Handelsblatt auf Englisch The Truly Enlightened Profits

Every year, tens of thousands seek spiritual healing from Sukadev, the European yoga master. His real name is Volker Bretz, a German, and he generates millions.
  • Massimo Bognanni and Simon Book
The foudner of Europe’s largest yoga chain Yoga Vidya, Volker Bretz, shows off his skills.
“Ommmmmm … .”

The foudner of Europe’s largest yoga chain Yoga Vidya, Volker Bretz, shows off his skills.

Barefoot and draped in a yellow robe, Volker Bretz, who goes by many names including Sukadev in Indian, or “Angel of Bliss,”  took a few steps, strode to the middle of the gallery and slid down into a cross-legged position.

To his left was a photo of the Indian master Sivananda. To his right an icon of Jesus. He closed his eyes and hummed deeply into the microphone: “Ommmmmm … .”

About 100 followers on colorful foam mats sat beneath him, rocking from side to side as incense wafted through the rows. They joined in, chanting “Ommmmmmmm … .”

Mr. Bretz is the 52-year-old German behind Europe’s largest yoga chain, Yoga Vidya.

The market is booming. One in 10 non-fiction books sold in Germany this year will be about esotericism.

Two in three Germans describe themselves as spiritual and 40 percent believe their lives are interlaced with mysticism. By 2020, sales related to meditative and spiritual disciplines are expected to bring in €25 billion yearly, or about $27.5 billion.

Yoga is driving the boom. In Germany, 2.5 million people do yoga regularly — and more than 12 million are considering taking it up.

For many Germans, their introduction to the discipline comes through Mr. Bretz and his chain of yoga schools. He has trained nearly 15,000 yoga teachers since 1992, he runs seminar houses and offers yoga vacations for practicioners to fully immerse themselves in the discipline.

Indeed, Mr. Bretz has come a long way from simple stretching and humming.

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