Yoga is the Survivor of the culture wars: unbloodied, unmuddied, unbothered by the media’s slings and arrows, its leotard still as pristine as its reputation. Everybody loves yoga; sixteen and a half million Americans practice it regularly, and twenty-five million more say they will try it this year. If you’ve been awake and breathing air in the twenty-first century, you already know that this Hindu practice of health and spirituality has long ago moved on from the toe-ring set. Yoga is American; it has graced the cover of Time twice, acquired the approval of A-list celebrities like Madonna, Sting, and Jennifer Aniston, and is still the go-to trend story for editors and reporters, who produce an average of eight yoga stories a day in the English-speaking world.
Journalists love yoga because it fits perfectly into the narratives of everyday life. "Yoga Joins the Treatments for Kids with Disabilities," reported the Evansville Courier & Press this summer. "Yoga Helps Pregnant Women Prepare for Delivery," according to WNCN in North Carolina, an NBC affiliate, which recently broadcast a report about a prenatal yoga class offered by Healthy Moms in Raleigh. "Soldiers Shape up with Peaceful Yoga," an AP-bylined piece about how they are using yoga to both prepare for and recover from combat, ran in the Bradenton [Florida] Herald about the same time.
But wait, there’s more: Tribune Media syndicates a strip called Gangsta Yoga with DJ Dog, which appears in newspapers all over the nation from the Detroit Free Press to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Then there’s yoga to relax sex workers! from the Hindustan Times; and the revelation from Fort Worth, Texas, that yoga is replacing kickball in the city’s high school gym classes. Still not convinced? How about yoga skin care, Christian yoga, iPod yoga, golf yoga, tennis yoga . . . well, you get the picture.
Down the hall in marketing, this kind of press is the stuff of dreams. Yoga has now ascended to the category of “platform agnostic,” the highest praise marketers can conjure for any kind of content, trend, or person. Translation? Consumers drop $3 billion every year on yoga classes, books, videos, CDs, DVDs, mats, clothing, and other necessities.
But that’s all surface noise. What’s more interesting to consider is how yoga arrived at its present bulletproof status in the media. After all, it’s foreign-born, liberal by association, and inclusive to its philosophical marrow. Yoga not only survived its 1960s revival, but has somehow managed to embed itself in the great mall of the mainstream — and not like a rusty old peace sign, either, but as a replicating strand of our national DNA. (Memo to Lou Dobbs: Relax! We’re exporting American-style Bikram yoga franchises all over the world.) And I’ll venture that it says something good about our character as a nation that we’ve managed to get over our fears of otherness to master a few words of Sanskrit, yoga’s original language. Yoga means yoke, as in union, shorthand for the theory and practice of forging a link to the divine. And hatha yoga — physical yoga, with or without a spiritual attachment — is what reporters talk about when they talk about yoga in the twenty-first century.
The scent of patchouli has left the room; yoga now smells like money. We knew it had arrived when it assembled its own constellation of superstar circuit riders like Rodney Yee and Cyndi Lee, teachers who have become as famous to the yogaratti as rap stars are to kids. And yoga classes are even provided by corporations and covered by some health plans, for good reasons: nearly every day, news of another study reaches us, confirming yoga’s benefits for arthritics, asthmatics, dyspeptics, depressives, people with HIV or cancer — literally whatever ails us. I bet that even red-meat culture warriors like Bill O’Reilly or Ann Coulter couldn’t Swift-boat yoga’s progress now. That ship has sailed.
But yoga’s American dream is of a fairly recent vintage, as I discovered during a few years of research into its media past. In a journey through two centuries of our cultural history, yoga has endured something of a bumpy ride. It has been feared, loathed, mocked, kicked to the fringes of society, associated with sexual promiscuity, criminal fraud, and runaway immigration. Really. Which make its recent media beatification all the more surprising, as we’ll learn. But first, a thumbnail history.
Yoga arrived in the United States in a cloud of ideas both sacred and profane from what was called the Orient: the vast, exotic, unknowable out there. In 1805, William Emerson, father of Ralph Waldo Emerson, published the first Sanskrit scripture translation in the U.S. His son Ralph and his Transcendentalist posse, especially Henry David Thoreau, were dazzled by Indian spiritual texts, especially the Bhagavad-Gita, which Emerson read in translation for the first time in 1843. “It was as if an empire spake to us,” he wrote in his journal, “nothing small or unworthy, but large, serene, consistent, the voice of an old intelligence.”
Thoreau kept a well-thumbed copy of the Gita in his cabin at Walden Pond, and claimed wistfully that “at rare intervals, even I am a yogi.” The Concord intellectuals, earnest, brilliant men and women all, were destined to remain wannabees, however. Yoga is not about texts. It is experiential, its wisdom transmitted skin to skin, teacher to student, which required actual masters (gurus), all of whom happened to be Indians, who were in quite short supply for most of this nation’s history. It wasn’t until 1883 that the first Hindu cleric lectured in the parlor of Emerson’s widow in Concord and went on to complete a short speaking tour. Five years later, an itinerant Tantric yogi named Sylvais Hamati befriended a curious thirteen-year-old Iowan named Perry Baker in Lincoln, Nebraska. Baker, after more than a decade of study at Hamati’s feet — and a glamorous Francophile name change — recreated himself as the first American yogi, Pierre Arnold Bernard. Like Huck and Jim, Hamati and Bernard hit the road and remained a team for the next fifteen years.
Throughout those post-Civil War decades, the media’s take on yoga was dictated by the Theosophical Society, an influential spiritualist-reform group founded in New York City in 1875. The Theosophists embraced a combo platter of Hindu and Buddhist beliefs and spiced it with a few of their own. Americans first heard such terms as karma and nirvana through the efforts of the Theosophists, who were awed by the belief that certain yogis had demonstrated occult, Faustian powers over time and space, “over men and natural phenomena,” as The New York Times put it in 1889. Astral projection, telekinesis, clairvoyance, speaking to the dead and hearing them talk back — it was heady stuff.
For a group founded on brotherhood and spiritual unity, the Theosophists were a cranky bunch, regularly bickering and splintering into factions. They also split the public’s perception of yoga into two parts: raja good, hatha bad and even immoral. Half of those hatha holy men in India sitting like catatonics on beds of nails were fakers, they said, and even Mark Twain dissed these ascetics as “performers” who took money from the poorest of families. The Theosophical Society made plenty of headlines in its time and was in fact a darling of the press. Its stormy meetings were covered like sporting events, like this one from September 1909, which the Chicago Tribune reported on for three days straight:
Efforts were made to hush up the Yoga rumors and these were successful until the announcement that a new series of lectures was to be delivered here next week. Then the smoldering Yoga scandal broke into a blaze again, various women of considerable social rank were accused by others with being “Yogaists,” and the report became current that the cult was to be taken up here again.
Partly through the influence of the Theosophists, a growing number of Indian holy men and yogis were here, plying the byways of turn-of-the-century America. The trend started at the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893, when the World Parliament of Religions brought together representatives from all the major faiths, including several Hindu sects, and launched America’s first superstar swami: the charismatic Vivekananda (which roughly translates to Blissmaster). The American press dubbed him the Cyclonic Monk for his energetic speaking style, and a lecture bureau took note and signed him up.
More swamis followed in Vivekananda’s path, more Americans saw the light, and that was more or less when yoga’s trouble really started. After decades of sketchy, slightly mocking coverage by newspapers and magazines, yoga came under increasingly vicious attacks. What changed, you might wonder? The immigrants arrived — nearly twelve million of them between 1870 and 1900, piling up in the port cities of both coasts until the surge peaked in the decade between 1900 and 1910, when some one million immigrants entered the U.S. each year and ran into an angry, Nativist backlash.
On the West Coast a growing xenophobia, first aimed at Chinese and Japanese laborers, slowly turned toward “East Indians.” Starting in the 1880s, a series of laws, the Oriental Exclusion Acts, was passed to control immigration. In San Francisco, the proudly racist Asiatic Exclusion League, which in the past had campaigned against the “yellow peril” from China, Japan, and Korea, now turned its attention to immigrants from India. By 1906 all Asian Indians were denied U.S. citizenship; in 1917 the Asiatic Barred Zone Act excluded all immigration from South or Southeast Asia, including India. It wasn’t repealed until 1965.
At the same time, a spiritual American reform movement was nearing the height of its success in a campaign to “purify” the nation’s morals through legislation. You can read the tea leaves here, I think: fear of foreigners plus a purity panic (brought to a boil by the sensational “yellow press”) set loose the idea that these dark-skinned foreigners and the morals-loosening effects of their “yogi philosophy” were a menace to society. Groups of followers were from then on routinely described as “cults.” In the spring of 1911, newspaper readers from coast to coast read about the humiliation of Mr. Winthrop Ellsworth Stone, the president of Purdue University, whose wife fell under the yoga spell and left him and her children. It was noted that a few years before, Mrs. Stone took yoga classes, which were seen as a “a fad with several highly educated persons” in the community.
What was shaping up to be the American media’s war on yoga now picked up momentum, fueled by the growing “white slave” hysteria (They are stealing our daughters!). In June 1910, the same month Congress unanimously passed the Mann Act, known as the White Slavery Act, the American yogi Pierre Bernard was jailed for abducting two young women in New York City; a week of sensational press coverage ensued in which he was forever branded as the Omnipotent Oom, the Guru of the Loving Tantriks. Here’s one of fifty headlines from that week, from William Randolph Hearst’s New York American: "Police Break in on Weird Hindu Rites Girls and Men Mystics Cease Strange Dance as “Priest” is Arrested."
To the American consumer of news, yoga was no longer just a queer pastime; it was evil, a con, a cult — uncivilized, heathen, and anti-American. Even the word became a metonym for secret doorways and sex worship; yogis were nothing more than swindlers and seducers. From 1911 to 1915, a grifter known to headline writers as “Yogi Bill Ellis” plied his trade in New York and New Jersey. He was arrested in 1915 carrying an array of knock-out drops hidden in false-bottom trunks and a black book containing personal dirt on society dames — to be used for guaranteed results during Yogi Bill’s palm-reading sessions.
In the autumn of 1911, the slimiest — but in retrospect the most entertaining — of these attacks was published by the Los Angeles Times. "A Hindu Apple for Modern Eve: The Cult of the Yogis Lures Women to Destruction," the headline read. “The incense of sandalwood burned in their honor all the way from the Lake Shore Drive to Fifth Avenue and the Back Bay,” the article said. “These dusky-hued Orientals sat on drawing-room sofas, the center of admiring attention, while fair hands passed them cakes and served them tea in Sèvres china.” Toward the end of the year, Current Literature published a version of a recent piece titled “The Heathen Invasion of America,” which concluded: “Literally, yoga means the ‘path’ that leads to wisdom. Actually ‘it is proving the way that leads to domestic infelicity, and insanity and death.’”
The federal government was apparently prodded into action by such press reports. “Agents are now quietly at work, investigating the strange spread of these Oriental religions throughout this country,” The Washington Post reported in early 1912. The article listed a roster of female converts and their tragic ends: Miss Sarah Farnum “gave her entire fortune” for a Hindu summer school. Miss Aloise Reuss, of Chicago, now lives in the Illinois Insane Asylum; Miss Ellis Shaw of Lowell, Massachusetts, had to be legally restrained from giving her fortune to a holy man; Mrs. May Wright Sewell, of Indianapolis, Indiana, was made “dangerously ill” by the teachings of her yogi.
During the years of the immigration backlash and the morality panic, even into World War I, government agencies enlisted private individuals to go undercover, and journalists did their part. Hearst’s New York American, which had been tyrannizing Bernard (a.k.a. the Great Oom) and his yoga followers since 1910, began a new campaign in 1918 to dig up actionable dirt. After a few months, the paper turned over its findings to the New York district attorney’s office in return for exclusive access to the bust. “Means were obtained for detectives to obtain evidence, and secure entrée to the initiates,” the paper bragged. The American ran a page-one story that rambled on for 130 column inches, proudly proclaiming its role in hunting down Bernard’s yoga cult: “District Attorney Edward A. Swann, acting upon information supplied by the New York American, started a new drive to purify New York,” the story began. “The disciples of the cult, whose practices continue all night, include both men and women.” The headline was a classic:
"Twelve Cult Worshippers Taken in a Raid Upon Home of the Great Oom"
In the 1920s, when tabloids became part of the journalistic landscape, yoga became part of the tabs’ new “love cult” obsession. Reporters found love cults in Mexico and France ("Rich Worship Love Goddess Along Riviera"); in Queens, New York ("High School Girls on Grill"); San Francisco ("Orgies of Super-Love Cult Send Five to Jail"). Hearst’s New York Journal gave the tabs a run for their money with double-truck takeouts like this: "Latest Black Magic Revelations About Nefarious American Love Cults," which included Bernard, who had combined yoga with baseball, vaudeville, and circuses in Nyack, in the process convincing members of the Vanderbilt family to bankroll his efforts.
By then, America’s second most famous swami, a young Calcutta mystic who went by the name Yogananda, had arrived in the U.S. (His Autobiography of a Yogi, published in 1946, is still in print.) Yogananda quickly built an American following for his “Yogoda” brand of meditation-based yoga through relentless touring and speaking. “You Americans exercise your bodies and brains too much and your will power too little,” he admonished, throwing himself from lotus position to a handstand in one motion. His followers purchased a hilltop retreat for his ashram outside Los Angeles that later became the Self-Realization Fellowship. Yogananda bought himself a new Packard to tool around in and posed proudly next to it for a photo the Los Angeles Times captioned with a wink: "Swami Buys Swanky Automobile."
But even this holy man came in for his fair share of abuse. He was hauled into court on charges of property fraud in Los Angeles and vaguely threatened with immigration proceedings. He was run out of Miami by two hundred angry husbands, as one newspaper reported in 1928. “His life threatened by a delegation of indignant citizens, Swami Yogananda, East Indian love cult leader, was at a hotel tonight determined to stay in Miami ‘and fight it out,’ despite Police Chief N. Leslie Quiggs’s order that he leave town immediately.”
In the thirties and forties, a truce settled on the land. The cult connection still hung on for headline writers, and crimes were still attributed to immoral yogis, but a softening could be felt in the media’s stance. With Bernard and his yoga-and-baseball ashram prospering on the East Coast and Yogananda’s yoga-of-the-will thriving on the West (and the Vedanta Centers preaching a polite theology of Hinduism in between), a kind of amused toleration began to invade newsrooms. Yoga no longer qualified as a novelty; it wasn’t going away, but it wasn’t stealing our women, either, and it appealed mostly to rubber-legged, brown-rice-and-green-tea types. Joseph Mitchell of the New York World-Telegram went to Nyack to see for himself in 1931 and judged Bernard to be all right. “There’s nothing high-brow about me, my boy,” Bernard told the young reporter. “I’m a curious combination of the business man and the religious scholar. . . a man of common sense in love with beauty.”
The thirties saw the rise of the influence of gossip columnists, many of whom had started their careers just a few years earlier with the tabloids. Walter Winchell and Hedda Hopper were two of the best known of the pack. Gossips wrote six days a week in many cases, so they relied to an inordinate degree on movie stars’ predilections, which began to involve yoga. In 1938, Cole Porter was back in the hospital, a year after his legs were crushed in a riding accident. He was studying yoga, reported Leonard Lyons in The Washington Post, “to attain complete control of his system.” Lyons had previously outed Greta Garbo as a lonely yogini; Maureen O’Sullivan was mentioned by the beauty columnist Ida Jean Kain in one of her “Your Figure, Madame,” columns titled "Yoga Exercises Finding Favor With Women in America." And guess what? Mae West was one of those women, according to Sheilah Graham in her “Hollywood Today” column of January 30, 1940.
During the war years, Southern California became the undisputed locus of alternative culture, and Hollywood its epicenter. Yoga was by this time, if not totally American, then a harmless pastime for the citizens of Cali. During World War II, it was reported that “nerves are unpatriotic,” according to the author and actress Cornelia Otis Skinner, who told a health columnist that she had tried yoga and calisthenics to cure her wartime nervousness.
In 1943, it was revealed that Margaret Woodrow Wilson, the former president’s daughter, had spent the previous four years studying yoga at an ashram in Pondicherry, India, and had no interest in returning to the U.S. In India, Gandhi received yoga treatments that involved kelp.
In the 1940s, the first homegrown celebrity yogi since Pierre Bernard turned out to be his nephew Theos Bernard, a lawyer and graduate student who completed his master’s thesis, “Introduction to Tantrik Ritual,” at Columbia University in 1936. Theos traveled to India to study yoga and made his way to Tibet; he arrived at Lhasa on an auspicious day, and so was welcomed and venerated as the first White Lama. His account of his initiation into secret Buddhist rites, Penthouse of the Gods, was published by Scribner’s in 1939. Theos, with his matinee-idol looks and eager-to-please disposition, was an instant success on the lecture circuit. Meanwhile, his uncle was making headlines again in Nyack by running a training camp for the heavyweight boxer Lou Nova using yoga, equipping him with what sports writers called the “Cosmic Punch.” (Nova beat Max Baer but lost to Joe Louis.) By 1944, Theos Bernard had married a wealthy opera star and settled in his own mountaintop ashram in California, built with his wife’s money. With her money, too, he published Hatha Yoga: the Report of a Personal Experience, including pictures of himself demonstrating a dozen or so asanas wearing only a loincloth. In 1947, on a return trip to Tibet, he was apparently caught up in sectarian crossfire and killed, his body never found.
For yoga, the fifties, as you might expect, were a decade of denial and paranoia. "It Wasn’t Yoga, Mrs. FDR Says," announced the headline in the Chicago Defender. Eleanor Roosevelt, responding to a written report that she practiced yoga in the White House, admitted that although she liked to do headstands, “I did not know they were called yoga exercises.” Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru of India, obviously prompted by cold-war worries, denied reports that his nation would supply the Soviet Union with yogis to help cosmonauts breathe easier in outer space.
But in the fifties, in Hartford, Connecticut, of all places (on the wrong coast), there arose the unsung hero of the yoga revolution, a political correspondent and columnist for the Hartford Courant named Jack Zaiman. Nobody has yet given JZ the credit he deserves. Zaiman, a gym rat by his own lights, looked from his photograph to be as profound a square as can be imagined (he did write the intro for Joe Lieberman’s history of Connecticut politics in 1981). But as early as 1953, Zaiman put his credibility on the line by proclaiming: “I Am a Yoga.” Never mind the weird syntax, let us here and now give props to Jack, who went on to write a goodly number of columns extolling the virtues of yoga for the next ten years. “Now don’t laugh,” he began in 1955, “it may sound like a gag but it’s not. I think the most important book in my library is a small volume on Yoga written by a woman named Indra Devi.”
It was no gag. Jack Zaiman took his book to the Y to practice headstands, and conscious of it or not, started the next great leap forward in the advance of yoga in America. In the mid-fifties, everyday people spontaneously assembled in meeting rooms and gyms at the YWCAs and YMCAs to give yoga a try. Why not? We already tried Latin Dancing. The classes spread in “inkblot” fashion (to steal a metaphor from the Iraq war) from neighborhood to neighborhood, from Inglewood to Westwood in L.A., and from Oak Park to LaGrange in Chicago. “Marilyn Monroe’s latest kick is yogi [sic],” wrote Walter Winchell in 1956; not the philosophy, just the exercises. “To improve her legs, she says.” Holy cow! Marilyn, too? There was still a “Ripley’s Believe It or Not!” approach to yoga among journalists, not just in the celeb stuff but in reporting, like the tale about a visiting yogi who drank acid, chewed on broken glass, and told reporters that if practiced long enough, yoga could protect humanity from a nuclear attack. "Yoga Best A-Bomb Control After 12 Years," says yogi, was the headline in the Hartford Courant. There was the “Fasting Fakir” in the Chicago Tribune, the Buried Swami, the indignant parade of the Nude Hindus, and remnants of the crime connection ("Self-Styled Yogi Bound Over on 10 Theft Charges" — Los Angeles Times), but by the decade’s end, the tide had turned; only loonies now considered yoga to be dangerous anymore. Heck, even Gary Cooper practiced yoga to relax.
Let the sun shine in! The 1960s began with Frances P. Bolton, a seventy-four-year-old congresswoman from Ohio, telling a radio interviewer that she loved yoga and that she learned it back in the 1920s. United Press International picked up the story and put it out on the wires. Bolton was unafraid to be seen as weird, and she was a Republican, too. Take that, Eleanor. In 1961, the Los Angeles Times began a landmark multipart series called “What’s Yoga,” and Richard Hittleman’s Yoga For Health TV show replaced Jack LaLanne in some markets. In Los Angeles it aired every morning, though it took until 1966 to get to New York. Hittleman wrote a series of books that sold eight million copies, and he hung with such credentialed hipsters as Alan Watts and Jack Kerouac.
By mid-decade, The New York Times estimated that yoga practitioners numbered between 20,000 and 100,000. Then in 1967, The Beatles crossed paths with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who was preaching a brand of meditation-based yoga that he trademarked as Transcendental Meditation. "Beatle Says They’ve given up Drugs" was the headline in The Washington Post coverage that summer (that was Paul talking, though their sobriety was extremely temporary, as it turned out). The Beatles made plans to go to India, and the American counterculture lit some incense and followed in spirit. We went mad for yoga — well, for all things Eastern. Mia Farrow, Mick Jagger, Marianne Faithful, Donovan, and others trailed The Beatles to India to spend a few months deepening their study.
It’s ironic then to realize just how brief The Beatles’ interaction with their guru was. They met in the late summer of 1967 and by April 1968, the boys were given failing grades by the Maharishi, though “they had done extremely well in meditation,” he said. He wouldn’t allow them to represent TM or him. They were through with him, too, pissed off at his pushy organization, and used their failed affair with him as material for several great songs: “Dear Prudence,” written for Mia Farrow’s sister during the ashram stay, and “Sexy Sadie,” about the guru himself.
Much has been assumed about The Beatles’ influence on the growth of yoga, but I think in the end, it may be a bit overblown. Yoga was firmly rooted not only in the United States but around the world years before The Beatles went to India. In 1966, Rudolf Hess, the lone surviving Nazi in Spandau Prison, who was serving a life sentence for crimes against humanity, told a reporter that “his chief occupation now is practicing yoga on his cell floor.” As the decade closed, India was looking into the Maharishi’s finances, and he had declared his mission to the West a failure.
In the 1970s and ’80s, yoga experienced slower growth, part of a natural backlash against all things hippie and a concomitant leveling off of media interest. In fact, it kind of disappeared during the Jane Fonda years, the Time of the Burn, for those who remember. Fitness freaks wanted heart-thumping aerobics, marathons, Iron Man decathlons; anything but downward dog.
Fast-forward to 1993. Open your morning New York Times to page C-1. Sure enough, there is Sarah Kass introducing you, dear reader, to yoga as if it’s a brand new health fad. "Yoga, a Sixties Survivor, is Luring New Converts" read the commanding headline of the paper of record. Kass found a raft of new converts, many of them young. “It’s not that yoga hasn’t been there all this time,” declared Mata Ezraty, director of Yoga Works in Santa Monica, California, “but it’s like it’s just been discovered.” An editor at Yoga Journal, the Berkeley, California, bible of the yoga industry, noted that there had been a surge in attendance in classes and that the magazine’s circulation had “more than doubled in six years, to 70,000.”
Today, Yoga Journal is still the leading publication for yoga professionals, and it has branched off into the lucrative area of conferences and retreats. Its editorial director, Kathryn Arnold, has presided over a tripling of the magazine’s circulation while its advertising revenues have quadrupled since her watch started in 1998. YJ, as it calls itself, is now up to 300,000 subscribers, and Arnold attributes the rise to a singular event. “The defining moment when the medical community started taking notice of yoga occurred in 1990,” Arnold told the Los Angeles Times; that year The Lancet published the results of the California physician Dean Ornish’s research indicating that lifestyle changes — including yoga-based stress management — could reverse heart disease. >From then on it was onward and upward.
It’s also probably not an accident that the front-runners of the baby-boom generation were lurching through their fifties at the time. Last year, with this group poised to turn sixty, Yoga Journal underwrote an expensive study that found — to the relief of YJ’s marketing team — that about sixteen million Americans were practicing yoga regularly. It makes perfect sense. What better exercise to facilitate a low-impact glide to the golden years . . . with or without spiritual attachments? There are some seventy-eight million baby boomers living and breathing and getting older. In fact, every day, another 7,920 of them turn sixty. If I were a betting man, I would lay odds that yoga is not about to disappear again for a long time to come.
In fact, the only question worth a wager now is when publishing’s big dogs — Condé Nast, Hearst, and Rodale, perhaps the New York Times Company — jump in and launch competitive ventures to get on the mat with this free-spending cohort. It’s 2006, after all, and there’s no longer any fear of yoga, only a lingering suspicion that a competitor somewhere may be getting a leg up.