The Truly Enlightened Profits

The Angel of Bliss Volker Bretz shows off his skills. Source: Handelsblatt
Volker Bretz shows off his skills.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Questions have been raised about Mr. Bretz’s chain, which makes millions in yoga-related revenue but as a non-profit pays no taxes.

  • Facts


    • Volker Bretz is founder of Yoga Vidya, the largest yoga chain in Europe with an annual turnover of more than $11 million.
    • Based in a small western German town, Yoga Vidya is touted as the largest ashram outside India.
    • Hundreds of servants work in the yoga centers eight hours a day, six days a week for less than minimum wage.
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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.

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