Germany’s Yoga Vidya a success story in Europe

Celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, Yoga Vidya claims to organize the largest number of yoga seminars in Europe and to maintain the largest training institute for yoga teachers on the continent, having already trained more than 10,000 teachers and 800 to 1,000 more every year, writes Katharina Sigel (Bayreuth University) in Materialdienst der EZW (November). Yoga Vidya represents a success story and also testifies to the prolific legacy of Swami Sivananda (1887–1963) in the world of yoga. The German citizen who launched Yoga Vidya in 1992 and has led it since that time, Sukadev Volker Bretz (b. 1963), had become a student of one of Sivananda’s disciples, Swami Vishnudevananda (1927–1993), before launching his own teaching in Germany in 1992 and formally organizing his movement in 1995. Most followers are still in Germany, with four large seminar centers and 100 yoga schools, although there are a few branches in neighboring countries, with aspirations to spread Yoga Vidya more widely in Germany as well as across Europe. Yoga Vidya sees its current growth only as a first step and is cultivating ambitious plans for the future.

While the main society counts 3,500 members, there is a network of various associations around Yoga Vidya. It also offers a franchise system for people willing to open centers or even ashrams abroad, or to become mobile yoga teachers. There are different levels of training, including an “intensive 4-week International Yoga Teachers’ Training” for learning “the classical yoga way of life which has been adapted to suit western culture.” “Yoga Vidya understands itself as a spiritual community,” writes Sigel, which means that some Hindu rituals are also practiced, and that meditation is also part of the training. However, the group claims that it is possible to approach yoga from a secular as well as spiritual perspective, with some making it into their spiritual path while others are merely interested in physical well-being and self-development. Besides spreading yoga and allowing serious students to experience fast spiritual growth, Yoga Vidya also wants to “reinforce the forces of peace and understanding on Earth,” thus showing aspirations that go beyond individual goals.

(Materialdienst der EZW, Auguststrasse 80, 10117 Berlin, Germany –; Yoga Vidya (English),