Youngwood native's Web series pokes fun at yoga
If you've ever taken a yoga class, or know someone who has, you've probably noticed that yoga is sort of its own little world, with its own language, customs and goals.
Summer Chastant, 36, from Youngwood in Westmoreland County, moved to New York City to become an actress.
“I came out during the writers' strike in 2007,” Chastant says. “It was not a good time to find work in New York City. I had already been practicing yoga and went to teacher training, because I didn't want to wait tables. I surprised myself, because I loved teaching and tended to be pretty good at it.”
After seven years of teaching, she noticed how rapidly the practice was expanding and changing.
“There's such a duality that's happening,” Chastant says. “It's supposed to be this spiritual venture. When you turn it into this business, it's about making money and surviving. That breeds competition. Marketing. I kind of missed, in my own teaching, the whole Instagram phenomenon — the ‘yoga selfie Instagram.' When I was teaching yoga, I communicated with newsletters and writing.”
However, “there was so much fodder for comedic material,” she says. “I also wanted to go back to writing and acting.”
So Chastant quit her popular New York yoga practice, moved to Los Angeles and wrote a very funny, satirical Web series called “Namaste, Bitches.” At last check, it had 659,347 views across all platforms but is most easily found on namastebitchestheseries.com. All episodes are free to view and are five to seven minutes long.
Those page-view numbers have gotten the attention of television producers, of course. Although some of her characters are pretty familiar L.A. types — like the tanned, toned blonde who can't hold a pose without putting it on Instagram — they also develop some personalities. Chastant plays Sabine, the lead, trying to start over in L.A. with no clients and little else but her integrity.
“I think when I write something, there's a part of me in every single character,” Chastant says. “Sabine is definitely a less grounded, more impetuous version of myself, making decisions without thinking about the consequences at all. I like to think I'm a little more mature than that.
“Now teachers are hired based on how many followers they have. It's completely counter to what the practice is supposed to be about. (It's) so image-based. That's great territory for social commentary. I wanted to try to hold a mirror up to society in some way, to laugh at it, but also be like, ‘Oh, crap, is this what we're valuing!' Even in my reverence toward yoga practice, to put that out there.”
Lots of familiar faces from television and film appear on “Namaste, Bitches”: Edi Gathegi (“The Blacklist,” “Twilight”), Parvesh Cheena (“Outsourced”), Sujata Day (“Awkward Black Girl”), and Aly Maywji (“Silicon Valley”), among others.
“We're in talks with television right now,” Chastant says. “I'm very thrilled with that possibility.”
Chastant no longer teaches yoga, but she practices it often. Her sister teaches yoga in Greensburg.
Michael Machosky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-320-7901.