Though I have never personally shelled out the $35-$70 (or so) for a Soul Cycle class, I’ve heard about them from friends who enter skeptical and leave more than willing to proselytize. I’ve read extensively about the elitist spin-gym on the internet (even though their website is suspiciously under construction).
Soul Cycle’ are essentially typical spinning classes, but they cram more Lululemon-wearing types into a room and turn out the lights. The gym is wildly expensive, very exclusive and beloved by celebrities and the wealthy, not unlike Scientology.
I used a checklist of Cult Characteristics as defined by the American Family Foundation to determine that Soul Cycle is indeed a cult. Let’s see which of the 14 characteristics of a cult apply to Soul Cycle:
1) The group is focused on a living leader to whom members seem to display excessively zealous, unquestioning commitment.
Check! Soul Cycle classes are lead by enthusiastic instructors who use charisma and yelling to motivate the members of the class.
2) The group is preoccupied with bringing in new members.
Check! Many exercise classes offer special deals and benefits to those who recruit new members. I wouldn’t be surprised if Soul Cycle did the same.
3)The group is preoccupied with making money.
Check! I mean, it’s a business and depending on the location, prices can get absurdly high.
4) Questioning, doubt, and dissent are discouraged or even punished.
Check! Leave your bad attitude at home and don’t you dare distract any of the other cyclers while class is in session.
5) Mind-numbing techniques (such as meditation, chanting, speaking in tongues, denunciation sessions, debilitating work routines) are used to suppress doubts about the group and its leader(s).
Check! Soul Cycle classes are held in the dark, illuminated only by candlelight. The instructors render participants unable to think because they blare dub-step and pop music which conveniently also create a party-like atmosphere and drown out the sounds of screaming.
6) The leadership dictates sometimes in great detail how members should think, act, and feel (for example: members must get permission from leaders to date, change jobs, get married; leaders may prescribe what types of clothes to wear, where to live, how to discipline children, and so forth).
Check! A friend told me that you’re supposed to dedicate your effort in the class to something abstract. They encourage you to buy their special clip in spin shoes and if you don’t have them, you must rent them for a hefty price.
7)The group is elitist, claiming a special, exalted status for itself, its leader(s), and members (for example: the leader is considered the Messiah or an avatar; the group and/or the leader has a special mission to save humanity).
Check! Not only is Soul Cycle deliberately branded as very exclusive and fancy (aka elitist), but often times instructors will wrap up a session by bombing cyclers with praise for accomplishing something for the day, as if they are superior because they sat down and stood up on stationary bikes for an hour.
8) The group has a polarized us-versus-them mentality, which causes conflict with the wider society.
Check! Soul Cycle cult members insist that it’s just not like other spin classes. It’s different and if you try, you’ll never look back.
9) The group’s leader is not accountable to any authorities (as are, for example, military commanders and ministers, priests, monks, and rabbis of mainstream denominations).
Check! I’m pretty sure they make you sign a waiver before you get on one of their bikes renouncing your right to sue if you get injured even if it’s totally Soul Cycle’s fault.
10) The group teaches or implies that its supposedly exalted ends justify means that members would have considered unethical before joining the group (for example: collecting money for bogus charities).
This one doesn’t check out.
11)The leadership induces guilt feelings in members in order to control them.
Check! The instructor spouts motivation that will make participants feel lazy if they don’t put in all of their effort. You’re also encouraged to take classes consistently or you’ll be guilted for not being committed enough.
12) Members’ subservience to the group causes them to cut ties with family and friends, and to give up personal goals and activities that were of interest before joining the group.
Nah, Soul Cycle doesn’t do this.
13) Members are expected to devote inordinate amounts of time to the group.
Check! They sell very expensive packages of classes: the more you buy, the better the deal and the more you buy, the more time you’re spending at the Soul Cycle location.
14) Members are encouraged or required to live and/or socialize only with other group members.
Nah. You can still live like a normal person outside of the Soul Cycle studio.
So, I’ve tallied up the numbers and Soul Cycle has 11 out of the 14 characteristics of a cult.
It’s a freakin’ cult.
Image via Getty