Today, brace yourself for some very valuable ideas, thoughts, and insider’s tips from the kind of people who build up the yoga scene here in Germany. In interview, we have Christina Raftery and Stephanie Schauenburg, the head editors of the Yoga Journal Germany. Below, you will learn about each woman’s unique path to yoga and how they got to where they are at the moment. We finish with a few words of advice to individuals who are trying to “make it” in the yoga scene and become successful in their respective domains.

Photo: Markus Werner

Q: Christina, how long have you been working with Yoga Journal Germany and what attracted you in this position at the time?

C: Ten years ago I started out as the Yoga Journal’s first editor-in-chief and a member of the team that adapted the brand for the German market. The year before I had quit my steady job as a film journalist in order to become freelance and expand on my professional horizon. In retrospect, I think my increasingly important yoga practice contributed to this lifestyle change. The resulting insecurities (or what I thought were insecurities) made me practice even more and the Munich’s Jivamukti Studio became my second home.

It was there that I heard of our teacher’s Michi Kern’s plans to publish the German version of Yoga Journal. I told him that I would love to write for the magazine. We talked to our publisher Alex Lacher – and a few days later I found myself a head of a small editorial team. A little overwhelmed, I cancelled my plans for a yoga teacher training in India, but was immensely thrilled to work in the field that had provided me with so many opportunities for personal growth. Now I wanted to spread the word about it and a whole new world opened. It still hasn’t closed.

Photo curtesy of Stephanie Schauenburg

Q: Stephanie, you are leading YJ today: What is your story and what motivated you to take over the job in 2015?

S: I joined the team during the first year of Yoga Journal Germany. Back then I had just finished my teacher training and was thrilled that my favourite yoga magazine finally came to Germany. As a journalist and a yoga teacher I absolutely wanted to be a part of this, but at the time, my daughter was still small, so I just did some freelancing that I could easily do from my home office. Over the years I took on more and more responsibility – and here I am.

Q: You probably have a vast amount of knowledge when it comes to the yoga scene in Germany. How would you describe this scene in a few words, both on national and international levels?

C: Ten years ago, Germany had just experienced the first big wave of the „yoga boom“. By that I mean the modern, urban version: Dynamic yoga styles deeply connected with a new sense of conscious lifestyle, nutrition and consumer choices. Yoga was there long before that but kind of restricted to a smaller group of people, as an alternative to the mainstream. When YJ first started, Yoga had long lost its freakiness and was already mainstream – in a very positive sense – but of course also in the sense of a commodity.

S: To me, the most fascinating aspect is, that there is not just one „scene“ with more or less similar people: Yoga is a whole universe of very different women and men, different styles, approaches and ideas. This makes our job sometimes complicated – but also immensely rich and interesting.

Q: Have you noticed any specific big changes in the past few years in the yoga world? And I don’t mean the Yoga World, your organization 🙂

C: I think that social media has brought a very big change: the new platforms enable about anyone to teach and present themselves as „yogis“. Of course this is very valuable in providing access to yoga for everyone. But as media with a strong focus on the visual, Instagram, YouTube and Facebook happen on the surface of things and make it harder to connect on a real, direct and immediate levels. There are yoga teachers „stars“ out there who in some cases never had contact to any students in „real“ life.

Q: Where do you think European yoga industry is heading? Which countries would you say are leading? What are your predictions for the yoga scene in Germany for the next 5 years?

S: I still have a hard time looking at yoga as an „industry“. There is – and always should be – so much more to it than making money and producing endless growth. But in fact yoga is growing and the good thing about this is, that it is growing not merely in numbers but mostly in availability. I cannot predict it but I certainly hope that yoga will continue to spread out of the cities into the small towns and villages, out of the fancy studios into schools, hospitals, companies – and above all out of the cliché of being the privilege of the young, slim, hipster yoga girl and into something that is truly for all of us.

Photo: Kaylee Garrett

Q: On a more personal note, what brought you into yoga, what does yoga mean to you and what does your practice look like these days?

S: My best friend dragged me to my first yoga class in 1996 – and that was definitely not love at first sight: The teacher was a dry, ascetic, elderly man, we were practicing in a dusty community center and the whole course was very serious business. But still, something in me had been touched. Three years later I went back to yoga during pregnancy. There, I discovered the female, playful and kind side of the practice and all the amazing work women had done to adapt and develop yoga. Since that time I am hooked for good.

C: I was the unathletic school girl that was never elected into the ball sports team so I always focused on the intellectual. By the age of 30, working in the film industry, I was quite overwhelmed by the steady in- and output so I tried a yoga class in the local all-female fitness club. Two charismatic guys were teaching a workshop in front of maybe 30 women: the studio’s regular yoga guy called Patrick Broome and his teacher from New York, David Life. I immediately felt that there was more to yoga than gymnastics (and a really great soundtrack). I felt something very useful not for my own health but for an overall sense of connection. These days, I still practice some Jivamukti but are also very attracted by the Iyengar method. I love the „no nonsense“ – approach and it gives me the feeling than I will also be able to practice when I’m – hopefully – 95.

Q: What words of advice would you give to the following individuals/companies who are trying to become successful in the yoga business:

⁃ a freelance yoga teacher

C+S: Be as honest and authentic a person as you possibly can. Try not to entangle too much in the marketing/social media-issue. It might get you lots of likes and followers, but in the end your success as a teacher will depend on how deeply you can truly connect to your real students’ needs.

⁃ a yoga studio owner

C+S: Try to create a space that doesn’t overwhelm your students. Try to build a community but not an „inner circle“ that might exclude the not so hip or flexible. Be visible and approachable, but always draw the line when it comes to private affairs.

⁃ a yoga clothing brand

C+S: Try to be as transparent and sustainable as possible. Try to approach the ultimate „second skin“ feeling. Nobody really needs more yoga clothes – so there must a good reason why your brand is an exception!

⁃ a yoga retreat/holiday destination

C+S: Be very, very beautiful and be close to where your clients live. We all know the reasons why flying around the globe for a few sun salutations on the beach is a bit outdated.

⁃ an event manager like myself

C+S: Attend the Berlin Yoga Conference and afterwards talk to its very charming founder 😉