The U.S. Copyright Office previously permitted yoga poses and their sequences to be registered, even if those exercises were in the public domain, Laura Lee Fischer, acting chief of the office’s Performing Arts Division, said in response to an inquiry by an attorney involved in lawsuits the founder of Bikram Yoga filed against three yoga studios.
Now, he has sued Yoga to the People for copyright infringement, seeking monetary damages and asking a federal judge to block Yoga to the People from offering its hot yoga class.
A group of Indian-Americans has ignited a surprisingly fierce debate in the gentle world of Yoga by mounting a campaign to acquaint Westerners with the faith that it says underlies every single yoga style followed in gyms, ashrams and spas: Hinduism.
John Friend talked about the freedom of Anusara; it’s nothing like the more rigid schools that demand students repeat the same poses in the same way at every single class, nor is it the kind of practice in which teachers withhold praise, lest students become too egocentric. “Anusara is positive,” Friend said, resting his head on the back of his chair and absently caressing one of many highly polished orbs on an adjacent table. “It’s accessible. Easily applicable. And yet it has depth and sophistication.”
Consider those religions that focus on sin and damnation, on discipline instead of joy. “Fundamentally they say no,” he told me. “While Anusara is a yes.”
Yoga practitioners are criticizing a Missouri sales tax that applies to yoga classes, claiming they should be exempt because the lessons include spiritual elements.
Some practitioners think such a tax is unconstitutional. They argue that yoga, with roots in ancient Indian meditation, is as much a spiritual practice as an exercise routine and should be exempt from taxation.
Yoga is big business, racking up $5.7 billion in sales last year, and Choudhury has built a cultlike following.
Recent training costs: $10,500 per session, including $3,000 for room and board in Palm Desert, Calif. At two sessions a year, each of which draw about 325 trainees, that’s $4.9 million in annual revenue. To that add 15 speaking engagements, generating about $20,000 each in ticket sales, plus another few bucks from books and dvds. “I’m a yogi, not a businessman,” Choudhury demurs.
Now he wants another revenue stream: franchising fees paid by studios that use his name.
The latest edict from the National Fatwa Council reflects a growing swing towards a conservative brand of Islam in the multi-ethnic country that has prompted worries among non-Muslims.
Yoga induces a feeling of well-being in healthy people, and can reverse the clinical and biochemical changes associated with metabolic syndrome, according to results of studies from Sweden and India.
Many Christians are wary of its spirituality despite assurances that it’s just exercise.
A children’s exercise class has been banned from two church halls because it is teaching yoga. The group has been turned away by vicars who described yoga as a sham and un-Christian.