Argentine Yoga School Faces Cult Accusations Spanning Decades

It's an unsettling story that's played out over the years

Inside Hook/June 9, 2024

By Tobias Carroll

What makes someone take up yoga? The reasons are numerous, from physical fitness to seeking inner peace. Unfortunately, the latter process can, more broadly, lead to some bad decisions as well — like, say, joining a cult. And that begs the question of where the line between well-intentioned yoga studio and thoroughly detrimental cult can be found — and how to quantify it. Remember, people didn’t sign on with Nxivm because they thought it would be a brilliant idea to join a cult.

As for the line between normal organization and cult, it happens to be at the center of an ongoing legal battle surrounding the Buenos Aires Yoga School, a long-running organization in — you guessed it — Buenos Aires. As El País reported in 2022, authorities in Argenina arrested 18 people associated with the yoga studio, including founder Juan Percowicz.

According to the Argentine government, what billed itself as a yoga school was a cult — and what’s more, a cult that had been in operation for decades. (This is not the first time the authorities have investigated this operation.) “Cult members ran real estate agencies and law firms, complete with accountants, lawyers and notaries throughout the cult hierarchy,” the Federal Police’s Ricardo Juri told El País.

Writing at The New York Times, Ana Lankes has more details on the case, which includes accusations that the Buenos Aires Yoga School was operating a sex cult and was using prolonged sleep as a punishment to some members. The scope of the investigation was international, with the Times reporting that investigators from the U.S. were involved with the overall process.

Several former members who spoke with the Times recounted similar experiences with Buenos Aires Yoga School: an initially warm period followed by increasingly controlling tendencies on the part of Percowicz. (The phrase “an immortal angel” shows up, which certainly has certain cult-like connotations.) It’s the latest chapter in a surprisingly long-lived case — and one that could be wider-ranging than it initially seems.

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