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Patenting Yoga: Who Gets the Asanas? - Times of India article

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  • Swami Jnaneshvara Bharati
    Patenting Yoga: Who Gets the Asanas? Sangeetha, Devi K Hyderbad Times The Times of India October 9, 2005
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 11 7:23 AM
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      Patenting Yoga: Who Gets the Asanas?
      Sangeetha, Devi K
      Hyderbad Times
      The Times of India
      October 9, 2005

      While the government is creating a digital library of yogasanas to
      prevent arbitrary patenting by different practitioners, the debate
      continues about the principles of yoga and whether they are being
      violated by rampant commercialisation.

      Yoga is a dynamic art form and a science that works primarily at the
      spiritual level but is physically beneficial as well. It has become a
      booming business around the world, but puritans have been frowning at
      the 'newage' methods of teaching.

      The ensuing copyright issues are making people sit up and take
      notice. The Indian government was caught napping when the West wanted
      to patent basmati rice and the medicinal properties of turmeric. But
      this time, the government is taking no chances.

      To put an end to yoga practitioners like Bikram Chowdhury seeking to
      copyright different teaching methods, the central government has
      appointed a task force that is documenting 1,500 yoga postures and
      creating a Traditional Knowledge Digital Library.

      The data will then be made available to 11 countries, including the
      US, UK, Japan and China.

      But is this punitive move too late? Will this help prevent future
      copyright issues that might arise from a material interest in yoga?
      Hyderabad Times spoke to leading Indian yoga practitioners and found
      that while some agree with the government's move, others don't.


      Documenting the ancient methods of teaching yoga will put an end to
      misinterpretation, feels Mumbai-based yoga guru Bharat
      Thakur. "Recently, I was travelling abroad for nearly a month. I came
      across unusual forms of yoga that we've never heard of in India, like
      Tantra yoga, Yamak yoga and Kama yoga.

      The government's move is perfectly warranted. For a long time, the
      West has been fooling around with the basic concepts of yoga and
      capitalising on its popularity." Holistic health and spiritual guru
      Mickey Mehta agrees: "This process will help other nations access,
      promote and deliver yoga in the right way.

      Anything that is modified loses its impact. Most people in the West
      focus on the peripheral aspects of yoga - the outward transformation
      one gets as a result of its practice - rather than looking at both
      the inward and outward transformations."

      While reaffirming the need to copyright yoga's principles and asanas,
      Mehta also believes that its intention should not be to merely claim
      authority on the subject.

      "I believe that everything is universal. The intention of patenting a
      practice should be to prevent it from being modified and mutilated.
      There is more to yoga than Hatha Yoga, which has gained a lot of
      followers globally."


      Many practitioners feel that copyright may not be the ideal solution,
      considering that yoga has been practiced since time immemorial in
      India but the original practices have never been documented.

      Rajvi H Mehta of B K S Iyengar School of Yoga, Pune, explains, "The
      teaching methods have to change as per the calibre of the teacher and
      students, the age and the status of the student's health. It is a
      good idea to have a library or any form of documentation that we can
      have of our heritage.

      The question is how is one going to document the 1,500 asanas
      textually and visually? There is no ancient text that describes these
      in detail.

      For instance, consider Hanumanasana. If one is able to keep both the
      legs straight and bends them, does it become a different asana?"
      Drawing a comparison, Rajvi says, "This would be similar to
      copyrighting the thousands of Indian recipes."

      City-based lawyer and yoga practitioner Hirendernath feels that the
      absence of a structure has both advantages and disadvantages. "The
      advantage is that the art form is flexible and the disadvantage is
      that the form is not processed," he says.

      Each teacher here teaches the art differently and often do not accept
      each others' methods. The problem is that we Indians have not worked
      in unison."


      While puritans disagree with the teaching methods followed in the
      West, some feel that the West has succeeded in making yoga accessible
      to many. "The yogis there are far fitter than we are. Many yogis here
      snigger at the Western approach of focusing more on the body.

      But what's wrong in using yoga as a spiritual experience, rather than
      a religious one?" asks Hirendernath. He also feels that foreigners
      are more aware of yoga.

      "Ninety nine per cent of foreigners who walk into our classes ask us
      what form of yoga we teach. But most Indians aren't aware of the
      different forms of yoga. There are at least 30 to 40,000 yoga studios
      in New York alone."


      The West has succeeded in marketing yoga. But is that the way to go?
      Rajvi doesn't think so. "Yoga is a spiritual subject and should not
      be trivialised. The West is more affluent than us.

      However, they have found something lacking in their life and have
      looked eastwards for yoga. But since their minds are so tuned towards
      materialism, they are marketing yoga too. If they are making a
      mistake, I see no reason for us to follow it."

      [hyderbadtimes {at} indiatimes {dot} com]

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