June 9, 2010

Patently Preserved: India Will No Longer Let You Steal Their Yoga.

Think you can patent your new awesome form of yoga? Think again!

While many Western yogis perish the thought of locking down an absolute definition of yoga—why pigeon hole the practice as physical, spiritual or religious? And discount all the crazy hybrids and spin-offs with rollerblades and 105 degree heat franchise opportunities? Not a chance! Also, that government licensing issue gets pretty sticky when we try and label yoga as one thing or the other. How can you define something that transcends any one description? That’s what freewheeling and (it must be said) free enterprising, equal opportunity Westerner yoga minds tend to think. But, the head honchos of team preservation India have other ideas on the matter.

The Indian government has already compiled a library, the Traditional Knowledge Digital Library to be exact (which we reported on last year), to document every single yoga pose from ancient texts, not to mention other bits of heritage such as ayurveda, to provide a concrete system, essentially protecting it all from bastardization and subsequent “unlawful” patenting and other naughtiness. But so far the contextual efforts haven’t been enough, and now they’ve taken to filming hundreds of asanas to prove India had ’em first!

From Tuesday’s Guardian UK:

“It’s like soccer and Britain,” said Suneel Singh, one of India’s leading yoga gurus. “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.”

OMG, right? Dr Vinod Kumar Gupta, head of the TKDL, explains the move to “videographs” as they call them:

“Simple text isn’t adequate. People are claiming they are doing something different from the original yoga when they are not.”

“Yoga originated in India. People cannot claim to invent a new yoga when they have not.”

Uh oh. Lookout Christoga-ers! We’d love to hear what scholarly yogapop star Deepak Chopra and his journalistic nemesis Aseem Shukla have to say about this, after battling it out over whether or not yoga and Hinduism are intertwined. London Swamster Pragyamurti Saraswati has already spoken out about India’s move to claim yoga asanas as property:

“Poses are not the definition of yoga, which consists of breathing practices, deep relaxation, and meditative practices – not just postures.”

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