"Cult of Personality, Propaganda, False Modesty: Zineb's Interview by Jeanne"

To celebrate the release of her first book "Le Yoga, nouvel esprit du capitalisme", (Yoga, the New Spirit of Capitalism, in english) published by Textuel, I interviewed Zineb Fahsi. Collusion, lack of critical thinking, blandness of the exchange, a touch of wokism, yet a tendency towards essentialization nonetheless, a hint of vulgarity... We hope this extensive interview will delight you as much as we stupidly giggled while recording it. But more seriously, we hope it will encourage you, if you haven't done so already, to get her book which is the result of several years of personal reflection and meticulous work in putting into perspective the political dimension of today's yoga.

Jeanne P  | The title of your book sounds like a tribute to Eve Chiapello, Luc Boltanski  [The New Spirit of Capitalism, Gallimard, 1999, Gallimard, 1999] and Ysé Tardan Masquelier  [The Spirit of Yoga, Albin Michel, 2005]Can you still fit through doors? 

Zineb F. | Listen, it's a bit difficult because I've been thrust into the limelight of the yoga bigwigs, as they say... But since I now walk on my hands, it solves the problem: I pass through doors walking on my hands.

Peux tu nous partager ta morning routine inspirante ?

Je me lève, je nettoie les fesses de ma fille, ensuite j’essaye péniblement de prendre un café même si je ne suis pas censée le faire car j’allaite. Si je fumais des clopes j’en fumerais une, mais je ne fume pas. Je mets de l’eau (du robinet) sur mon visage, « Eau de Lyon » de Service Public. Ensuite, je vocifère des affirmations positives face à mon miroir avec un œuf de jade entre les fesses, comme par exemple : « Darmanin, démission » ou encore « Aaaaah, anti, anticapitaliste » afin de manifester la fin du capitalisme. Et enfin, je traîne sur Instagram, sur des comptes inspirants bien évidemment, avant d’entamer une journée très productive. Mais comme je suis prof de yoga, je ne fais pas grand chose. 

Your mantra to stay positive?

Not easy as I'm not a very positive person. A Nestlé ad from Morocco: "Everything passes, everything tires, except Nestlé ice cream", that's stuck with me ever since. 

If you were to be the face of a "yogic product," what would it be?

You know it well, the eye pillows! In fact, if you're listening, I don't accept partnerships except for these amazing little pillows that smell so good. Lavender scent and for the fabrics, feel free to send me samples so I can make my benchmark.  

Your favorite chakra?

The heart chakra, of course, for benevolence above all. 

Do you have a spiritual name?

I am one of those people who requested their Kundalini name from the 3H0 website (back when it was still free), and my name resembled that of a Tartar prince, something like Hansdev Kaur. I think it meant something overwhelmingly positive like "the person who propels joy around her". Well... As they say: "I have been there, I have done that". 

During this promo, you've waded through a lot of crappy media, what's your greatest pride? 

My real greatest pride is the Monde Diplo one that contacted me, I admit that my little lefty, Islamo-leftist, feminazi heart sped up. And of course, Citta Vritti. 

The most WTF question you've had to answer in an interview? 

I was asked if I agreed that people were blind and that yoga was there to open their eyes and free them from their chains. And also if I thought we should leave health in the hands of social security... I still don't understand how social security heals people or the connection with my book. 

Now that you are (temporarily) the bad cop of our duo thanks to this book that makes certain people we won't name grind their teeth: what's it like to have trolls? Who are they and what do they eat?   

Sociology shows that they are predominantly males, on Facebook, roughly 50 years old and above, who seem to be part of the "authentic yoga", "I practice the original Shivaite Tantra", "but I still hang out on Facebook all day to troll you" mood, anti-wokes because inclusive writing is the minion of Satan, and slightly conspiracy theorists. That's the typical profile. And clearly, I'm sensitive so I find trolls horrible, it keeps me awake at night. I'm mouthy in my book but afterwards, I feel terrible for days because of a few old comments. 

What's your secret for staying grounded in the face of this sudden fame? 

It's primarily my daughter, isn't it... having to clean up her poop several times a day. All of this helps me stay in the present moment. 

The worst yoga class you've ever given? Your biggest flop...

The one where I was, not even hungover but, I think, still drunk... It was a Saturday morning, right when I started teaching, I had been to a big birthday party the night before where I hadn't known when to stop. During the class, I wanted to demonstrate Matsyasana, the fish pose, and everything started to sway, it was horrible. I was super embarrassed even though I don't think the students noticed. 

Do you think yoga was better in the past? 

From my profound and extensive experience as a millennial yoga teacher, I can't escape this somewhat nostalgic feeling where I think the 60s and 70s - which are full of cultural appropriation - seemed crazy. They seemed a lot less stressed than we are. It didn't seem bad to be a privileged white Californian during those years. 

Million euro question: Is yoga left-wing or right-wing? 

Right now, it seems a bit right-wing to me. But there is a left-wing yoga that is emerging. I'm really giving you a "Sciences-Po answer": "yes", "but", "I don't want to offend anyone", "I'm sitting on the fence". 

You, who in 2022 moved to another city, had a child, wrote a book, and worked, all without sponsors or social assistance: what inspiring motivational advice can you give to the France of the welfare-dependent? 

Where there's a will, there's a way. Fatigue is all in your head first and foremost. Precariousness pushes you to move forward, to step out of your comfort zone. Precariousness is the best thing that ever happened to me. Thankfully now that I've published my book I'll be able to "make some dough" as my trolls say. So I hope that the spark won't die out with the money and fame. 

What are you going to do with all this fortune?

Buy organic diapers that cost an arm and a leg and pay for my daughter's care so I can work because we live in a wonderful world. I might also give some of it away.

I prepared a list of "Fast and Curious" style questions in the style of Konbini to honor our clickbait side (as Jean Vishnou, 50 years old, said on Facebook): 

Aria Crescendo ou Deepak Choprah?
I was going to say Deepak Chopra because at least he doesn't engage in cultural appropriation. But actually Aria Crescendo because she's less dangerous than him. 

Vivekananda or Ramakrishna ?
Vivekananda because he didn't touch little boys. 

Speaking of which: Bikram Choudhury or Yogi Bhajan?
At least Bikram is "straight to the point", he's straightforward.

Bhagavad Gita or Yoga Sutra?
Yoga Sutra. It's a text that spoke to me right away because yoga citta vritti nirodhah you understand... I'm less of a fan of the epic style of the Bhagavad Gita, it seems that dry and boring philosophy treaties are more my thing. 

Patañjali the philosopher or Patañjali the Ayurvedic brand?
I've never tried the Ayurvedic brand so I'm going to say the philosopher. 

Speaking of philosophers: Narendra Modi or Baba Ramdev?
Your questions are horrible. The plague or cholera. I pass. 

Pāṇini the grammarian or panini the sandwich?
Panini the sandwich, I hate grammar. 

Goa or Ubud?
Ubud because it's prettier. But it seems to me that it smells more of money than Goa. 

"Rive gauche" yoga or "rive droite" yoga?
Rive droite. 

Kundalini or Jivamukti ?
Jivamukti, unfortunately. It was my first love! 

Raw foodism or Breatharianism?
Raw foodism, I can't not eat, I'm always too hungry. 

Thierry Casanovas or Raël ?
Raël because he has a cosmic Christ aspect that resonates with me a little more. 

Hare Krishna or QAnon?
Hare Krishna, at least they have good food! 

Madre Gaia or Pacha Mama?
Pacha Mama. 

Shilom or chicha ?
I would respond with "salam."

Couscous or curry ?
Couscous ! 

Laughter yoga or beer yoga?
Laughter yoga. Beer yoga disgusts me. 

Matcha latte or golden latte ?
Golden latte. 

Reform of the Vedas or retirement reform?
Reform of the Veda 

Law of Attraction or Article 49.3 of the (french) Constitution?
Wow... So, Article 49.3 under a left-wing government? Nah, just kidding. It has already happened before, and it didn't work out well either. Damn, you're making me choose the Law of Attraction...  

My only serious question (finally!) to wrap things up. Do you truly believe that everything needs to be politicized? Doesn't it disgust you when yoga is brought into it? 

We are confronted with the fact that yoga is political, whether we like it or not. It's not so much that I want to politicize yoga, but rather to realize that yoga embodies a range of political and social issues, and as yoga teachers, we can't turn a blind eye to that. It feels like that's partly why we created this blog: we encountered narratives that, under the guise of being apolitical, present a worldview and a way of living together that are highly political. Therefore, taking a critical look at yoga seems important to me.

And yes, at some point, I got fed up, including with myself because there is a very moralizing aspect, even pedantic or pretentious at times... The "my yoga versus your yoga" dynamic can be suffocating. As a practitioner, it also took away a space for personal breathing, having to engage in all these reflections. Yet, these reflections are fruitful. So, we are somewhat condemned to have a complex relationship with this practice because it raises a whole host of complicated issues. And I think I'm not done with my fatigue, disappointments, questioning, disgust as you put it, the need for withdrawal, the need to practice for oneself.

I also wrote this book to sort out a multitude of questions I had and dissect them. Personally, I don't advocate in my yoga classes; I feel it could be another injunction in a world where we are already subjected to a plethora of constraints, obligations, and moralization. I do it through other channels like this book, our blog, and social media. I also try to provide a space that is as far away as possible from the demands of performance and self-improvement, and I strive to have a communication around my practice that remains as humble as possible. And I believe that is already political: offering a space in which people can breathe, be curious, and not be driven by a self-improvement mindset. I hope it's a yoga that can be liberating. These are simple aspirations: a well-being yoga in the noblest sense of the term, to take care of one another. That's my "Miss France"answer. 

Because one is never better served than by oneself: What question has never been asked to you, but you would like someone to ask? 

Well, I don't get asked questions about the New Age! Despite it being foundational to the transformation from collective to individual. Moreover, it's experiencing a resurgence, and a significant part of my book is dedicated to this shift from the hippie counterculture to personal development and the infiltration of New Age concepts into the corporate world. It's an incredibly important overarching theme that traces its roots to American metaphysical religion. Surprisingly, I never get asked about this topic, even though I receive many more questions about the history of yoga, which I didn't necessarily expect. However, since yoga is a societal phenomenon, I get asked all sorts of questions about it imaginable. 

Do you have any products to sell, a retreat, an online program... that could be discreetly promoted in these final lines? 

I can't stand self-promotion anymore. Don't buy anything! In fact, there's an ambivalence in writing this book and being a yoga teacher who spends her time selling herself because "it's part of our job." I think I've had enough of this cognitive dissonance. You're more than welcome to join my yoga classes in Lyon. Lately, I've been dreaming of organizing teacher exchange groups where there's no payment involved, a bit of self-training, where we come together on Zoom for specific topics, with horizontal exchanges. Rather than the vertical approach of accumulating certifications and knowledge. I long for these more horizontal interactions. 

Zineb Fahsi (also known as Hansdev Kaur in samadhi for the close ones) © Zineb Fahsi

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4 responses to “"Cult of Personality, Propaganda, False Modesty: Zineb's Interview by Jeanne"”

  1. Jean-Pierre avatar

    Super cette idée d’échanges horizontaux entre profs. Ça me fait penser au cartels en psychanalyse, des groupes de travail autour d’un sujet qu’on approfondit et où chacun apporte un éclairage ou des questions à partir de sa pratique, de ses réflexions, de ce qu’il est.
    J’adore et j’adhère !

  2. Zahra S. avatar
    Zahra S.

    Avec les copines on a devancé ton rêve de retraite horizontale (mais tu sais que c’est aussi grâce à toi) et je confirme que c’était fabuleux et puissant !

  3. dangercosmetiques avatar

    Je viens sur Lyon dès que vous organisez ce truc. 😉

  4. […] une certaine pratique actuelle du Yoga. Je m’étais entre autres appuyée sur les ouvrages de Zineb Fahsi (Le Yoga, nouvel esprit du capitalisme) et de Camille Teste (Politiser le bien-être) pour creuser cette question  du yoga comme […]

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