Who owns yoga?

While doing some yoga related research on the weekend I came across an interesting article on yoga and trademarking on Business Week, USA. According to the article:

Of the 2,213 trademark applications containing the word “yoga,” more than 2,000 have been filed since 2001 relating to yoga styles and products, according to the government’s Trademark Electronic Search System.

This rise in yoga trademarking has produced everything from BROga® (male-friendly classes practiced to “male-friendly” music such as Radiohead), Snowga® (yoga combined with skiing and snowboarding lessons) and Hillbilly Yoga® (ah, yoga for hillbillies?)

The landmark case that really started it all was in 2002 when Bikram Choudhury trademarked and copyrighted Bikram Yoga. The trademarking of Bikram Yoga, also known as hot yoga continues to cause controversy today, as it of course brought up the deeper issue of who owns yoga?

There are so many different debates we could delve into:

Yoga isn’t just physical postures, (although the postures themselves are centuries years old) it’s the unity of the body, mind and soul. How can someone own it? Isn’t the true yoga about non-attachment and going beyond the ego?

What about the teachers? They need to make a sustainable living too.

But are they selling out?

But isn’t this increase in trademarking showing the growing popularity of yoga and its move into the mainstream? Isn’t that a good thing?

But is it coming at a price?

What do you think about the trademarking of yoga? Is it asserting ownership over a centuries old practice or is it the way of the future? Perhaps, you have some ideas for yoga trademarking in mind? Maybe slowga, (holding poses for hours on end) rowga (yoga while rowing), Boga (yoga for bogans. Hey, if they have Hillbilly Yoga then why not?)

Veronica Joseph

Veronica Joseph

Veronica Joseph is an accredited yoga teacher who loves to share her yogic journey from travels in India, cleansing techniques, her favourite poses and their benefits and tips to remember when practising.

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