Yoga Journal Turns 40! Interview with Carin Gorrell, Editor-in-Chief
Yoga Journal has been on the newsstands for 40 years and we had the opportunity to interview Carin Gorrell, Editor-in-Chief of the world’s most widely read and translated yoga magazine. Carin Gorrell is not only at the top of a globally read magazine, but she is also a full-time working mother who uses the lessons from the yoga mat to find balance in everyday life. Just as schools of yoga each have their own unique lineage, we learned from Carin that Yoga Journal has its own lineage. Co-founder Judith Hanson Lasater still shares her insights with the next generation of yogi-publishers.
Where would the global yoga community be without Yoga Journal? Would Yoga have become so popular today if we didn’t have the “off the mat” insights, pose instructions, meditation and health tips to flip through when we wanted? Imagine how many people started with Yoga Journal before walking into their first class. I am one. Where would my own home practice be without the insights I learned from my mother’s coffee table back in Pennsylvania in the 1990s and today in Italy from international yoga teachers through Yoga Journal Italy? From a small 10-page long dream to 11 international editions, we asked Carin Gorrell a little bit of everything our readers wanted to know.
Roanna Weiss for YOGI TIMES: How did the idea for Yoga Journal first come about?
Carin Gorrell: As one of our co-founders Judith Hanson Lasater tells it, she and a group of friends from the California Teachers Association shared the dream of launching a yoga magazine, so they went for it! “None of us had any experience in publishing,” Lasater told us. “We had no market research. But no one told us we couldn’t do it, so we thought we could.” In may 1975, they used $500 from a MasterCard to get the magazine started, and the first issue of Yoga Journal—all 10 black-and-white pages of it—was born!
RW: Who were the people who started YJ and where are they today?
Carin Gorrell: A handful of people started YJ in San Francisco back in 1975, including William Staniger, Judith Hanson Lasater, Ike Lasater, Janis Paulsen Wentworth, Chris Wentworth, and Jean Girardot, with inspiration from Rama Vernon and Rose Garfinkle; I believe all were members of the California Yoga Teachers Association. I’m grateful that 40 years later, Judith continues to lend us her wisdom—she helped us determine our first ever Good Karma Awards this September, and her insights were invaluable.
RW: YJ journal was published originally only in America, but now it is published and translated throughout the world. Can you tell us how this expansion happened?
Carin Gorrell: As the yoga movement exploded across the globe, we found that there was great demand for our excellent yoga content, from asana instruction to yoga philosophy to the yogic lifestyle. We sold our first international license in 2005 to Russia. Since then, Yoga Journal has expanded to 11 international editions spanning 28 countries. Along with Russia, Yoga Journal is also published in Australia, Brazil, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Korea, Spain, Thailand, and Turkey.
RW: Has the advent of the internet changed Yoga Journal’s approach as a print magazine?
Carin Gorrell: The Internet and social media have been enormously helpful in enabling us to monitor and survey readers’ wants and needs to ensure we’re delivering exactly what they want. I’m able to respond much more quickly to readers’ requests for, say, more meditation content than I would be if I were relying on handwritten letters via snail mail. Plus, we’re able to cover and respond to yoga news in real time and have true, live conversations with our audience. And we can add things like video, guided audio meditations, quizzes, and infographics that we simply can’t do in print that really help us bring yoga to life in a more interactive and engaging way.
RW: Now that Yoga Journal has reached 40 years of publishing, where to now for the next 40 years and beyond? Are there plans to change the magazine’s format or add different columns?
Carin Gorrell: First, I’d just like to say that I’m humbly proud of our 40-year legacy, and incredibly grateful to all of the teachers, practitioners, and readers who have made these past 40 years possible—without them and their wisdom and passion for yoga, we simply wouldn’t be here today.
The magazine went through a redesign in October 2014, and it’s been really well received, so we have no immediate plans for huge changes. But we are constantly reassessing and trying to improve. So on that front, we did recently add a new anatomy column, and we’re adding new meditation and yoga philosophy columns, all in response to reader feedback. And we may play a little with the look and feel of our covers—stay tuned for that!
RW: How do you see the evolution of yoga in the future?
Carin Gorrell: What a great question that I wish had a clear answer to! I do think yoga will continue to grow in popularity in America, and we’ll likely see the continuing emergence of new practice styles and yoga-hybrid classes. But I’m also seeing a trend toward greater dedication to the practice, with more and more practitioners completing teacher training even if they have no plans to actually teach. That shows me that the practice is resonating on a deeper level—it’s not just a fitness fad—which I think speaks to the power and longevity of yoga.
RW: What would you say the YJ mission is?
Carin Gorrell: Yoga Journal’s mission is to be the yoga brand for all practitioners—from beginners to masters—who want to live a healthier, happier, more fulfilling life both on and off the mat. Every day, we aim to engage our print, online, and live audience with top teacher insights and in-depth reporting on poses, breathing, meditation, nutrition, health, trends and more. Our welcoming, inclusive point of view aims to put every reader in front of the world’s best teachers.
RW: You are meeting with many people in the world of yoga and wellness, who has had the most impact, influence in shifting people’s consciousness over the years?
Carin Gorrell: Oh wow, this could take me forever to answer, I’ve had the honor of meeting so many amazing folks. Instead, I’ll point you to our September 40th anniversary issue featuring our 40 Good Karma Award winners. It’s an inspiring group of 40 master influencers, lifetime contributors, and seva champions who have been incredibly and positively influential in making the practice what it is in America today, and who are giving back to their communities through yoga in meaningful and admirable ways.
RW: How long have you been the editor-in-Chief of YJ, and what brought you to take on this position?
Carin Gorrell: I’ve been with YJ for almost two years—it’ll be two years this December. I was offered this amazing opportunity at a perfect time: My husband and I were expecting our first baby and looking for a new home outside of New York City, where we had been living for the past 16-plus years. I’d been practicing yoga since 2001, and loved the magazine, so it was as if all the stars aligned in my favor.
RW: From the flow of information coming to you as the Editor-in-chief, what are your criteria to pick and choose your stories?
Carin Gorrell: We’re looking for topics we think will resonate most with our readers, relying on what we’re hearing in our conversations in class, at Yoga Journal LIVE! events, online, and more. We want timely content—what’s newsy now, what’s seasonal, etc.—and a good balance of the different areas of interest within yoga, including asana, meditation, philosophy, Ayurveda, anatomy, healthy food, lifestyle, and culture. And of course we want to represent the wisdom of a mix of top, well-respected teachers with a variety of backgrounds.
RW: This question is for all the yogis and yoginis out there….How do you choose your cover model?
Carin Gorrell: I can’t share too much about this, it’s an internal conversation with my team that involves a number of confidential criteria. But one general criteria is that we only feature certified yoga teachers (with rare and special exceptions), and only those we feel are strong teachers with deep integrity who are well respected by their peers, elders, and students.
RW: A word on how you balance it all, work, family, yoga, etc.?
Carin Gorrell: Um, I don’t! Something always gives, if I’m honest. In general, I leave work on time so I can spend time with my family, put in a few more hours of work after I put my son to bed, sneak in a yoga class as often as I can, and generally just try my best to stay steady through it all. Mostly, I feel incredibly grateful that I have so many wonderful things to try to balance!
RW: You have one sentence, quote, insight… to offer to the world, what is it?
Carin Gorrell: I’m not sure I do, but what’s working for me right now is, take a deep breath—or 10. It always helps me settle my emotions, find a little more mental clarity, and speak or act from a more thoughtful place.