Have you ever been standing in the checkout line at a grocery store, or waiting to order your morning coffee to-go, and the person in front of you mumbles something to the cashier that makes you, and everyone else who overheard the comment, think, “Did you just say that out loud?” Well, Gwyneth Paltrow’s comments about yoga in a recent interview with Wall Street Journal Magazine seem to have elicited the same response. Except, instead of a few people in a coffee shop she’d probably never see again catching wind of the remark, thousands of people on the internet read what the Goop founder said, and needless to say, yogis are none too pleased with the actress’ statements.
As far as health and wellness trends go, Paltrow does her homework. She's considered by some to be a guru in the space, and though her website Goop has made some questionable health claims in the past — like that time the outlet suggested underwire bras may be linked to breast cancer — and she's experimented with treatments that some might consider eccentric — like apitherapy, aka getting stung by bees to reduce inflammation and scarring — there’s no denying the actress-turned-entrepreneur is influential. Just, you know, maybe not as influential as she might think.
During an interview published in the Dec. 4 edition of WSJ Magazine, Paltrow talked about when she first began her yoga practice several years ago, and how the general response she got at the time wasn’t exactly supportive. “I remember when I started doing yoga and people were like, ‘What is yoga? She’s a witch. She’s a freak,’” the 46-year-old told the magazine.
Now, what’s interesting is that, as per an article from Yoga Journal, in the 2017 book Roots of Yoga, authors and researchers James Mallinson and Mark Singleton analyzed several different texts from 1000 BCE to the 19th century and found that, back in the day, women who practiced yoga actually were harshly criticized. Yoga was apparently, once upon a time, considered a practice solely reserved for men, and women who openly practiced it were thought to be promiscuous, according to Mallinson and Singleton's book. But again, this was happening a long, long time ago. If I had to guess, yoga probably wasn’t looked at the same way in the late '90s and early 2000s when Paltrow was first coming into her own as a wellness guru — but I digress.
Jumping back to Paltrow's interview with WSJ Magazine, the actress continued to defend her yoga practice, as well as what she seems to believe is her role as a major influencer in the space. She alluded to the outlet that she's actually the reason why yoga culture is thriving today. Paltrow told WSJ Magazine,
Forgive me if this comes out wrong, but I went to do a yoga class in L.A. recently and the 22-year-old girl behind the counter was like, ‘Have you ever done yoga before?’ And literally I turned to my friend, and I was like, ‘You have this job because I’ve done yoga before.’
Cue all the face-palm slaps heard ‘round the world. And if you can’t hear them, you can read about them on Twitter, because yogis and non-yogis alike are sounding off across the internet.
Well that doesn't sound like a good way to make friends.
She's a very busy woman.
Such an appropriate use of the face-palm emoji.
That's basically the gist I was getting, too.
Goop gives her superpowers.
How is this news not breaking the internet?
Um... thank you?
Marilyn Monroe did yoga?
Listen, Paltrow may have introduced yoga to some of her fans, but the Avengers actress didn’t invent yoga, and she definitely isn’t the reason why yoga instructors, or receptionists at yoga studios, for that matter, have a job. According to the Government of India's Ministry of External Affairs, yoga is, essentially, "a spiritual discipline based on an extremely subtle science" that focuses on establishing harmony between the body and mind. And though the ministry notes that yoga wasn't fully developed until "the period between 500 BC - 800 A.D.," the source also points out that there is historical evidence of yoga's existence in as early as 2700 B.C. Gwyneth Paltrow was born in 1972, for reference. See the problem?
And as far as yoga becoming popular in the United States, Paltrow was just about 100 years behind schedule. In a breakdown of the history of yoga in the U.S., The New York Times reported that an Indian Hindu monk by the name of Swami Vivekananda first introduced yoga to Western culture in the late 1800s. So, really, yoga was already up and booming way before Paltrow even thought to begin her practice. Sure, she may have sparked interest in family and friends and, eventually, fans, but this wellness guru definitely didn’t have a hand in introducing meditative flow to the world. Namastand corrected.