Yoga Studio Closes Amid Cult Allegations

10 News, San Diego/April 30, 2008

Encinitas, California - Amid allegations of abuse and brainwashing, an Encinitas yoga studio is closing its doors after 16 years of business.

This might be the last time yoga teacher Charles Defay blows the conch at Synergy Yoga Studio in Encinitas.

The sound is believed to reduce negative energies in the environment.

But recently, there has been nothing but negativity.

"They started a campaign to destroy us, they announced that they were going to knock us out of business and, unfortunately, all the young staff members at the yoga room followed them out the door," said Defay.

Defay is talking about the handful of students and employees who claim the studio's founder, Peri Ness, is running a cult and considers herself a prophet.

In an earlier interview, 10News spoke to former student Terry Rondberg.

"People had to bow down to her. They were instructed to basically worship her. If she walked in a room, everyone needed to be silent. It was very bizarre behavior," said Rondberg.

Yoga teacher Outi Pulkkinen said there is nothing bizarre about it.

"In martial arts, you honor your master. You honor the teacher who has trained the teachers below them, who then pass on their learning and it's unchanged. It would be ridiculous to call all martial arts studios in global earth cults," said Pulkkinen.

A judge ordered a temporary restraining order against Rondberg and other former students and employees, forbidding them from distributing or publishing further defamatory comments about the studio or Peri Ness.

But Defay said it's too late, as Synergy is closing i's doors after 16 years of business.

"They have been 100 percent effective. They've slowly gotten out to all of the students on the streets and in the community and spread negative, viscous lies and most people, even if they don't believe in the lies, they don't want to get in the crossfire," said Defay.

Because of the negative publicity, the business has been slow, giving them no other choice but to close.

Rondberg's lawyer said they have appealed the restraining order, claiming it is an illegal restraint on free speech.

They are due in court on May 9.

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