No serenity in Yogaville  

MSNBC, Oct 20, 1999
By Jeanette Walls

A group that some have likened to a cult is threatening to sue a family who has bought up the rights to Web sites using its name. Yogaville, an organization headed by the Swami Satchidananda, teaches a type of exercise called Integral Yoga. Satchidananda has been accused on several occasions of sexual misconduct, but his teachings have also been praised by celebs such as Carole King, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum and artist Peter Max. Last year, 23-year-old law student Catherine Cheng visited a retreat to study Yogaville, married a Yogaville leader less than two weeks later and essentially cut off contact from her family. (The family’s version of events is available at

Cheng’s alarmed family bought up several domain names with the word Yogaville or the phrase Integal Yoga in them, on which they plan to publicize information about the group. “The family has done this as a public service to give others the ability to access information about Yogaville,” says cult expert Rick Ross, who has been advising the family. “That way, people can make more informed decisions about Yogaville before becoming involved in it.”

Now, however, lawyers for Yogaville are threatening to sue the Chengs for misuse of trademark. “Your purpose in obtaining these domain names was to dilute the value of the Trademarks, confuse the market for our clients’ goods and service and damage our client,” the lawyer wrote. “Be advised that Yogaville will aggressively enforce its Trademarks and will take aggressive legal action against you if you do not comply with the demands set forth in this letter.” (The letter can also be viewed on

“This seems to be not unlike efforts by Scientology,” says Ross, “a group that has often used infringement laws in an effort to suppress information on the Internet.”


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