder. She's a plump, smiling woman with a gap in her front teeth."

"Is she a lady with a huge red bindi in the middle of her forehead?" she asked and when I said yes, she told me that she thinks it's a scam. I agreed, and we ordered a plate of paneer pakora in celebration of good sense.

The diastematic yogi we were talking about was Nirmala Srivastava - better known by her more glamourous name, Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi. She started off in the early days warning people about 'false gurus' selling false spirituality to make a buck, but then went on to start her own cult of spirituality. She had since claimed to be the incarnation of several prophesied messiahs including the divine Adi Shakti, the Maitreya of Buddhist traditions, and the redeemer of Islam, Mahdi - which is patently absurd because as we all know, Paul Atreides is Mahdi.

Shri Mataji
Shri Mataji in a goofy wooden crown. She died this recent February.

Let me just say first that I have nothing against yoga or meditation. I think one is a legitimate form of physical exercise while the other is a good method for relaxation. My beef is with Shri Mataji and the unrealistic health benefits she and her people claimed for their particular version of navel-gazing. I have not taken a Sahaja Yoga course but from just the exhibition I visited in one of their centres alone, they have claimed that Sahaja Yoga can treat bronchial asthma, migraine headaches, psychosis, and epilepsy; cure high blood pressure; prevent and treat cancer; stop the spread of AIDS; aid in developing your business; and help your crops grow.

I did not make any of these up. I have photographic evidence of their entire exhibition. They also attribute all these alleged benefits to activating a magic chakra in your sacrum. I did not make that up either.

Shri Mataji Funny Hat
The woman did love her funny hats, I can tell you.

Now, they exhibited some research data to support their claims and as a Medicinae Baccalaureus, Baccalaureus Chirurgiae, I was trained to look at scientific papers and is expected to be able to sift through the bullshit. Most of the studies were done at the Lady Hardinge Medical College at Delhi, indicating that there is probably at least one Sahaja Yogi in their faculty looking to justify his or her faith in a miracle woman who was Adi Shakti, Maitreya and Mahdi all at the same time.

They Use Poorly Done, Misleading Research.

Let's start. First, we'll take a look at what Sahaja Yogis think causes high blood pressure rather than the usual mundane suspects like sedentary living, obesity, and smoking,

Sahaja Yoga's Pathophysiological Explanation of Hypertension
Yes, all of modern medicine was wrong. You get hypertension because your "spleen gets hectic". And magic!

The research was performed on an unspecified number of hypertensive patients divided into two groups, one receiving conventional anti-hypertensive drugs while the other group performed Sahaja Yoga (while also taking their anti-hypertensive meds). The biological parameters they looked at were urinary vanillyl mandelic acid (VMA) levels, blood lactic acid level, and galvanic skin resistance which showed supposed improvements in the group practicing Sahaja Yoga. However, there is a glaring absence of data comparing the blood pressure levels between the straights and the patients who was prescribed yoga. Any paper which proposes a novel treatment for high blood pressure yet neglects to showcase the improvement in the subjects blood pressure is rubbish. I daresay they actually did have the BP results, but chose not to present them in their little exhibition because the differences in the numbers were either unimpressive or non-existent. And considering that they are claiming that Sahaja Yoga is a CURE for hypertension, some actual documentation of long-term blood pressure control would have been nice.

Besides, even if they managed to document a significant drop in blood pressure among the subjects who did yoga, I wouldn't be surprised. It is a known fact in medical science that stress can raise a person's blood pressure, and studies have shown that relaxation therapies are helpful in combating psychological stress. That's essentially what this horribly interpreted research paper showed - the relaxation from doing yoga relieves stress and lowered stress bio-markers like VMA and skin conductance. There's no need to invoke mystical nonsense like opening one's sacral chakra and hectic spleens full of bad qi to explain it.

There were no record of sample sizes and their methodology anywhere in the exhibition and I couldn't locate the original papers either when I searched the literature, but I bet there's more damning evidence of poor research practices in them. The research papers presented for Sahaja Yoga's therapeutic benefits for other diseases like bronchial asthma and migraine headaches were equally misleading.

Their most egregious attempt at bamboozling visitors is their "evidence" that Sahaja Yoga can be used to treat epilepsy; it's a single case study published twenty years ago. That's it. No corroborating details, nothing. And based on that single case study with zero follow-up research after two decades, these kooks unashamedly declared that their yoga is a reasonable avenue of treatment for a very serious class of neurological diseases. The gall of these people!

Single Case Study Sahaja Yoga Epilepsy
The department of "curotology"? My bullshit meter just exploded.

They Make Ridiculous Claims Without Any Evidence at All.

After those worthless studies they waved around to give them a fa├žade of scientific legitimacy, they then started making potentially dangerous medical claims without even the pretense of having science to back them up.

Sahaja Yoga Dangerous Cancer Claims
They went for broke.

Like all pseudoscientific peddlers of woo, the Sahaja Yogis attempted to dress up their nonsense using scientific terms. They characterised cancer as "psychosomatic disease" and claimed that it is caused by dysfunctions in the mind.

Rubbish about Cancer being Psychosomatic
According to Shri Mataji, your neuroses causes cancer.

The word "psychosomatic" has very specific definitions within medicine. It means relating to, involving, or concerned with bodily symptoms caused by mental or emotional disturbance. Conversion disorder, somatisation disorder and hypochondriasis are examples of disorders grouped under this category of pathology. Cancer, in all its myriad and protean forms, was never classified under that tiny umbrella in the entire history of modern medicine.

This is a dangerous notion. Telling cancer patients that their disease was caused by their fears, insecurities, helplessness and depression - and then proposing that it can be treated by just thinking right - can kill a lot of innocent (if gullible) people, especially if they buy fully into this quack idea and forgo the conventional treatments; many of which are admittedly unpleasant. And if cancer is indeed "all in the head" as proposed by these yogi wackjobs, why then do babies get leukaemia? Are they so neurotic that they thought their cancers into existence?

In lieu of any scientific evidence, they simply explained how Sahaja Yoga treats cancer using arcane balderdash. You have to read it to believe it,

Heart Chakra Nonsense
Being on edge and hormonal give you cancer. Got it.

More Hectic Spleen Rubbish
Hectic spleen? Again? Does it mean that if you had a splenectomy, you will never get hypertension or cancer?

Ekadesha Rudra Problem Causes Cancer, Haha
I just noticed that the guy in the diagram has a pretty flower on the top of his head.

More Sahaja Yoga Cancer Cure Quackery
Yes! Fight cancer with the power of! Positive! Thinking!

Their Founder was Insane.

The Sahaja Yoga movement is an organisation of charlatans founded and led by a delusional self-aggrandising swami who thought she's the Chosen One of three different major world religions - and I bet if she had lived any longer she would have revealed that she's the Second Coming of Christ as well. I couldn't find any reports on the cause of her death but it was said that in her final years, she was medicated with risperidone, a potent antipsychotic drug. Makes the claim that Sahaja Yoga is able to treat psychosis sounds hollow now, doesn't it? 

Also, the possibility that Shri Mataji was mentally ill explains a whole lot actually. People does have a tendency to consider the ramblings of a mad person to be holy words and would follow them to ridiculous, self-destructive lengths. Think the Reverend Jim Jones, Charles Manson and that guy from 7th century Mecca. Anyway, I hope this article have helped encourage you to turn a more sceptical eye towards miracle cures hawked by New Age con artists like the Sahaja Yogis. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

So, do you still want to know how Sahaja Yoga can help your geraniums grow?

Sahaja Yoga Claims to Prevent Spread of AIDS
Why yes, Mother! Chastity DOES help prevent sexually transmitted diseases!

P.S. Next up: traditional Tibetan medicine! Yes, I've been investigating quacky pseudoscience on my backpacking trip through the Western Himalayas. It's what I do for fun.

P.P.S. The Tibetan Spirit Guide™ is the codename for my friend and contact in McLeod Ganj. You'll hear more about her soon.

UPDATE: The powers that be at Unscientific Malaysia (an online community dedicated to science and scepticism) picked up this article and republished it on their website.

Intrepid sceptical investigator,
k0k s3n w4i


tendol said...

I think i know that friend of yours with the said codename. *_-

Looking forward to your post on traditional Tibetan medicine. Let's see what you found out about it and what you think of it. I personally never found out from the authorities themselves about what goes in them, but the rumors have it that the meds contain minerals (not bodily but earthy ones), animal products and herbs. I just threw a bunch of Tibetan medicinal pills in the trash that my mom sent me a while ago. Too much of a hassle to eat them, and not to forget the ambiguous feelings I have towards their effectiveness.

k0k s3n w4i said...

tendol: you should since you introduced us, haha. i'll get around to writing about traditional tibetan medicine eventually, but don't hold your breath. and yes, it does employ a surprising amount of rocks and metallic compounds - a lot of which are ill-advised and potentially dangerous.

c3rs3i said...

Haha her 2nd hat looks like a giant semi-precious-jewel-encrusted dollop of poo.

k0k s3n w4i said...

tendol: you should since you introduced us, haha. i'll get around to writing about traditional tibetan medicine eventually, but don't hold your breath. and yes, it does employ a surprising amount of rocks and metallic compounds - a lot of which are ill-advised and potentially dangerous.

c3rs3i: both the "crowns" were apparently made for her by her followers in zaragoza and madrid. here's a blog post written by one of the mad hatters who was jealous and hurt after finding out that he wasn't the only one making a cult cap for his woo queen. he kept referring to shri mataji as "mother" like a psychopathic manchild in it. creepy as shit.

Huihua said...

hi there happened to pass by here. just want to lead you to some of the on going scientific research that is being carried out on Sahaja Yoga in Australia. Please view this website. http://www.researchingmeditation.org/
I have personally attended some of the seminars and have found it quite amazing. Their results show improvements over people who do other forms of relaxation.
I have found Sahaja Yoga methods and Traditional Chinese Medicine to be much compatible and have seen the holistic benefits and similarities of each.

k0k s3n w4i said...

Huihua: in my article, did i say that meditation isn't a legitimate method of relaxation? you'll find that i didn't. what i object to is the sahaja yoga quacks making medical claims which they support with crappy, misleading studies or no evidence at all. they have also used medical terminology like "psychosomatic" to describe illnesses like cancer which is an out-and-out lie - and they claim to be able to treat cancer with no evidence to back up their claims! and to date, they have produced ZERO evidence to prove that chakras or qi or whatever vitalistic life-force pseudoscience they claim sahaja yoga acts through even exists. most of traditional chinese medicine is rubbish as well. take acupunture for example: large, well-controlled studies have proven that acupuncture works no better than a placebo. seriously, patients can't even tell when they are receiving fake acupuncture. in my opinion, the most promising branch of chinese medicine is herbs, but even so the drugs they use are very poorly studied. i have skimmed through the website you gave me and i only see more of the same poorly-supported medical claims (and the one link which supposedly lead to evidence leads right back to the same page!). tell you what, why don't you go dig up what you consider to be the MOST convincing peer-reviewed paper on the research of sahaja yoga in the treatment of diseases (that isn't about relaxation), and i'll address it. remember, i want research papers - not opinion pieces, mind you.

Anonymous said...

I dont have much idea regarding these ida and pingal nadis but i think these terms have been misused to mislead people. Yes, as per Ayurved, there exist these nadis and through yoga those chakras related to particular organs work really well.
But i feel this is an attempt to fool people by making use of these terms and also will be a negative point in putting down Ayurvedic practices.

Anonymous said...

I dont know as to true does this fact go.. but i've witnessed it with my own eyes..as to how a tumor patient got admitted for operation and did this sahaj yoga there.. then alot of people came for some collective stuff.. and within a few days.. she went back home.. absolutely fine..without a single trace of tumor at all.. sounds fake.. but i witnessed it myself.. cauz friend works in the same hospital.. same was another case with pancreas which was 80% damaged.. thats like a very critical stage.. although that guy managed to go home without operation as well.. again he was doing this sahaj yoga as well..so i dont believe as to what you say.. you have to see it to believe it.

Anonymous said...

I was forced to participate in this cult from age 10-15 (when I escaped with the assistance of school counsellors). As an adult, I'm left with PTSD and an eating disorder after suffering constant mental abuse by the local group leaders. This group is all about mind-control, not meditation and spirituality. Thank you for helping expose this group for the spiritual scam it is.

Anonymous said...

I lost my girl friend due to this non sense sahajyoga. When i asked her father about our marriage , he said we are not fit to marry with each other according to sahajyoga vibrations. If we marry then in future we will not be happy .

Anonymous said...

Same, except from birth. I'm mentally and emotionally fragile, eating problems from trying to deal with everything and hear new horrible things every few weeks, from that people who I've known and thought I loved since birth, saying things about me behind my back. I was one of the few most dedicated as well. I've only just started getting counselling and it is helping so much :)

ashwin said...

You are fool

Jayesh Kumar said...

Only with a higher intelligence you will be able to understand Sahaja Yoga. Not everybody is destined to be in the Kingdom of Heaven. If everybody becomes a king who will sweep the streets? All you ppl remind me of the fools who dominated the position of intelligence and power of the Era called Dark Ages...when they insisted that Earth was the centre of the Universe and Sun and other planets revolved around it and scofffed at the words and scientific data furnished by the scientific ppl then. What they though was scientiic...not what was scientific...Pheraphs some of them are reborn as some ppl above...
I challenge you all to come and experience what was all said..

+91 9211923005

Anonymous said...

You have a right to your opinion, but it is not fair to pass judgement on somthing until you have fully tried it yourself. Thats called being superficial. If we judge someone by their physical appearance we may miss out on getting to know a beautiful person inside.SY requires one to feel and experience than to think and analyse. I also practice SY. From my own personal view i have found the teacher Shri Mataji to be sincere and an honest personality. Her teachings and knowledge have gave me a better insight to understand myself and life.

SY welcomes all types of people and everyone grows in different stages according to their own past background or by how much their chakras has been damaged, so not every person practising it may be perfect or in perfect health at the same time.But overall you can feel a great sense of well being just practising SY.

Why is there so many problems in this world? Why are there diseases like AIDS and Cancer? Problems like child abuse, rape, poverty, dishonesty, hate, war...the list goes on.

Like Shri Mataji says if we dont feel peace and love inside, we can never feel it outside.

Anonymous said...

I am also of the same opinion. ...and as Jayesh bhai said you all should experience and then talk about Shree Mataji.

Anonymous said...

this was introduced to me in 1999 by my employer. he and his family were following her and they became millionaires in short period. they introduced it in our organisation. since i was young and shy couldnt refuse their invitation. but this yoga initiated by wrong people only destroyed my health and i started attracting negativeness!!!!!!!!! being a simple person i got manipulated and abused by people... i went through hell all these years...
whom ever got introduced by them all suffered major set back in their lives. just came to know she is no more. so thought of leaving my experience. i lost my smile, happiness, money, job , possession, self respect, everything... its heart breaking! please never ever try this yoga.. it has to be initiated by a right guru... i felt like my entire energy been sucked up by something.... i m still struggling to get back to myself its been 15 yrs now! please dont ever try this.

Anonymous said...

she and her wrong devotees ruined my life completely.. its a very wrong yoga method! its been 15 years since i got initiated but my health my believe system everything got damaged! i only attracted negativity and enmity from nowhere.. i m still struggling... are these followers going to help me fix my chakras??????? and get my life back????? the so called followers only selfishly destroyed many... i used to feel like my energy been sucked out of me when ever i was around them.. its the most evil cult! anyways... REST IN PEACE... JESUS WILL FORGIVE YOU!

Anonymous said...

You forgot to mention she has a medical degree.

I am a yoghi too, I'm 21. born in sahaja yoga, she personally got my parents married and they are still happily married.

ok, you're a scientist, like I said she has a medical degree, she put science and spirituality into one cup making sense to it all. you're "investigation" or research is half finished you can't jump to conclusions knowing only half the facts. all the yoghis in here told you it's not something you just go see, read, or listen to. it is something you must experience for yourself. once you have a few experience come back and write another review (no worries it won't screw your life like that last comment says (': there are many and many people that have tried and simply didn't fit in, it happens). everyone has there own points of view, free to disagree or agree, people decide to do what they wish with there own lives. all the yoghis I know are very peaceful and joyful people. I have friends in and out of Sy and oh my, the difference.. of course for a 21 year old and teens there are pretty strict rules, that of course we don't agree on. and of course Kids and teens are gonna dislike meditation what kid likes to sit still? it's all normal, but the experience, the moment is very powerful. Btw saying that we're an evil cult isn't very nice, and what would we gain destroying people's lives? it makes no sense. to be honest I get the opposite vibe, very welcoming people, peaceful and joyful like i said (: I reckon you go for the full experience next time, the courses don't cost any money of course, shri mataji dedicated her life to helping lots of people, and saved many lives, without asking for anything in return. The proof is within your own experience. have good one ! (:

Anonymous said...

This same thing is happening with me...
Her family is mad seriously coz they judge me through vibrations n al this shit

Harshit said...

Yes, everybody has an opinion,opinion out of their own perception and intellect. The question arises when a person sees and feels and sustains the experience, how can one deny the fact and the truth of feeling the reality that, whatever I or you have experienced is the truth. Though your truth and my truth cannot be different, just like if you see the colour of the sky it will be blue for me and for you also, unless and untill one of us wears a colour glass on our eyes.
Similarly if you have faith in your Lamaism and Buddhism so do we have in Sahaj Yoga and Shri Mataji, mind you we have enlightened faith unlike many other cult followers who call others as a CULT.

vahini nandigala said...

hi friends,
my mother had breast cancer and she believed in sahajyoga and this women so much that she dint take any convention treatment and died,all the above claims that sahajyoga can cure deadly diseases is stupid and shree mathaji acclaims her self as adi shakthi,[god],all this is nonsense,no one is god here,healing comes from god within,how can she proclaim herself as god,and how so many people are fooled by her,only by being in silence ,aware,meditating,staying connected with subconscious one can change and achieve anything,not by doing pooja to these stupid people who proclaim themselves as some incarnations,and india is land of all these religious cults where people blindly believe and mess there life.

Anonymous said...

same thing is happening with nowdays. Even, i tried this as well, just to feel actually, what it is?
and also her family is into this sahaj to an extent, that they can leave everything for this, when i say everything, everything includes their family, friends, relatives....etc.

Anonymous said...

I would just say one thing

COME AND EXPERIMENT IT. :) It's not your mistake because you have never tasted that dish and telling it's taste. Be smart! Come, see the making of it, Cook it yourself and then you are open to tell us the taste :) But cook it with pure desire and then judge it yourself.

Yogini :)

Anonymous said...

Hi, I have my very close relatives into this stuff. I thought to give it a try. did Yoga, attended sessions, went to medical centers, and there is only one way I can sum up my experience "What the...!! How can someone...? Bullshit!!!!!"

How could someone call herself all the Gods from every religion! Where is history, what about timelines? And everybody there just acting like they have some mystical treasure and they are happy about nothing. they look like fools, and the funniest part is they would call me fool on saying this. These guys are like they would not response any of your question but say "you will have to try it first and you will have to try it with full will and practice everything". Now wait a second. doesn't it seem like a sales strategy, when a salesperson does not have any point to upsell, he simply tells you to try it.
The worst part is judgement, someone tell them their kids are to be loved not to chakra testified. If someone is entering teenage they will experience all this puberty and other attractions, judging them calling them 'possessed', how is it going to help in raising a healthy kid?? skipping classes? A poor family their child is crying due to hunger and they are offering gifts to Mataji. People just behave crazy there, a 21 year old guy would behave as if he is some big spiritual Guru. they suck all the natural elements out of you. Kids are nto kid, mothers are not mothers, lovers are not lovers. everyone is a stupid, blind Sahajayogi there. What the.....our brain can be trained and tricked there is where all the secret lies. She is a very intelligent lady, no doubt, the system is running even after her death. And any there are a lot of other meditations which give you peace, no need to pray a lady and be judged by your chakra.

Anonymous said...

I have tried it. It is complete and utter hogwash. If you know anyone who is tempted to try it please advise them to stay well away. Existing Sahaja practitioners are so brainwashed they see it as their purpose to give new people their self realisation. This is done by introducing them to meditation and the photograph of Nirmala Srivastava looking like a benevolent Indian woman bestowing her meditation techniques to the world for free. Little do the newcomers realise that their tutors believe that Nirmala is every kind of God that you could ever name. They believe that when you practice meditation in front of her picture that she is the kundalini rising within you. They will also introduce you to twice daily meditation at rediculous hours of the day, shoe beating (hitting yourself or something written on paper to expel it), foot soaking in salted water, string burning (?), attending bizarre havan and puja ceremonies at which women decorate a picture of Nirmala's feet with swasticas. Sound like fun or complete an utter bullshit? We only have one life and it's your choice if choose Sahaja; please don't inflict it on the other gullible folks out there though.