Photo credit: International Yoga Congress

Today I had a chance to work on this very special interview with Chloe Hünefeld, one of the initial co-Founders behind the Deutsche Akademie für traditionelles Yoga e. V, a non-profit organization that is hosting the VI International Congress for Yoga, Integrative Medicine, and Therapies.

Interestingly enough, the organization’s Berlin headquarters are 2 min away from where I live, but I met Chloe only recently and I felt a great connection with her. I really appreciate her true dedication to the yoga path, her deep understanding, and her spiritual longing. Although she has a background in the “traditional” yoga system, I felt that she was one of the most modern-thinking, open-minded, flexible, and curious human being I’ve met. On top of it, how amazing do you have to be to have a goal for this life of “…truly understand[ing], in this life, what love is and [to] be able to act it out consciously – with friends, family, students and strangers”. That shows some truly special human being!

BTW, and I want to mention this openly, Chloe Hünefeld was the first person who, when she came across my project, offered to support it with a small donation, because she felt that my work was important and she wanted Berlin Yoga Conference to become a success and reach its visions & goals.

Q: How did you first come in contact with yoga?

A: I started to practice some yoga exercises, when I was about 8-9 years old: like Yoga Nidra (the expansion of consciousness through yogic deep relaxation with awareness) and some asanas. I don’t remember who has taught me as my parents were very conservative and not into yoga at all, but I remember that around the age of 9-10 I saw some hatha yoga on the TV and I found it spooky to see other people doing the same things that I was used to do all by myself alone in my room. When I was around 12, my mom’s best friend took me to a yoga class and I loved it. However, my mom thought the classes were too expensive, so I started to spend my pocket money on yoga books instead: I learned from books in my early teenage years… that was the beginning.

Q: There are many yoga methods and ways to practice yoga. Some people join spiritual communities, others just do occasional drop-in classes. Do you think that any yoga is “good yoga”? What is important to know and consider when practicing yoga regularly?

A: In my opinion, the two very important factors that give value to a yoga practice are a conscious intention and a purpose. In my experience, even everyday life activities can lead you to an inner state of yoga, if the orientation is set towards that goal. I believe this is why the wise beings of all ages showed us such a big variety of yoga techniques and methods. I also believe that the important elements that make a regular yoga practice deep [powerful] and as efficient as possible are: a sense of Awareness of what we doing and [an understanding of] what effects or consequences our actions have. Metaphysically speaking, I’m talking about [a way] to better and better understand the resonances that lay in our actions and intentions. Furthermore, this [self]awareness will connect the techniques and their effects to the Heart, our being, our essence, make them come alive and make them less formal and sterile. In short: practice with awareness and purpose, making sure that everything [always] stays connected to your heart.

Q: What is the story of the German Academy for Traditional Yoga e.V.? By whom and when was it founded, and what is it’s vision for the better world?

A: Deutsche Akademie für traditionelles Yoga e. V. was founded in 1999 by a group of yoga teachers that were teaching across Germany. We all shared the ideal of showing, to as many people as possible, the profound benefits of traditional yoga in its many forms. Furthermore, we all wanted the whole project to be not-for-profit, or even a charity project, where none of the yoga teachers would see the [action of] teaching it to the students as a means of making money. [This was meant] to keep the teachings as clean [pure] as possible, [making them see it from] the perspective of unconditional giving, which in itself would become a practice of opening the heart for the teachers [in question]. We believe that self-recognition [self-realization] through a spiritual practice leads to a life filled with love, beauty and inspiration, and by [taking the path of] continuous spiritual evolution, everyone can awaken to the highest human potential and attain the final liberation (moksha). In our official paper, the aim of the Association reads like this: “education of the broad public by sharing the knowledge, the teaching and the know-how and the techniques of yoga”. So we also believe that if individuals would find ways to have a healthier and happier life, with more inner peace and harmony, this would create chances for a better world.

Q: How did the idea of the Congress came about? Why did you feel it was important to create bridges between yoga and science?

A: I planned the first Congress in this direction in 2001-2002, but the project was way too big for me at that time, which I had to realize after more than 1 year of work. The whole idea was never forgotten and after the international federation was founded around the same time, more people from all over Europe started to work for the project. The first Congress that ever happened in 2005 was in collaboration with another yoga federation, and from 2008 we held it every other year. Since 2014, I became deeper involved and this year the Congress is coming to Berlin for the first time.

The bridging between science and yoga, or science and spirituality, is important, as I find it sad that many people cannot get access to yoga or spirituality because they find yoga too often presented in an “new-age” manner, thus [making it] hard to believe. If we can show good evidence with good [good technology available] today how and why many of the [yoga] teachings from the old ages work, more people could benefit from what these domains have to offer. It’s a work for the dignity of yoga. On the other hand, I deeply believe that science needs to get deeply interested in the [studies of] consciousness itself, even if that means to reconsider [re-evaluate] the means of measurement and evaluation.

Q: What are three most interesting things you have learned so far about the connection between yoga and science?

· Consciousness [mind] matters. In quantum physics as well as in the spiritual practice. It changes everything!

· Everything remains a mystery, [even] when you dive deep enough into the domain.

· When carefully studied and attentively practiced, the yoga system proves to be a systematic method thus very close to the scientific approach to life.

Q: What are your future goals and how do you think to achieve them?

A: One of the concrete goals would be to continue the work of building up a suitable and trustable communication platform between scientist and people who promote spiritual values. On a really personal level, I would like to truly understand, in this life, what love is and be able to act it out consciously – with friends, family, students and strangers; And yes, I would like to achieve the state of yoga as it is defined in the sutras, agamas and tantras… and learn all my being has to learn, in order to realize the Supreme Self, the Atman… [I decided to publish this sentence, even thought here Chloe gave me a choice, emphasizing that this was very personal. I just found this spiritual seeking very beautiful, and the intentions so pure and close to the ideal, that I was touched and though it very unique and valuable, worthy of sharing with others].

Q: How can people join you and help out?

A: We’d be really happy, if people would spread the word about the Congress – follow us on Facebook and share the event – we want as many people as possible to have the chance to come to this amazing event – and spread [the intention] to fuse Yoga and Science. You can also come to our pre-Congress event on the 4th of November at 5pm with the Topic “Where Yoga Meets Science”. Besides the one hour talk by PhD. Phys. Doru Bodea, who is a yoga teacher for more than 25 years, we will have a workshop with yoga that touches the heart. At this specific event, the tickets [to the Congress] will be available once again for the Early Early Bird price of 195,- €. And of course, come to the congress itself – join us for a wonderful inspiring weekend of learning, hearing [discussions on] fascinating subjects and meeting like-minded people. Help us to show the [other] people how much more yoga can do for us [all].

Conclusion

Here’s what I have learned through my own contact with Chloe: it takes a special human being to do what she does, it takes some serious dedication and commitment, as well as hard work. You don’t have to like the Tantric, more traditional [or serious] Approach to the yoga system, nor do you have to join an Ashram, but you can still respect and appreciate deeply the ideals that the Tradition is dedicated to, and the roots from which more “modern” yoga methods are actually coming from. In the end, no matter what background or method, we are all trying to do the same thing: work on our shadows and embrace the light.