Interview with Tamara Jeffries, Senior Editor at Yoga Journal

Tamara Jeffries, Senior Editor at Yoga Journal, writes, assigns and edits feature packages and articles for the print magazine, and digital stories for the publication. Tamara spoke with Viney Kirpal, health and personal essay freelance writer recently..

VK: Thanks, Tamara for this interview. What’s the inspiration behind this international journal on yoga? How do you keep the mission aloft? 

TJ: I’m inspired by the group of people who got together in 1975 to put a yoga magazine together. Creating and distributing a magazine from scratch is no small feat, so that was a dedicated group of people.  

I’m also inspired by the people who have come forward in more recent years and pushed YJ to do a better job of covering the full diversity of people who are practicing yoga. Dr. Jennifer Webb at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte has done research that shows that most of the images in yoga magazines are of thin, able-bodied, White women. What we know is that Black people practice yoga, trans people practice, people in wheelchairs, older people, and all kinds of folks practice.  

The other elephant in the room is that yoga was brought to America from South Asia–but you would rarely see an Indian person on the cover of a yoga magazine or featured on a yoga website. We have to honor yoga’s roots in India–and hear from the people for whom yoga is not a pastime but a way of life. 

I have to keep my eyes and ears and heart open to these voices, and give them a platform to share their wisdom and experience. 

 As an editor, I have to keep an eye on all the people who are part of the yoga community and remember–and remind others–that the yoga community is very diverse in every way.    

VK: What makes YJ unique among publications on yoga?

 TJ: Yoga Journal is the premier American magazine about yoga. It was founded in 1975, when yoga practice was having a Renaissance in the U.S. (Yoga had been brought to the West almost 100 years before that.) Any other publication that exists is following our lead–and there are not a lot of other publications out there covering yoga as completely as we do.   

We are not just presenting yoga poses and sequences–though we do a lot of those and readers rely on us for that. We also cover meditation and breathwork. We do stories on history, philosophy, and the roots of yoga. We understand that yoga infuses how we live and interact–so we write about how yoga influences our relationships, our work, our health, our place in society. 

Yoga is not one thing. YJ understands that and brings our readers ALL of what yoga is. 

 VK: Great answer! But, what does yoga mean to your readers?

 TJ: Our readers are not just dabblers in yoga–the people who might slip into a yoga class at the gym now and then.  

That doesn’t mean we don’t write for beginners. There are many, many people who come to us who are new to yoga. But these beginners have made yoga a regular part of their life. This group of people relies on us because they want to learn more. 

Then we have people who have been practicing for years, who have a level of expertise that they, too, want to take further. 

The bottom line is that YJ readers have committed to having yoga as part of their lifestyle. That doesn’t mean they do hours of yoga every day. It doesn’t mean they’re standing on their heads and twisting into complex poses. For some people, it’s 20 minutes of Sun Salutations or gentle asana (postures) every day or so. But it’s something they have incorporated into their lives. They are reading our yoga magazine or coming to the website because they want to learn more, deepen their practice, and understand the philosophy of yoga better.  

They are trusting us to offer information that can help them take their practice further and deeper–whatever that means for them.

VK: Is there a winning pitch for YJ? How long should a contributor wait to hear from the editor?

TJ: A winning pitch doesn’t have to be very long and elaborate, but it has to show that you understand the magazine. You should know what kinds of stories we do and understand the format and length of our stories. If you are pitching for print, be specific about the section of the magazine your story is for.  

Pitch something that is timely, trending, or personally relevant to our readers. What do people want to know about your topic? What will they take away from reading your story? Your pitch should explain why people want to read this story now.

What are people searching for online? What are people talking about on social media? You can develop story ideas from that information, too.

Share links to other writing you’ve done so that I can see your writing style and the quality of your reporting and research. 

You don’t have to be a yoga practitioner to pitch to us—not all of our stories are about yoga—but you should show that you have a strong understanding of the topic you’re pitching.

If you send me a good, timely pitch, I may be able to give you a positive response right away–the same day. Sometimes I want to discuss it with my team, which may mean it may take longer. And there are times when we’re really busy in production or other projects and our focus is on that. If you don’t hear from an editor in a couple of weeks, it’s okay to give a gentle nudge.  

 VK: Any other advice which you’d like to give aspiring writers who write for you? 

TJ: Please, please, please, read the publication or website before you pitch. Find out if we’ve already covered the topic you’re pitching about. If they have, how long ago? Is there a new angle you can bring? New information? New research? A new perspective? 

When I was an editor at another publication, I had someone pitch me a story that would profile a certain woman business owner. We were a women’s magazine, but we never did that kind of profile. Editors want writers to pay attention to things like that. When you pitch, try to match the format and tone of the publication. Every magazine has a different voice. Pitch a story in the voice of the publication you’re writing for. 

VK: What do you mean by your ‘voice’? Each magazine has a different voice. Isn’t it a bit like asking every writer to write like someone else? 

TJ: Good question–because this is something that many people don’t get–which interferes with them being able to do as much magazine writing as they might like. 

Each magazine has a tone, voice, and perspective–a way they address their particular audience. If you are writing for that magazine, you generally need to be aware of that voice. That doesn’t mean that your own voice doesn’t come into play–it definitely should. But it should align with the publication.

You don’t speak in a business meeting the same way you talk to friends at a party, right? You’re still you–but you’re presenting in a way that’s appropriate for the environment you’re in. The best writers can do that in the writing they do for publications. I can write a piece that is playful and sassy; I can also write something that is more deeply reported, nuanced, and serious. It’s still my voice. 

This isn’t like writing a novel, a poem, or a short story–where you are purely expressing your personal creativity. Writing for magazines or websites–periodicals that are audience driven–uses just as much creativity, but it’s a different creative muscle. 

Thank you, Tamara. Enjoyed your interview thoroughly. Your expectations came through some wonderful examples. I’m sure FWW readers are going to love it. Interested, readers may visit


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