Namaste, Bitches Is the Girls of Yoga

From left: Summer Chastant, Edi Gathegi and Keirin Brown in Namaste, BitchesEXPAND
From left: Summer Chastant, Edi Gathegi and Keirin Brown in Namaste, Bitches

Yoga culture in Los Angeles is paradoxically vicious. All over the city, there are women and men with mats slung snugly over their shoulders who silently judge each other for wearing the wrong pants, going to the wrong studio or doing yoga for the wrong reasons.

In an ancient practice that counts acceptance and nonjudgment among its central tenets, this hypocrisy begs to be excoriated — and writer and yoga instructor Summer Chastant does just that in her new web series, Namaste, Bitches. The first two episodes in the series arrived online on Nov. 15, with the next two scheduled to drop Nov. 22.

Namaste, Bitches is based loosely on Chastant's life. It follows Sabine, a young yoga teacher, as she moves from New York to Los Angeles. Chastant, a lithe 30-something with a big laugh and seemingly settled soul, is a recent transplant who taught yoga in New York for five years.

"It's definitely a younger part of myself, and someone much more impulsive," Chastant says. "The root [of the series] is based in my experience and based in truth."

Over the course of the first two episodes, Sabine smokes, sleeps with a student and snorts lines of cocaine before teaching class. Her lack of self-awareness is Hannah Horvath–level aggravating, and it's something that Chastant plotted deliberately.

"I wanted to make her not perfect," she says, noting that yoga teachers often feel pressure to seem wise beyond their years. "I allowed her to have fun in ways that were destructive. She's always going toward painting herself in a corner."

It's a quality that makes Sabine almost impossible to root for. In that way, Chastant has created the Girls of yoga; none of the characters is particularly likable. Sabine's boss, Radhe (Alex Dawson), is the kind of smug, scarf-wearing hippie who punctuates all of her conversations by saying "gratitude." Sabine's rival at the studio, Jessi (Keirin Brown), is an Instagram-obsessed narcissist who's fixated on becoming a social media celebrity, one tree pose at a time.

Upon arriving at the studio where she hopes to land a teaching job, Sabine meets her colleagues for the first time. "Here's the scoop," Radhe says. "If you can build a following in five weeks, I might have a spot for you. Otherwise, we practice abhyasa."

"Non-attachment to the outcome," Sabine says. "Got it." 

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Together, the characters form the kind of dysfunctional workplace that breeds insecurity, power grabs and backstabbing — the ultimate irony for a place peddling Zen to the masses.

"There's a sense of delusion that comes with being in a position of power," Chastant says of the propensity for students to obsessively look up to their instructors. "I really wanted to unmask and unveil that."

For those who practice yoga, Namaste, Bitches will shed an uncomfortable light on behaviors that are common but rarely discussed. But even for those who never plan to unroll a mat on a sweat-slick hardwood floor, the show begs the questions: What exactly does it mean to practice yoga in the Western world?

"It's a business, ultimately," Chastant says. "Everybody is in the business of teaching yoga. As teachers, we are competing for time slots, we are competing for students.

"It's really like any industry," she adds. "People need to make money to survive." 

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