PARIS — Guru Jagat would like a cup of coffee, with cream on the side. Not almond milk. Not soy milk. Actual cream, as in crème chantilly — an order that seems to be causing some confusion at the bar of the chic Pavillon de la Reine hotel on the Place des Vosges in Paris.
“I always get shade in Europe for wanting cream with my coffee. They’re like, ‘No, no, we don’t have any.’ I’m like, ‘Yes, you do. You put it on all the desserts. Go ask the chef,’” she said in a mock stage whisper. When the coffee eventually arrives, she adds a cube of sugar for good measure.
Welcome to a new kind of wellness guru. With her tumble of honey-blond curls and signature flowing white clothes, Jagat exudes a grounded serenity that doesn’t seem to rely on the heart chakra aromatherapy oils and ayurvedic energy supplements that power the $4.2-trillion global wellness industry.
“I’m a serial entrepreneur,” said Jagat, who since opening her first RA MA Institute in the hip Venice neighborhood of Los Angeles in 2013 has gained a celebrity following that includes Kate Hudson, Alicia Keys and Kelly Rutherford. “In six years, I’ve opened maybe seven companies.”
Among her ventures are studios in Los Angeles, New York and Mallorca; RA MA TV, a digital platform that broadcasts to 200 countries; RA MA records, a label that sells music designed to “blow your ears into the next dimension,” and her latest project, a sustainable clothing line.
Earlier this year, Jagat took part in a panel at Harvard Divinity School titled “The Business of Spirituality: On Money, Branding and Other Taboos.” She runs her own business school and coaches women via her Aquarian Women’s Leadership Society. She doesn’t rule out running for office one day.
Jagat’s journey began with her first yoga class at a Crunch gym in New York City in the early Aughts. It was kind of a disaster, and left her thinking the practice was “boring — kind of just another place to go and be judged,” she recalled.
“I just remember thinking, ‘Wow, well, these people are a bunch of a–holes,’” she said. “So that was really one of those moments where I was like, ‘I’m going to create something that is going to change this, because it doesn’t have to be this way.’”
She ended up studying with Yogi Bhajan, who brought kundalini yoga to the U.S. in the late Sixties. The Sanskrit name he gave her translates as “teacher of the world,” and she now travels the planet conducting workshops and giving talks.
In her 2017 guide “Invincible Living: The Power of Yoga, The Energy of Breath and Other Tools for a Radiant Life,” Jagat shares techniques for achieving not only spiritual well-being in an age of fake news and technological encroachment, but also prosperity and sexual fulfillment.
“You don’t need to blow your savings on a spa weekend and spend half your paycheck on premium supplements. When you understand the sophisticated systems of your body, you can tune these systems for health, radiance and vibrancy — for free,” she explains in the book.
In an industry that trades on aspirational images, her followers are an intriguing mix of politicians, high-powered executives, New-Age types, creatives and regular folk: one participant in her recent Paris workshop was a German farmer struggling with chronic back pain.
“Anyone can roll up, sit in a chair and do something that’s going to make them feel better, and in a very short period of time. You don’t have to touch your toes, you don’t have to wear Spandex. You don’t have to participate particularly in the spiritual or yoga culture, as it stands,” she said.
Still, it helps to be comfortable with practices such as chanting mantras and deep breathing. Her studios offer an array of classes with titles ranging from “Destiny Meditation” to “Prosperity,” in addition to workshops on numerology, tarot and sound immersion.
“Part of my intention, and my mission, was to create a place that was a real think tank and crossroads for a lot of creativity, and fashion, and shopping, and meditation and community, and that all these things did not need to be separate,” she explained.
Which brings us to her clothing line, developed with creative agency Le Paradox and billed as “a living altar to the modern woman” that “holds a very high energetic frequency meant to uplift the aura of the wearer through the art of dressing up.”
Launched online in March to coincide with the spring equinox — “because those are kind of the power days of the year” — the collection was officially presented during Paris Couture Week in July, and seems poised to capitalize on the wellness craze sweeping the fashion industry.
While the white dresses, with names like Hummingbird and Practical Magic, manage to be streamlined and romantic, the Jedi jumpsuit and Cleopatra kimono channel a more genderless vibe. Indeed, there are plans to branch out into men’s wear soon.
The line is made in Los Angeles using mostly cotton. “It’s not organic cotton, so I think we could go further with this,” Jagat noted. The collection’s claim to sustainability stems from its slow fashion ethos, mingled with kundalini technology.
“Yoga’s a science of angles,” she explained. “You cut an angle in a cloth, and it creates a certain kind of frequency in the mind, and that very much was a part of how we designed the pieces.”
It turns out Jagat is something of a clotheshorse. “Kenzo’s my spirit animal,” she said with a laugh. “I have a huge collection of all sorts of amazing pieces of couture and also just amazing vintage stuff that I’ve been collecting since I was 13 or 14 years old.”
Born in Colorado, she was raised in the D.C. suburbs by a single mother who was a dance movement therapist. “I knew at a very young age that what you put on your body really creates a certain resonance, and so there’s all these stories of me throwing a fit if I couldn’t put together the right outfit,” she recalled.
Her work uniform consists of white clothes — often accessorized with a turban — in keeping with kundalini yoga tradition. As a result, the first Guru Jagat collection is made up exclusively of white clothes, believed to enhance the energy of the wearer.
“I have to say, wearing white, it is addictive. Everything goes with everything. You feel good,” she said. “White is the combination of all color, so there is a color therapy piece to it, and — it’s a gateway drug, I have to say, because even now, I’ll go shopping for something else and I still will only buy white, even if I’m not trying to.”
Jagat said it made sense that Democratic congresswomen wore white in a show of force at the State of the Union address. “It doesn’t surprise me because I know what it does. Whoever had that idea is either watching our scene, because we’re very politically connected and active, or they’re smart in one way or another,” she said.
Still, she plans to offer the pieces in different colors in future. “Not everyone wants to wear white. In my New York studio, I like my New Yorkers, because they’re like, ‘F–k you, I’m not gonna wear white,’” she said. “I want to make a statement that this isn’t a dress code.”
Her jewelry gives a glimpse of her eclectic side. Dangling from her ears are rectangular acrylic Melody Ehsani earrings featuring a miniature world map. A fan of Ehsani’s hip-hop-inspired hoop earrings, she’s been mulling a personalized pair. “One would say ‘guru’ and the other would say ‘Jagat,’” she said with a smile.
Getting the clothing line off the ground has taken some time. The collection was created in partnership with Liz Clayton, a wellness expert who launched a sustainable clothing line, EA Apparel, in Los Angeles in 2008, and curates sustainable private labels for luxury resorts such as the Rosewood Hotel Group.
“Sometimes you really have to wait for the exact right kind of moment, so I think we did a good job on the timing. It feels like it was a perfect moment,” mused Jagat, noting that every industry, from fashion to hospitality and education, is mulling ways to make their business more meaningful and sustainable.
She noted that with the exception of a few pioneers, such as Norma Kamali, fashion has been late to the wellness table. “Before the fashion industry was interested in wellness, I was making the crossover, and I really feel like, I don’t know anyone else who’s done that,” she said.
Jagat hopes the clothes will appeal to a mainstream, fashion-conscious consumer.
“I always say there’s nothing worse than spiritual self-righteousness, and you see that in whatever kind of merchandising of the scene,” she noted. “It’s either vacuous, or you expect it to have this kind of crunchy vibe on it, so I do feel like we’re kind of paving the way into a new genre.”
Jagat has been surfing on the explosive growth in the global wellness industry, which expanded 6.4 percent annually between 2015 and 2017, according to the nonprofit Global Wellness Institute. At $4.2 trillion, the sector represented 5.3 percent of global economic output in 2017, it said.
“We were positioned to be really integral to that monetization process because I basically started the RA MA brand right as the Millennials were coming of age,” said Jagat. Now she has her eye on Generation Z.
“None of them have a gender, and nobody can figure out how they’re going to consume, or what they’re going to consume, so I think this is going to touch every industry. It’s a really fascinating time,” said the entrepreneur.
Next year, she plans to launch a gender-neutral streetwear line, aimed at the youths shunning raves in favor of alcohol-free kundalini discos and CBD yoga classes. “Gen Z doesn’t want to do drugs and skateboard — they want to meditate and skateboard, and someone’s going to have to clothe these kids,” Jagat said.