Today I would like to present to you an interview with Bettina Schuler, the founder of the Berlin-based non profit organization Citizen2be that provides yoga & therapy sessions to women with refugee background since 2016.

Bettina is a Berlin-based yoga teacher since over 10 years. She started practicing yoga in pregnancy and “got hooked”. Since her teacher training, she has been teaching in major yoga studios around the city,  later specializing in trauma sensitive yoga, the passion for which she applied in her yoga classes with refugee women since 2014. In 2016, Citizen2be was born out of a Lululemon community initiative.

Photo curtesy of Bettina Schuler

Q: How did your yoga journey begin? What made you start practicing yoga and how long have you been teaching yoga to others?

A: I started yoga over 13 years ago during my pregnancy. I was so enthusiastic about it that I first trained as a pre- and postnatal yoga teacher immediately afterwards and then as a regular yoga teacher. Since 2010 I have been teaching, first at Spirit Yoga Berlin and now for over seven years at Jivamukti Yoga Berlin.

Q: A few years ago, you founded a nonprofit organization Citizen2Be which provides yoga and therapy classes to women from refugee backgrounds. How did the idea for the project come about?

A: I started teaching yoga for escaped women in 2014. First in a refugee home and then at Jivamukti Yoga Berlin, where the operators provided me with a room free of charge. It was a great time, especially since we were still sitting together afterwards and ate and drank something in the canteen. Also free of charge. During this time I started to read more and more about yoga and trauma and met David Emerson who teaches trauma sensitive yoga for many years. Very successful! I was fascinated by the idea right from the start. I am convinced that if you want to arrive permanent and healthy in a country you have to arrive first in yourself.

In 2016 I founded Citizen2be to expand our trauma-oriented classes. At the same time we started to work on a yoga trauma therapy, where the yoga teacher would work on the physical aspect and a trauma therapist on the psychological consequence of the trauma. With this we have achieved incredible results. But since this kind of work is only possible in individual lessons, it is also very time consuming and expensive. This year we want to carry our offer beyond Berlin and win more teachers for the Citizen2be community, who will then offer their own Citizen2be lesson in their city, in their studios. Of course with your support. So, if somebody wants to be there: just contact us.

Photo curtesy of Bettina Schuler

Q: You have been in the yoga scene here in Berlin for a long time. How did it used to be 10 years ago and how has it changed in the past 5 years?

A: I think it’s difficult for the young teachers to establish themselves. There are already so many teachers. Unfortunately, this is one of the reasons why yoga teachers are paid so badly. There is always someone who does it for less. But we must not sell ourselves below our value. Many also forget that yoga is so much more than pure asana practice. For this we just have to take a look into the Yoga Sutras, according to which the asana is only one of eight limbs of the yoga path. For me, a good yogi is not the one who jumps from the headstand into the crow and then back into Chaturanga, but the one who adheres to values such as ahimsa, asteya and the other Yamas and Niyamas. These values is what inspired me to found Citizen2be.

Q: What is the aim of yoga, in your opinion? How do you help your students and friends to accomplish that goal?

A: Yoga is the way to happiness. As soon as you choose the eight-limbed yoga path, you not only become happier yourself, but through your actions you also make others happier. That’s why it’s such a good thing!