Hot Yoga gets a Cold Shower

posted Feb 5, 2011, 10:46 PM by Avadhoot Dandekar

There is a good news for all genuine Yoga seekers. India has completed documenting 1,300 'asanas' which will soon be uploaded on the country's Traditional Knowledge Digital Library (TKDL), making them public knowledge. According to the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and Union health ministry's department of Ayush, "once the database is up online, patent offices across the world will have a reference point to check on everytime a yoga guru claims patent on a particluar 'asana'." Around 250 of these 'asanas' have also been made into video clips with an expert performing them. 

CSIR's Dr. V. P. Gupta, who created TKDL, told TOI, "All the 26 sequences which are part of Hot Yoga have been mentioned in Indian yoga books written thousands of years ago." This is really a very good step and kudos to the Indian Government. This will help in refraining or stopping the self-styled yoga gurus from claiming copyright to ancient 'asanas', like Bikram Choudhury's Hot Yoga - a set of 26 sequences practised in a heated room. This will also help stop the monkey business of copyrighting yoga 'asanas' which are ancient and does not belong to any one individual. I have always been saying that nobody can copyright Yoga. Yoga is everybody's birthright and nobody's copyright. Yoga is ancient and Yoga is Universal. It is a revealed knowledge. It is everybody's birthright and nobody's copyright. How can yoga 'asanas' be copyrighted? This is really ugly. How can the essence of this ancient art enhanced by making it hot or sexy? This is really a good step from the Indian Government. Now Yoga can be within everybody's reach. 

CSIR's Dr. V. P. Gupta added, "However, we will not legally challenge Choudhury. By putting the information in the public domain, TKDL will be a one-stop reference point for patent offices across the world. Every time, somebody applies for a patent on yoga, the office can check which ancient Indian book first mentioned it and cancel the application." This whole work is a hard work of many. At least nine well known yoga institutions in India have helped with this documentation. Dr. Gupta said, "The data will be up online in the next two months. In the first phase, we have videographed 250 'asanas' - the most popular ones. Chances of misappropriation with them are higher. So if somebody wants to teach yoga, he does not have to fight copyright issues. He can just refer to the TKDL. At present, anybody teaching Hot Yoga's 26 postures has to pay Choudhury franchisee fee because he holds copyright on them." TKDL will have photos and explanation of the postures. 

Dr. Gupta said, "A voice-over will also point out which text mentions the posture. The information will be available in several international languages. We have screened through several ancient books like Srimad Bhagwat Gita, Vyas Bhashya, Yogasava Vijana, Hatha Praditika, Gheranda Samhita, Shiva Samhita, Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and Sandra Satkarma to exactly document all known 'asanas' and yoga references." Till now, it is estimated that the US patent office alone has issued over 200 yoga-related copyrights. Experts say yoga has become a $225 billion market in the West. Americans supposedly spend about $3 billion a year on yoga classes. Yoga is a favorite among Hollywood stars like Oprah, Madonna, Sarah Jessica Parker, Jennifer Aniston, Cameron Diaz, Gwenyeth Paltrow, Jane Fonda, Tina Turner and Angelina Jolie. The TKDL, which has 30 million pages of information, has been created to prevent those living abroad from claiming patent for existing knowledge. 

Please refer to Time of India news in detail. Please also refer to our earlier posts: Debate over Yoga's Ownership and International Yoga Conference in Pune.

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