"Yoga originated in India. People cannot claim to invent a new yoga when they have not." So says Dr Vinod Kumar Gupta at any rate.
Mr Gupta works at the Traditional Knowledge Digital Library, a Delhi-based government organisation funded by the Indian ministries of health and science. He is managing a project to film thousands of yoga poses in an attempt to ward off further commercialisation of the ancient discipline.
The most famous (and financially successful) of the modern yoga entrepreneurs is Bikram Choudhury, who copyrighted a series of 26 yoga poses in the U.S. in 1978 and went on to trademark 'Bikram Yoga'. In 2005, Mr Choudry won a contentious lawsuit against a posse of American yoga teachers who challenged the legitimacy of his copyright and trademark. During the trial, Mr Choudry's attorney John Marcoux drew an analogy to music and said: "He's not claiming ownership of individual notes, but of a particular selection of notes and the arrangement of those notes."
Mr Gupta has no comment to make on hot yoga, power yoga and the other "new" styles cropping up, but says "nobody should misappropriate yoga and start charging franchise money." He hopes his "videographs" will dissuade anyone else trying to patent, copyright, trademark or otherwise exploit yoga.
"It's like soccer and Britain," says Suneel Singh. "You have given it to the world which is wonderful and generous. But imagine that people started saying they had invented the sport. That would be annoying."
- Yoga heritage: don't even think about stealing it, says Indian government (The Guardian)
- Independent: Yoga Inc. The Phenomenal Popularity of Yoga (The Independent)
- American attempt to patent yoga puts Indians in a twist (The Times)
- Yoga expert: 'It seems idiotic they can patent it' (The Guardian)