Who Owns Yoga? Not Bikram!

Via Ramesh Bjonnes
on Dec 7, 2010
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In a recent article in the New York times, a Hindu group asserted that yoga owes a great debt to Hinduism. According to The New York Times, “The campaign, labeled ‘Take Back Yoga,’ does not ask yoga devotees to become Hindu, or instructors to teach more about Hinduism. The small but increasingly influential group behind it, the Hindu American Foundation, suggests only that people become more aware of yoga’s debt to the faith’s ancient traditions.”

But how much debt does yoga really owe to Hinduism? On closer scrutiny, perhaps not so much. For starters, yoga is thousands of years older than Hinduism.

Hinduism as a term is not very old, not more than about 1000 years old. The term first appeared during a time Muslims invaded India (about 1000 CE) and called the people living on the other side of the “Sindhu River” Hindhus. Like so many foreign invaders before them, they simply could not pronounce the local language correctly.

Later, when the British—with their money- and power-hungry East India Company—came to India in the 1600s, to loot and pillage, like all great empires and imperialists do in order to turn a profit, they gradually gave that term nationalistic shape and recognition.

Hinduism is not very old at all. The Vedas are old, Yoga is old, Tantra is old, Shaivism is old, but not Hinduism. So, if yoga is much older than Hinduism, how can Hindus claim they invented yoga?

Hinduism is a sacred sponge that has soaked up all of India’s mystical traditions—from Shaivism to Shamkhya, from Jainism to Buddhism, from Vedanta to Patanjali’s Yoga.

More importantly, how can anybody claim to own a practice that has been shared freely for thousands of years? I understand that Hindus feel that yoga is part of their tradition, but the fact remains: very few Hindus practice hatha yoga (asanas), breathing exercises (pranayama), or meditation, some of the most integral practices of yoga. Indeed, most Hindu practice consists of Vedic prayers.

Hinduism is actually a foreign construct. Before Hinduism, India was a conglomerate of religions and spiritual paths—a colorful universe of belief systems and mystical practices. And the fact is, India is still that way today—a composite culture of numerous spiritual traditions that only loosely come under the umbrella Hinduism.

So, who owns yoga? This has become a central question in the debate over the now  multibillion-dollar yoga industry. Follow the money, follow yoga moguls like Bikram, and issues of ownership will not lag far behind.

Bikram Choudury, the glamorous Hollywood yogi, has not been successful in laying ownership claims to this ancient practice, however.  Even though he copyrighted 26 of his Bikram-style poses in 2007, the Indian government is fighting back by showing that yoga is quite a few thousand years older than Bikram.

The New York Times writes: “The Indian government [has begun] making digital copies of ancient drawings showing the provenance of more than 4,000 yoga poses, to discourage further claims by entrepreneurs like Bikram Choudhury.”

So, if yoga was not invented by Hindus, who actually invented it? Deepak Chopra and some historians will tell you “that yoga originated in the Vedic culture of Indo-Europeans who settled in India in the third millennium B.C., long before the tradition now called Hinduism emerged.”

Deepak Chopra maintains that Hinduism is too “tribal” and “self-enclosed” to claim ownership of yoga. Consequently, according to him, yoga belongs to the Vedas and originated with the Vedic people.

But the complex history of yoga does not end there. What the New York Times and Deepak Chopra fail to mention is that other historians, most notably Alain Danielou and N. N. Bhattacraya, as well as yogi teachers and writers such as Swami Satyananda Saraswati and Shrii Shrii Anandamurti, trace the roots of yoga to the Tantric or Shaiva tradition, which traditionally remained outside Vedic culture.

Think of Indian history this way: There are two archetypes within the Indian sacred traditions: the Vedic Priest and the Tantric (Shaiva) Yogi. While the Vedic priests developed Vedic prayer, mantra incantations and astrology, the Shaiva yogis were the inventors of yogic practice, meditation as well as yogic texts such as the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, in which the practices of yoga are detailed.

In other words, it is fairly common knowledge that the functions of the Vedic priests and the Shaiva yogis are quite different. Throughout Indian sacred history, nobody went to a Vedic priest to study yoga. So why does Deepak Chopra claim Vedic culture and not Shaiva culture developed yoga?

That question goes to the heart of the complexities and controversies regarding Indian history and who actually developed yoga in the first place.

“Other historians,” writes the New York Times, “trace the first written description of yoga to the Bhagavad Gita, the sacred Hindu scripture believed to have been written between the fifth and second centuries B.C.”

These scriptures, often termed the Fifth Veda, do indeed contain a vast repository of yogic wisdom and philosophy, for in India yoga has always meant a lot more than physical postures.

These scriptures were written down by rishis, swamis, tantrics, avadhutas, kapalikas—ascetic yogic living for the most part outside Vedic culture. Hence, I would venture to say that all of yoga, even these sacred texts now so central to Hindusim, originated outside mainstream Vedic society, but was gradually adopted by it as the Vedic Aryan outsiders gradually became the dominant culture in India.

Much the same way the Catholic Church incorporated the Mayan culture into its worship ceremonies. Still, just like the Mayan shamans have always remained largely independent of the Catholic Church, the yogis have also often remained fiercely independent of mainstream Vedic and Hindu culture.

Indeed, both the shamanic Mayans and the Tantric yogis differ quite radically in practice and lifestyle from mainstream Catholic and Hindu religion.

So, if anybody should claim ownership of yoga it should be the yogis that invented it, namely the ancient, dreadlocked Tantrics. Who, after all invented yoga according to Indian sacred history? His name was Shiva. And what is Shiva popularly called? The King of Yoga. What does he look like? For sure not like a Vedic priest with shaved head. No, he looks like a dreadlocked yogi with ashes smeared all over the body. He looks like a Tantric Yogi.

So, there you have it. Yoga was neither invented by Bikram, the Hindus, nor the Vedic priests. Yoga has always been a renegade activity, somewhat outside mainstream Vedic and Hindu culture and religion.

So, who owns yoga, then? The short answer: nobody. The long answer: everybody practicing yoga.

Yes, if yoga belongs to anybody, it belongs to humanity. And since we are all part of humanity, yoga—like soccer, like drumming, like dancing, like meditation—belongs to us all.


About Ramesh Bjonnes

Ramesh Bjonnes is the co-founder of the Prama Institute, a holistic retreat center in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina and the Director of the Prama Wellness Center, a retreat center specializing in detox by incorporating juice fasting, ayurveda, meditation and yoga to cleanse, relax and rejuvenate. Bjonnes is also a writer, yogi and workshop leader. He lived in India and Nepal in the 1980s learning directly from the traditional teachers of yoga and Tantra. He has taught workshops in many countries and is the author of Sacred Body, Sacred Spirit (InnerWorld) and Tantra: The Yoga of Love and Awakening (Hay House India). He lives and practices in an eco-village in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.


104 Responses to “Who Owns Yoga? Not Bikram!”

  1. Claudia says:

    Yes, it belongs to us, we are the current living tradition.

  2. AMO says:

    "he copyrighted 26 of his Bikram-style poses in 2007" This is technically incorrect.

    Bikram sued some of his former students including the founders of Core Power Yoga for "stealing" his practices. The lawyers for the defense argued and won the point that the POSES were NOT copy right worthy as they clearly were ancient and Bikram did not design them. The judge allowed that Bikram invented the SERIES of 2 breathing exercises and 26 poses done twice in a hot room and spoken with his dialog. He has a legal to the exact DIALOG and you can be sued under the court's finding if you teach the 26 & 2 in the same order and timing as Bikram, if you use his name, if you use his dialog. If you throw some down dogs in there and don't say "open your chest like a flower petal blooming" then you're fine.

    This is an important discussion so please be sure to choose your words carefully when writing about it. Bikram does NOT under any circumstances own a copy right on ANY yoga pose. He owns a copy right on his series. If you taught the series backward or switched poses around you would NOT be in violation of the copy right.

  3. Ramesh says:

    thank you so much for your comments. I copied this information from the New York Times, thinking the paper had done its homework. I will do some more research on this. Here is the exact paragraph from the NY Times:

    "In June, it even prompted the Indian government to begin making digital copies of ancient drawings showing the provenance of more than 4,000 yoga poses, to discourage further claims by entrepreneurs like Bikram Choudhury, an Indian-born yoga instructor to the stars who is based in Los Angeles. Mr. Choudhury nettled Indian officials in 2007 when he copyrighted his personal style of 26 yoga poses as “Bikram Yoga.” "

  4. Linda-Sama says:

    "For starters, yoga is thousands of years older than Hinduism"

    yup, that's what I've said all along….;)

    "Yoga has always been a renegade activity, somewhat outside mainstream Vedic and Hindu culture and religion."


  5. Ramesh says:

    Shiva Steve Ordog Thank you Ramesh! Great stuff! renegades, non-conformists, yay!

  6. Ramesh says:

    It's important to get this message out–so thanks for spreading it, Linda-Sama!

  7. Ramesh says:

    Bikram and the Law! Please read–pretty amazing!

    Los Angeles, California, July 30, 2003

    We are pleased to report that Bikram and Rajashree Choudhury have achieved a significant victory in their lawsuit against Kim Schreiber-Morrison, Mark Morrison, and their business, Prana Incorporated (the “Morrisons”). In the lawsuit, Bikram and Rajashree asserted claims against the Morrisons for copyright infringement, trademark infringement, violation of rights of publicity, and other related causes of action, and sought to permanently enjoin the Morrisons from such conduct. Under a settlement reached on June 12, 2002, the Morrisons voluntarily consented to the following terms:

    Payment of substantial monetary compensation to Bikram and Rajashree, the amount of which must be kept confidential pursuant to the settlement agreement;

  8. Ramesh says:

    To never again teach Bikram’s Basic Yoga System;
    To never again use or otherwise infringe upon Bikram’s copyrighted works, such as his books, videotape, audiotape, teaching materials and the selection and arrangement of yoga poses in Bikram’s Basic Yoga System;
    To never again use or otherwise infringe upon Bikram’s trade and service marks, including but not limited to “Bikram Yoga,” “Bikram’s Yoga College of India,” and the picture mark of Bikram in the spine twisting pose;
    To never again use or otherwise exploit the names or likenesses of Bikram and Rajashree Choudhury for their own commercial purposes;
    To the entry of a stipulated permanent injunction, issued by the United States District Court of the Central District of California, formally barring the Morrisons from using or otherwise exploiting Bikram and Rajashree’s intellectual property as set forth above; and

  9. Ramesh says:

    To provide a signed statement of apology to Bikram and Rajashree.
    On June 30, 2003, Federal Judge David O. Carter issued the attached court order permanently enjoining and restraining the Morrisons from infringing on Bikram’s and Rajashree’s intellectual property as set forth above.

    This outcome represents a significant legal victory for Bikram, Rajashree, and the Bikram Yoga community, and fully vindicates Bikram’s conviction in the originality and legal enforceability of Bikram’s Yoga.

    Bikram's Yoga College of India reminds yoga practitioners and aspiring yoga instructors everywhere that this litigation serves as a powerful example of why there is no benefit to learning from uncertified and unlicensed yoga instructors who claim to teach Bikram yoga or "something like it."

    The simple faNo one may teach Bikram Yoga classes unless he/she is a certified and licensed Bikram Yoga teacher.

    No one may teach or certify others to become Bikram Yoga teachers other than Bikram Choudhury.

  10. Ramesh says:

    Bikram Obtains Copyright Registration for His Asana Sequence

    Los Angeles, California, February 5, 2003: With great pleasure we would like to announce that Bikram recently secured federal copyright registration under 17 U.S.C. Section 410 for his original work of authorship in his asana sequence of 26 postures and 2 breathing exercises. Through registration of this work, the United States Copyright Office acknowledges Bikram’s exclusive right to the distinct series of postures and breathing exercises comprising the sequence and Bikram’s Beginning Yoga Class.

    This latest development reinforces the strength and value inherent in the Bikram Yoga system, enhancing opportunities for both certified Bikram Yoga Teachers, and licensed Bikram Yoga studios.

    Registration of the asana sequence with the U.S. Copyright Office represents a significant milestone for Bikram in his efforts to formalize the intellectual property rights which encompass the Bikram Yoga style and method. While some in the yoga community once viewed the prospect of formal legal protection for Bikram’s sequence with skepticism, Bikram’s insight and creativity have once again proven them wrong.

  11. Ramesh says:

    The asana sequence copyright registration joins Bikram’s growing portfolio of registered copyrights and trademarks that lie at the heart of the proprietary Bikram Yoga system. Bikram can now easily and effectively enforce these rights.

    Due to the originality of the sequence and the strength of the copyright registration, infringement of the sequence copyright can occur in a number of ways. In addition to exact copying of the sequence, the copyright prohibits others from creating “derivative” works of the sequence. Virtually all modifications or additions to the sequence will constitute copyright infringement, including: the unauthorized use of even a small number of consecutive postures; the addition of different postures or breathing exercises to the sequence or portions of the sequence; the teaching or offering of the sequence with or without the Dialogue; or by the addition of extra elements to the sequence, like music.

  12. Ramesh says:

    Bikram will be entitled to receive an award of statutory damages of up to $150,000 per infringement and can also recover his attorneys’ fees from infringers in lawsuits concerning copyright infringement of the sequence.

    Please join us in congratulating Bikram for more than three decades of groundbreaking work in bringing to fruition the recognition of the priceless intellectual property assets that are Bikram Yoga.

    –Jacob C. Reinbolt
    Procopio, Cory, Hargreaves & Savitch LLP http://www.procopio.com

  13. Ramesh says:

    AMO: Yes, you are technically correct, Bikram has copyrighted a sequence of 26 asanas and 2 b reathing exercises. Here it is in black and white. (SEE MORE DETAILS BELOW)

    Los Angeles, California, February 5, 2003: With great pleasure we would like to announce that Bikram recently secured federal copyright registration under 17 U.S.C. Section 410 for his original work of authorship in his asana sequence of 26 postures and 2 breathing exercises.

  14. candicegarrett says:

    Perfect, perfect and um, perfect! I am so glad to hear (read) someone putting it out there that "hinduism" is a westernized construct. It pains me when people, educator, writers, call Hinduism a "religion," because it actually is a hodge podge of different tribal practices and as you so clearly pointed out, contrasting beliefs (duality or non-duality? Hmmm…)

    Just as it pains me to hear writers (of published books!) call yoga an invention of warriors, similar to karate. (Maybe they are referring to the Gita there, but surely yoga was around before Arjuna and as surely, wasn't "developed" by warriors as some kind of war practice.) So thank you, for clearing the air about yoga's roots and its lack of ability to be owned. By anyone.

  15. Ramesh says:

    thanks so much for your comments. Yes, I think it is important to understand all the nuances in regards to yoga and the Indic traditions, one of those nuances is of course that some people identify as Hindus, just like some identify themselves as Americans, but as you also point out, its an umbrella of so many contrasting and complementing ideas and beliefs.

  16. Bhaeravii says:

    one afternoon about 8 years ago at the jagriti ashram, a telephone call came inquiring about yoga classes. One of the monks answered. She asked: "do you do hot yoga?"

    the monk wasnt sure what she was referring to exactly, but answered: "no we do cold yoga."

  17. Ramesh says:

    If you read my article carefully, you will learn that I am saying yoga is older than Hinduism. Hinduism as a concept is no more than 1000 years old, Hinduism as a religion is even younger, but yoga, both as hatha yoga and as the sublime teachings of Krishna in the Bhagavat Gita is much older. So, to be correct, Hinduism has included yoga as part of its religion and the various sacred texts of yoga, but the tradition of yoga is not Hindu. For that reason, many, if not most, people practicing yoga do not consider themselves Hindu. One of the reasons is, as you point out, the caste system. That is one of the reasons Deepak Chopra, an Indian by birth, do not think of himself as Hindu–the religion accepts the caste system.

  18. Akshey says:

    Whats their in Name

    You can call muslims as Moahmdians will it make any difference.

    You can name the set of relgious methods practiced by people of Indian subcontinet as "Hinduism" or "Sanatan Dharma" as you are pleased ,will it make any difference.We belive in Krishana and Shiva and Vedas and they are the source of Yoga,is their any source older than these where cocept of Yoga are explained.

  19. Akshey says:

    Now Yoga has become more or less secular subject and it should be practiced worlwide,but please one should not rebuke its source for once personal gain,I think there is hardly any difference between those who are claiming its origin in Hinduism and those who are against it,each has his own personal motives.

    As for Deepak Chopra ,he is a complete business man and there is little difference between him and Bikram,
    so he will modify concept to cater to the need of western audiance after all they are his clients not the Indians.

    Caste system or more appropriately varna system was highjacked by Brahmins and has modified it according to their wishes and needs,and the so called "Scholors" of modern time are hardly different from them.

  20. Ramesh says:

    Aksheyji, I understand your point here… I am not saying that Hindus do not believe in, use, or respect the yogic canons of the Bhangavad Gita, the Upanshads, etc. I do not dispute the fact that yoga is part of Hinduism, the same way many shamanic Mayan concepts and practices has become part of Catholicism. The point of asking Who Owns Yoga is to answer the question What is the origin of Yoga? My point is simply this: Catholicism is not the origin of Mayan Shamanism anymore than Hinduism is the origin of Yoga. Yoga is much older than yours and other Indian peoples identification with Hinduism, that identification as Hindu is a recent phenomenon in the history of yoga.
    Does that distin ction make sense to you?

  21. Ramesh says:

    Aksheyji, you're right about most of the yoga practitioners in the West, those 80-90 percent or so who practice mainly yoga as asanas for fitness and relaxation, that they do not practice the more spiritual/religious/philososphical aspects of yoga. But are they rebuking its source for personal gain? Most don't really care much about the source of yoga at all, I think. But they do care about not being pegged as Hindus, or religious, and that is fine by me.

    As for Deepak Chopra being mainly a business man–I would say that, we have to distinguish the two. I think he is a genuine exponent of yoga and not just into it for the business. But I do disagree with him that yoga stems from the Vedic tradition. See my article above for further info.

    I agree with you that the caste or varna system was not only highjacked by the Brahmins, it was instituted by them and formulated by them; that was the way they subjugated the Dravidyan, Mongolian and Austric population of ancient India. Indeed, yoga existed in India before the Vedic Brahmins enytered India. That is another disgareement I have with Chopra–he belives there was no vedic migration into India at all.

  22. Ramesh says:

    Aarti Inamdar commented on a post you were tagged in.

    "Priests and Yogis have unique teachings to offer, but both are speaking from the vedic revealed body of knowledge. We have to be careful not to create a "club" of tantra that exists in outside of the vedas."

  23. Ramesh says:

    The Tantric scriptures and the vast oral tradition of Tantra is not part of the Vedic scriptures. There are overlaps for sure, especially in the Kashmir tantric scriptures and even in some of the Tantric Hatha Yoga scriptures, but it is not accurate to say that all yogic knowledge is, as you say, from "vedic revealed body of knowledge." That's the kind of sweeping generalization and mythmaking that I think it is worthwhile to correct. Deepak Chopra and so many other writers promote this one-sided view and that is unfortunate.

  24. Mary Dillon says:

    Bikram's copyright of his 26 posture/2 breathing exercise sequence is no different than a composer who takes musical notes, which belong to no one, puts them in a particular order, and then owns the rights to that piece of music.
    Thank you.
    Mary Dillon

  25. Akshey says:


    I am not against seekers,those who want to explore on these subjects,they have every right to question
    its benefit,origin,practice etc they can take yoga as a simple exercise routine,it will at least benefit them phsically

    My problem is with the so called "Experts" who in reality are businessman ,they are no longer want spiritual growth
    of their pupil,even if they desire it is for their monetary gains.For example
    If my business is related to yoga in India,then obviously I will try to attach Yoga practice with Hinduism as it will benefit
    my business in India,similarly with Deepak Chopra and Bikram have their business in USA and they want it to grow there.

    I seriously doubt about their intentions,they are not morally capable of claiming anything regarding origin,objective
    of practice so closely related to religions of subcontinent and particularly to Hinduism which has been in practice
    for thousands of years.

  26. Akshey says:

    If "Experts" have practiced and benefited from Yoga and meditation they have every right to promote it
    as a practice and to grow their business,but claiming origin and relation with religion is pure academic subject
    and should be pursued objectively even though its origin dates thousand of years back.

    and sorry for the language I used for you ,you indeed have vast knowledge and there are many things I can learn from you


  27. Akshey says:

    Dear Rameshji,

    Are you aware of origins of Hinduism or you have any right to claim on its origin ,just it is that thousand of years back,there was no tradition of naming any religion
    as there was no other religion and I think there is no dispute on that,there were just a few religious doctrines
    practiced by rishis or sages of Indian origin and meditation and yoga was on of them

    in the course of time you developed the concept of religion,named it Hinduism or Sanatan Dharma,

    Is this procedure clear to you and FYI I don't identify my self with the term coined by foreigners mostly it is
    used to communicate with outsiders,it is easier for foreigners to communicate with terms coined by them,
    and very difficult to explain things to them

  28. Ramesh says:

    I basically agree with you here. And no need to apologize as you have made many important points that are important in this discussion. I very much welcome your input and passionate spirit and deep concern.

  29. Akshey says:

    see lady,

    In the course of time concepts changes, Christianity is only 2000 yrs old and it has already evolved to Catholicism and Protestant

    FYI spirituality in India is far older,when even the concept of religion was not introduced so be polite and respectful to practices followed by we Indians ,it is hodge podge for you becuz you doint understand it and not living with it,it is your limitation not ours and you are speaking as if you are an expert in it.

    Ultimate goal of Hindu is enlightment and he is free to explore his ways,but they are guided mainly by rules laid by gita,vedas and upnishids,though some the practices have become off tracked and have lost their actual purpose,
    but still it is their choice

    Hindus doin't own yoga as Hindus doin't own Hinduism itself.

    The oldest scripters in which Yoga is refereed is followed by Hindus,
    as Bible is followed by Christens but do they own Bible,may be after thousand of years
    it may loose its religious appeal and became a secular subject will its origin change??

  30. Akshey says:

    Well Rameshji,

    As per my Information none of the Hindu groups is claiming sole right over Yoga practices,no one wants to patent any form of asan because at the end of the day in this era of Globalization they will be at loss.

    But Hindus have every right to claim on its origin ,it has evolved from its religious practices,as hindus are not denying that a worst form of slavery that is a caste system has evolved from it.

    For me religions as such can't be categorized as good or bad,it is the people who are practicing it either have a
    good or bad intention and doing according to that only.Religion has an objective of expediting the process of enlightenment of comman masses (if one desires) but the cause is lost somewhere in power struggle,
    we are unable to see the high jacking of religion and it has become a mere a tool in the hands of powerful elites,

  31. Baba Rampuri says:

    Part 1

    "For starters, yoga is thousands of years older than Hinduism."

    This is a ridiculous statement.

    Yoga, as it is generally known in the West today, is not older than late 19th century, which is just after the idea of Hinduism, as it is generally known in the West, was constructed. What is contained in “Hinduism,” of course, is quite ancient. The construction of the idea of Hinduism did not construct the traditions that has supplied Hinduism with its content. Yoga arises out of that culture Hinduism serves to represent. The daughter does not give birth to the mother.

    “Hinduism,” both as a term and as an idea, is very 19th century, certainly not 1000 years old, and represents not just a colonial effort, but also an indigenous one to “essentialize” an entire ancient and complex culture according to the categories and point of view of Euro-American discourse of that time.

    The word “Hindu” is a very ancient word for the river Sindhu, the Indus, as many Prakrit languages in both India and outside (such as Persian) substitute the syllable “sa” with the syllable, “ha,” and the word is applied to the peoples who lived in the lands around and to the east of the Sindhu. The speakers of Avesta, Persian, and Prakrit Languages had no problem with pronunciation, they spoke a language other than Sanskrit. Remember, Sanskrit was and is a language spoken by few people.

    Hindu-ism is assigning an “ism” or belief to the peoples living around and to the east of the Indus. But since the peoples who have lived in greater Hindustan believe a great many things and have greatly diversified cultures, a combination of colonial interests with some indigenous ones constructed a Hinduism that was consistent with Western discourse, but has failed to include many of the beliefs and practices of a majority of people. This Hinduism has a textualist bias, in that it places much greater emphasis on the written text rather than oral transmission. Oral tradition is the means by which the vast majority of Indian culture has been maintained and practiced over the millennia, the written text has been known by the small minority.

    "Hinduism is not very old at all. The Vedas are old, Yoga is old, Tantra is old, Shaivism is old, but not Hinduism. So, if yoga is much older than Hinduism, how can Hindus claim they invented yoga?"

    “India” is a 19th century word, and “India,” as a modern nation with its national boundaries and constitution is a recent idea, but that doesn’t mean that India is not old! The “Hinduism” referred to is indeed a construction, but part of that construction is that the Vedas represent its genesis. So the Vedas, Tantra, Yoga, Shaivism are all included, i.e., constructed to inhabit “Hinduism.”

  32. Baba Rampuri says:

    Part 2

    "So, if yoga was not invented by Hindus, who actually invented it? Deepak Chopra and some historians will tell you “that yoga originated in the Vedic culture of Indo-Europeans who settled in India in the third millennium B.C., long before the tradition now called Hinduism emerged.”
    Deepak Chopra maintains that Hinduism is too “tribal” and “self-enclosed” to claim ownership of yoga. Consequently, according to him, yoga belongs to the Vedas and originated with the Vedic people."

    Indian tradition, by its own account, is not “invented,” but revealed, so the “schools” of thought are called darshanas; the beholding, rather than the inventing. These revelations take place, according to tradition, over a vast period of time, but the ones we know today, especially the ones accompanied by texts, we know mainly by the meticulous work of the Brahmin caste, who have maintained many of the traditions, through both oral and written transmission.
    When we speak of the traditions of the Vedas and Vedic people, we mainly refer to the Brahmin caste, and so Shaiva tradition is very much a part of Vedic tradition, but there is also a great deal of Shaiva tradition outside of Vedic tradition. There same may be said for Tantric tradition. If we drop our model of European history, we see no great dichotomy.

    “Think of Indian history this way: There are two archetypes within the Indian sacred traditions: the Vedic Priest and the Tantric (Shaiva) Yogi. While the Vedic priests developed Vedic prayer, mantra incantations and astrology, the Shaiva yogis were the inventors of yogic practice, meditation as well as yogic texts such as the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, in which the practices of yoga are detailed.”

    There is no competition between Vedic priests and Shaiva yogis, in fact, quite the opposite as a symbiosis exists between them as well as a great deal of shared knowledge. There is no ideological difference as well. The difference is one of lineage and one could say, caste. The Vedic priests administer, perform, teach, and transmit the Vedic rites and rituals as well as other rites and knowledge as part of their social/caste duties, while many Shaiva yogis, many of whom are coming from this caste, sever their caste duties and leave the world of social interaction among householders in what is often a Vedic ritual performed by Vedic priests, and join a guru lineage and assume the duties of that lineage. The Shaiva yogi’s primary relationship with the “ordinary” world, the public, is to give blessings. The Shaiva yogis give their teachings to their disciples who also sever their links with caste duties.

    “Throughout Indian sacred history, nobody went to a Vedic priest to study yoga.”

    Who did one go to for teachings of yoga and meditation? It depended on who you were. If you were a householder, you went to another householder, often a Brahmin or Vedic priest. So both the Vedic priests and the Shaiva yogis have used Vedic prayer, mantra incantations, astrology, yogic practice, and meditation. But neither side invented these things. These are “revealed knowledge.”

    The Vedic priests come to the Shaiva yogis for their blessings and advice, and Vedic priests administer the Vedic rites for Shaiva yogis. The two are very interconnected.

    “These scriptures were written down by rishis, swamis, tantrics, avadhutas, kapalikas—ascetic yogic living for the most part outside Vedic culture. Hence, I would venture to say that all of yoga, even these sacred texts now so central to Hindusim, originated outside mainstream Vedic society, but was gradually adopted by it as the Vedic Aryan outsiders gradually became the dominant culture in India.”

    Scriptures or “shastra” were not written, but recited and chanted. Some of the scriptures are revealed, some composed, but many of the shastras, even the Vedas, are attributed to someone, the Rishis, in the case of the Vedas. All the Rishis, many swamis, many avadhutas, many yogi ascetics, and many tantrics are firmly within Vedic culture.

    As far as “Vedic Aryan outsiders” are concerned, I would like to know from which scripture, shastra, or Tradition this arises. This is an expression directly coming from the 19th century construction of Hinduism.

    “…the yogis have also often remained fiercely independent of mainstream Vedic and Hindu culture.”

    Many, if not most Yogis are part and parcel of mainstream Vedic and/or Hindu culture. But remember, most traditional yogis are not householders, not following the rules of the various castes, which differ from each other, but following the rules of a lineage, which in many cases, makes their lifestyle very different, and manner of speech and behaviour very different.

  33. Ramesh says:

    Baba Rampuriji: Thanks so much for taking the time to reply in so much detail. First let me comment on your statement about my writing that yoga is thousands of years older than Hinduism, which you called "ridiculous."

    My point about Hinduism needs to be carefully contemplated, especially by Hindus. The reason yoga is thousands of years older than Hinduism is simply because nobody called themse…lves Hindus when yoga was developed. A) Hinduism did not really become part of our language before people started to identify as Hindus. 200 BCE Patanjali did not identify as Hindu, etc. In that same vein, Buddha did not consider himself a Buddhist. Religious tenets are sometimes started by individuals but religions grow from sentiments, institutions, power brokers, kings, leaders, dogmas…. This identification came as late as 400-600 AD, when Puranic religion and Brahmanism became more popular than Buddhism due to Shankaracarya's influence in India and thus served as a nationalizing sentiment. After that, the Hindu national sentiment regained momentum during the Muslim invasion. Hence my point is historically coherent.
    B) That said, you are of course right that Hinduism includes yoga as part of the many wisdom traditions and cultural traits India has developed over the ages. Still my point above is part of a historical point of view that needs to be considered and not ridiculed.
    C) My perspective on Indian history is this: Originally, India consisted of Mongols, Dravidians, Austrics who developed tantric/yogic/shaiva practice (around 5000 BCE onwards). During that time, India experienced a migration of Vedic people from the outside (this has been proven by geneticist Dr. Wells from Stanford), the Aryans, who brought with them the early Rikveda (the three other Vedas were developed I ndia). Hence, early Indian culture was part Vedic and part Shaiva and animism, etc. These two main trends developed what we today term Indian civilization. That's a broad generalization, of course, but is part of the discourse about India through various writers, scholars and yogis. But the point is, the yogic practices were not developed by Barahmin priests originally, but rather adopted by them over time as Indian civilization advanced. Hence, the Upanishads, Brahamanas, Gita etc represents the confluence of these two great traditions. In other words, what most people called the Vedic tradition (or Hinduism today) is really two traditions. Read Alain Danielou, N. N. Bhatacrayya. P. R. Sarkar, and more for more info on this view of Indian history. I know this is contested territory, but let's have a civil and open discourse without name calling.

  34. Ramesh says:

    Baba Rampuriji wrote: "When we speak of the traditions of the Vedas and Vedic people, we mainly refer to the Brahmin caste, and so Shaiva tradition is very much a part of Vedic tradition, but there is also a great deal of Shaiva tradition outside of Vedic tradition. There same may be said for Tantric tradition. If we drop our model of European history, we see no great dichotomy."

    While the greatness of Hinduism is its all-embracing, philosophical nature, underneath there are dark shadows, deep dichotomies that have historical roots. N. N. Bhattacarya writes in the book History of the Tantric Religion how Vedic priests "twisted tantric passages" to make them part of Vedic lore and teachings. While some vedic priests and Brahmins are well versed in tantric/shaiva practice today, this was not always the case. P. R. sarkar writes about the times when Vedic priests were not allowed to practice tantra/ shaivism. I have spent enough time in India to know that caste is a contested dark tradition and that the Brahmin priesthood is not just a benign institution that do not, as the Catholic or Christin church, harbor many bones in its closet.

  35. Ramesh says:

    Baba rampuriji: "The Shaiva yogi’s primary relationship with the “ordinary” world, the public, is to give blessings. The Shaiva yogis give their teachings to their disciples who also sever their links with caste duties."

    You write about this as if it sounds like changing shirts. It is not very easy to sever caste links in India. I lost a dear friend that way after he had to cut his sacred Brahmin thread in order to take up tantric initiation. The result: he was ostracized by his family until he gave up his tantric yoga and joined them in upholding the not-so-sacred tradition of caste and dogma.
    While there are deep dharmic and non-dogmatic and spiritual currents in Hinduism (which are those aspects coming from the Upanishads, the Gita, the Yoga Sutras, the Tantras and the various yogic practices), there are so many hideous dogmas in Hinduism as well, and that is one of the reasons why many of us steeped in the yoga tradition do not call ourselves Hindus. We embrace its deep spirituality but we speak out and shun its dogmas, such as casteism.

  36. The discussion about who owns yoga is not very meaningful unless yoga is defined, unless we know "who owns what". Really, the only common denominator in yoga today is the name. Yoga can refer to anything from sport to cosmic union.

    Think about the confusion that would arise if all disciplines of sport were referred to only as "sport". That is the situation we face with yoga.

    Wanted : A more precise vocabulary

  37. Ramesh says:

    While the title of my article was Who owns yoga?, the conclusion to my article was that nobody owns yoga, because yoga, like spirituality, like dharma, like air like water, is too precious, too refined, too subtle and too vast to own. So no need for a special vocabulary, unless you insist somebody owns yoga, the air, spirituality.

  38. Ramesh says:

    if your question, your want, pertains to the origins of yoga, the various styles of yoga and so forth, then we need to be specific, I agree.
    Baba Rampuriji and others are in part correct in stating that much of the yoga practiced here in the West today, is based on the hybrid yoga exercises developed by Krishnamacarya and his disciples. Mark Singleton has made a strong case for this in his book "Yoga Body." But this is only partly correct in that many of the basic Indian hatha yoga exercises taught by Krishnamcarya and others are also documented in the Hatha Yoga Pradiipika and The Gheranda Samhita, which were written down by Tantric natha yogis during the middle ages as based on much older oral teachings in Tantra/Shaivism. So, that is one specific thread of yoga that can be followed all the way back to Tantra of the Indus valley-3500-5000 BCE. But while Tantra/Sahivism is a broad umbrella that started very early in ancient times, there are many various schools of yoga, and if you want to discuss those, yes, one needs to be specific. But nobody really owns or even want to own or claim ownership of these schools either.
    Sage Patanjali (200 BCE) did not invent Asthanga Yoga, it was based on Samkhya philosophy (also Tangtra/Shaiva) and earlier Tantra yogic practice. And of course, as we go into all of these, opinions will also vary depending on who you talk to, what your perspective is. It's a great jungle out there in yogaland, but for many sincere seekers the goal is the same, so even philosophically and practically, yoga is often truly one, just as dharma and spirituality is One.

  39. Markus Rosbach says:

    Let's steer away from hindu controversies, after all its just a name for an undefined conglomerate of beliefs, sometimes distorted or misunderstood in essence like the word "christian" covers a wide range of churches. Let's ask ourselves where did the notion of the musical system come from ? How did we come about choosing a seven day rythm for a week with one day of rest. Both are based on ancient yogic knowledge with seven chakras as a base. Now who has a patent on that one ? Where did two of the most ancient symbols come from – the six-pointed star or for instance the swastika ? Nothing but age-old tantric traditions can give you those answers. The follow up question is: who was an authority on these ? Himalayan yogis with as a center personality Shiva as the supreme yogi.

    Markus Rosbach

  40. Ramesh says:

    Baba Rampuriji:
    The yoga I referred to is the yoga of the Gita, the yoga of the Shaiva yogis in the Indus Valley 3500 BCE, the Shamkhya Tantra of Kapila, the Asthanga Tantra Yoga of Sage Patanjali, all these forms of yoga are older than Hinduism, which we both seem to agree is a more recent phenomenon.
    I agree with you that most of the hatha yoga styles practiced in the West are 19th century hybrids of what Krishnamaxarya invented based on a mixture of Natha Hatha Yoga of the Hatha Yoga Pradipika and western style gymnastic. But keep in mind that many of us here in the West have spent years in India learning a much more dharmic yoga that includes the most sublime teachings of the Vedas and the Tantras.

  41. Ramesh says:

    Markus, thanks for your comments, which I basically agree with….

  42. Ramesh says:

    Baba Rampuriji,

    First of all, I respectfully suggest you stop patronizing me and join me in a civil discourse. You have misunderstood and misrepresented many of my points. The Indigenous Indians, before the Aryans arrived, had created the worlds most incredible psycho-spiritual technology, namely yoga. They had also the worlds first urban city complexes, namely Mehrgarh, (7000 BCE) located in now Pakistan. They had invented the musical octave, they had invented mudraic dance, they had developed tantric and ayurvedic medicine. They were also relatively peaceful compared to the nomadic Aryans whose main superiority was their weaponry and military skills.

    This view is hardly a western colonial view point. N. N. Bhattacarya is not a Westerner; his books on Indian tantric history are written from the point of view of India, the indigenous population, not from the point of view of the West. Romila Thapur is not from the West, she is being branded a Marxist historians by scholars such as Frawley and Feuerstein (both westerners) because she upholds the theory of an Aryan invasion, while they do not.

    And for Alain Danileou, he lived in India for over 30 years, was initiated into Tantra; his historical views are that of the Puranas, not a Western view point at all, as well as the oral tantric tradition. P. R. Sarkar is also Indian and come from the Tantric tradition and his view is that India was the cradle of human civilization long before Egypt, Sumeria, etc. This is also hardly a Western academic view point. These issues are complex, yes, but these viewpoints are out there, both in academia and in yoga. Speaking of Yoga, Swami Satynanada saraswati also speaks of Tantra being the mother of yoga and of Indian spirituality and also distinguishes between vedic and Tantric spirituality. These two strands, as you say, have now of course merged to a great extent over time.

    As you know, dating is a problem with Indian History. Dates vary and the main point are the broad views and trends.

    As for the origin of the word yoga:
    It is Sanskrit yes, and Sanskrit developed by the blending of Vedic and Indigenous Indian languages and developed inside India.
    Here’s Sarkar’s view on that: The Vedic Aryans brought Vedic Sanskrit to India which blended with Dravidian and Austric languages, but he credits the Indinegnous yogis with developing the phonetic language alphabet of Sanskrit. Thus Sanskrit developed in part outside India and in part Inside India.

    I am well aware of the various theories about Aryan invasion or non-invasion: There are basically three theories: 1) Max Mueller and also many Indian scholars ssuggest that the Aryans invaded India around 1990 BCE. This view is also still held by most Western academics. 2) Frawley and Feuerstein, two western yoga writers have contested this theory and claim there was never an Aryan invasion. 3) They say the only possibility the Aryans invaded India is that they came much earlier, and that is exactly what the gentics of Dr. Wells as well as the indigenous P.. R. sarkar claims: the Aryan Rikvedic people cam into India much earlier, around 5000 BCE.

    As for yoga being experiential, I can hardly agree more. I have practiced for several decades and lived in India for several years, so I agree, of course.

    I have also spent time with yogis who are steeped in tantra and yoga, so to claim I am colonizing yoga is not at all a fair assessment.

  43. Ramesh says:

    From Facebook written by Baba Rampuriji:
    Roar, I called your statement about Yoga being older than Hinduism ridiculous, but now that you mention your writing, I think you have to do much more research before you make claims such as those you are making.

    Your point of view is coloni…al, that the yogis, and the Indians, the Hindus, the Iraqis, Afghans, and others are not capable of representing themselves and must be represented by an Imperial culture that orders the world. Those thinking about gender politics would throw women in there as well. You seem to want the Western Academy and therefore Western discourse to be our authority on Yoga.

    But, in order to do this, you require a great deal more academic discipline. For example, the Academy has it that Adi Shankara lived at the end of the 8th century AD, not 400-600 AD, as you write. The Academy would also inform you that "yoga" is a sanskrit word, so the word could hardly have been used by Austrics, before, as you say it, the outsider Aryans brought Sanskrit to India, which was not the same India that we think of today. The Aryan invasion THEORY is also being academically disputed today, and I think you are a little behind contemporary academic thinking. Many of us Westerners who have been into Indian culture and Yoga for years discredited this theory years ago as being an archaic relic of 19th century colonialism.

    I knew Alain Danielou, would visit him at his villa outside of Rome, and corresponded with him for years. He was a musician, not an historian. His ideas on history were his own, influenced by Reverend Caldwell and a Jesuit Father Heras on Dravidian issues. Although a truly fascinating man, his theories of Indian History are wonderful, but can hardly be taken seriously.

    But, here's the point: As one practicing yoga, what is the source of authority for one's practice? Yoga is emperical, it is based on experiencing things, with guidance and commentary from those who have already experienced and mastered those things. A Yogi applies this knowledge to the experience and articulation of the whole world.

    So, how can we rely on third and fourth hand representations of something by people with no experience of these things, but a non-contextual, ahistorical approach to another's culture? We can now easily see where that approach has taken us in Iraq and Afghanistan (and other places).

    Why colonize yoga? If yoga is all that people claim, then why try to alter it, change it, to fit our rather unenlightened view of the world? And, as you describe the yogi as somewhat of a renegade, why take up the cause of the colonizer, it's rationale, assumptions, and methods? Where are the voices of the yogis, themselves, in your article? I hear only the same voices I read in the New York Times.

    I'm not name-calling. I'm challenging you and everyone else to think about how we know things such as yoga, to whom or what do we assign authority for this knowledge, and why this authority should inform us.

    If your conclusion is that the Academy and its current discourse is your authority, then go to them for your yoga lessons.

  44. Aarti says:


    My opinions are not connected with any one but my own experience in the practice. What is truly unfortunate and damaging is to confine and categorize something that does not use this kind of descriptive language. Looking for origins is a quest to understand but what it also does is create ownership over something that does not necessarily lend itself to be defined in these terms.

  45. Ramesh says:

    the ancient and the modern and post-modern are intimately connected throughout the history of yoga. Vivekananda was a disciple of Ramakrishna and the two represents an interesting dichotomy of thought–Ramakrishna was premodern and a bhakti Tantric while also steeped in Vedanta, while Vivekananda was a modernist, nationalist and also deeply rooted in the ancient Vedanta. In a sense Vivekananda represented modernity in India but without shaking some of its pre-modern shackles, such as the caste system, and many other dogmas. Aurobindu was another seminal figure who is perhaps even more instrumental in shaping modern yoga.
    Singleton singles out Vivekananda's distaste for hatha yoga, and I think that assumption is correct, but a westerner must remember that in India yoga has much more to do with the spirit than the body, especially in Vedanta.
    It is in Tantra that the body/spirit duality has been unified since the beginning, this intimate tie has been alive in India since the beginning of yoga and Singleton do not appreciate and emphasize that enough in his book. Moreover, he does not appreciate the Vedic/Tantric duality as well as unity, and how this has influenced and shaped Indian yoga over the eons. I do not blame you for finding that confusing, but I do feel I understand this now to a great extent, but it took a few years of learning.
    Singleton also downplays the Tantric hatha yoga contribution to modern yoga and focuses too much on the idea that it barely exists at all. I would disagree. And thus one needs to be very specific in one's criticism.
    I do agree with him, however, that the way body yoga is practiced in the US is quite different from the totality of yoga and its history and practice. Yes, yoga studio yoga is for the most part body focused and fitness oriented and that is a new, modern trend or development. I agree.
    I also agree that Krishnamacarya, Yogendar et al is the source of that body yoga trend, but I do not think Vivekananda had much to do with this development, rather I think that these people represent modern India expressed in their own unique ways. We should also not forget that Kirshnamacary was steeped in the Vedas, Ayurveda, the Yoga Sutras, so on the whole he brought with him more from that past than he invented new things.
    However, once these teachings got to the West they were watered down further.
    If you see the documentary film Yoga Unveiled you strongly get the sense that modern body yoga only represent a sliver of the totality of yoga. I do not agree with this film's emphasis on yoga originating in the Vedic tradition, but nevertheless it captures this point well.
    So to sum up, someone practicing hatha yoga in the power yoga style and not studying the yoga sutras, not meditating using a mantra, not singing kirtan etc is only practicing 5 percent at the most of the totality of yoga practice. Moreover, those asanas are practiced in a style not even conducive to a contemplative lifestyle. But that's another story. Someone practicing as asanas and meditating, doing paranyama, follwing yama and niyama the whole asthanga, is on the other hand an integral yogi–part Vivekananda and part Krioshnamacarya. Yes, if you put them both together, you will see a yogi not unlike the King of Yoga, Shiva, not unlike those Nata Tantrics who wrote down the oral teachings that had existed for thousands of years in the hatha yoga pradipika and the Geranda Samhita.
    Thankfully there are thousands of such wholesome yogis in the West and in India as well today, even though most so-called yogis are body oriented yogis.

  46. Ramesh says:

    Carol: You wrote:
    "Hence the HAF's complaints that people like Chopra and Tolle, as well as the yoga community in general, are working with Hindu ideas and practices but refusing to acknowledge that fact."

    This issue is framed by those who identify as Hindus. I do not identify as a Hindu. There are many reasons why modern yogis do not associate with Hinduism. I can only speak for myself, and I do not consider my practices Hindu, even though as a scholar I sometimes use the term Hindu-tantra to distinguish it from, for example, Buddhist-tantra, for the main reason that these tantric practices predate Hinduism and are based on universal dharma, mysticism, yoga, the quest for liberation. This dharma is found among seekers within all religions, but religions often espouse dogma and superstition, not liberation, or spirituality, or dharma, hence I do not consider myself religious. I am a spiritual person practicing the intuitional science of Tantra Yoga.

    My teacher, Anandamurti, an Indian who spoke out against many religious dogmas such as the caste system, dowry, the treatment of widows, the dogma that woman cannot achieve amancipation, etc. said this: “To seek infinite bliss is the only dharma of humanity. Humanity has but one dharma. Thus, the question of the unification of religions does not arise. The apparent dissimilarity between various religions arising due to differences in their ritualistic practices is not a spiritual difference. Whenever rituals dominate and efforts to attain bliss are feeble, whatever that may be, it is not spirituality.”


  47. Markus Rosbach says:

    Praying to Laxmi on a particular day expecting to get financial gain etc. are among many ritualistic observances which I would not consider spiritual, while meditating at midnight on new moon has definite benefits connected to the rythm of secretion of our glands and hormones just like the little known fact that all the 50 letters of the Sanskrit alphabet are related to the 50 vrtis or expressions of the seven chakras, documented by the writings on Tantra by Sir John Woodrofe who did extensive research in india. That by the way contradicts earlier comments that Sanskrit was brought into India by the "vedic" Aryans. So we have to clearly distinguish between what is spiritual or "Dharmic" and what is purely ritualistic.

  48. Yogananda Puri says:

    It really baffles me that noone is questioning their source(s) of knowledge or to be more correct, the origin of their fragmented ideas.
    Who is Sir John Woodroffe, well his name doesn’t indicate that he was a sannyasi or that he had received any formal initiation. Ok, so he hung out in India for some years, why…? He was a judge for the British Empire, and apparantly had a fascination for Indian Esoteric Traditions, mainly tantra.
    So does this give him authority to speak on yoga????
    When he talks about letters it clearly reveals his ignorance, there are no letters in Sanskrit there are syllables, matrikas. So if he makes this fundamental mistake, what about the rest…
    He’s making it up, just as Bikram Choudhury is, just as Ramesh Bjonnes is !

  49. Baba Rampuri says:

    You make a very strong point when you say (neo-) Hinduism and modern yoga were syncretic from the beginning…. and I agree with that.

    Since we in the West think of religion as being defined as having a doctrine and a text, we want to find a doctrine and its text, what everybody who is a Hindu believes in. So, using the way we understand religion, the way it operates in the West, its categories, we search for its essences. We have our cultural biases, such as a textual bias, that doesn't operate the same way in oral cultures. So we construct a Hinduism that makes sense to us and fits into our mapping of the world, based on that search for essences.

    The construction of Hinduism was only idea in the 19th century: there were very few Hindus that were anything like they were imagined to be. But to Vivekananda, and other Indians, this was an opportunity to use the colonizer's construction as a unifying call to all Indians to overcome the cultural and political domination of the British and of Christianity.

    The construction of Hinduism emphasizes neo-vedanta as doctrine, Bhagavad Gita as text, somewhat of a monotheistic Brahman as the deity, and the Vedas as the ultimate genesis.

    However, the vast majority of Hindus continued to believe what they believed and practiced what they practiced.

    It was the urban middle class that began to fit the constructed model of what a Hindu "should be."

    And this is who Vivekananda was speaking to. Essentialized universal values and the injection of Science were two qualities that were very popular with both his Eastern and Western audiences, and gave birth to the modern yoga movement.

    But, the majority of India, including all the greater and lessor traditions, remained separate from this, subject, of course, to some influence, and continued in unbroken lineages as they had been doing for, in some cases, millenia.

    Both the moderns and the traditionals are equally Hindus. Being a Hindu is more a fact of one's blood, rather than someone one believes. So Ramesh is correct to say he is not a Hindu. About the only thing I know of that Hindus have in common is gotra, they all have a "clan," a blood lineage. And there is nothing whatsoever one must believe to practice Hatha Yoga for its many benefits, it's got nothing to do with being a Hindu.

    The traditions, however, are not informing the Modern Yoga Movement. As you pointed out, it's genesis is post-Vivekananda, and is based on different principles than exist in the old traditions. Science became very important to the modern yoga movement not only as a marketing device, but as a methodology of improving, improvising, and allowing much greater creativity to asanas, pranayama, and other operations. The empiricism of science of the new yoga contrasted with the empiricism of guru lineage in a tradition, as the traditional method of acquisition of knowledge is based on revelation and oral commentary, rather than scientific method and texts.

    So, I guess the ultimate answer is that really we are talking about two yogas: A Yoga Tradition that exists from ancient times up until today, and a Modern Yoga Movement.

    Does the Modern Yoga Movement owe a debt to Hinduism for yoga? Does America owe a debt to Italy for Pizza? However, for those few who may be curious to move beyond the perimeters of the Modern Yoga Movement, it is helpful to know where it all came from.