As I surf the internet, checking out my favorite yoga studios and teachers, I find that trademarks are everywhere—
from names of yoga studios, to weird new yoga combinations. Some of my best friends and amazing yoga teachers are increasingly worrying about their credentials and staying current with their teachers’ standards.
What have we done to yoga in the west? Many of my students came to yoga because of the exclusion they felt from their church and the separation they felt as they witnessed people arguing over who has the rights to the word God (or maybe that was just me). Anyways… Are we doing the same with these trademarks and lawsuits in our yoga world? Who owns Yoga? Maybe nobody, yet, but someone does own Doga (yoga and massage for your dogs) and Spoga (mindful spinning and yoga comb class) and soon Smoga.
I often just laugh off the trademarked yoga world. However, sometimes I feel like I need to trademark “my style”, my cool new creative vinyasa sequence, or my funny pun on some yoga word. I’d wrap it up in pretty pink paper, and spout about its healing effects, the super powers that it has given me, and mass market it! Usually these fantasies happen when I have had too much black juice in the morning, or have been practicing too much Bikram Yoga.
I think this trade marking process destroys yoga; not because of the business and labeling politics, but because now the developer of this system has just put their yoga in a box. Anyone who has been teaching, for even a short time, knows you can’t do this with yoga and especially with humans. We are always evolving and changing and so should the practice. What would have happened if Krishnamacharya had tried to systematize his style of yoga and trademark it? His energy would have went towards legal processes instead of his students. Just think of all of the different styles that would never have emerged. We have Iyengar, Ashtanga, Vinyasa and Yoga Therapy that all come from this great teacher, and imagine all of the trademarked styles that have come out of these.
When we start trademarking do we narrow our thinking and stop teaching to the individual? When I first started teaching Vinyasa, and someone new would show up to class, I would just continue my level 2/3 class, because the majority of people loved it! Instead of including the new student into our kula I suggested the new student should find a more appropriate class.
Then I remembered, “Hey Dani, guess what, yoga is not about you, and being a kick butt yoga rock star. Yoga is about meeting everyone where they are, and helping them find realization and inner well-being.”
Humbling…but for once that little voice was starting to make sense. Can we achieve this when we are hung up on owning sequences, styles, and plays on the word Yoga? Where is our energy really going? Is Yoga about serving or making money, and patting ourselves on the back for how clever we can be? Are any of us practicing Asteya (non stealing), really?
Isn’t trademarking about being attached to results, and doesn’t the Bhagavad Gita teach us to live with dispassion, and to not be attached to results?
Yoga didn’t start with us and it certainly isn’t going to end with us. Right now someone out there is probably working on trademarking your brilliant idea, and if that isn’t true, than it is probably just a bad idea, so go back to meditation cushion.
Developing “new” systems from this ancient, holistic way of living is a creative process—and if that is what you are called to do, then do it. Just don’t leave anyone out in the process, because yoga is for everyone.
If we can really reach and teach more people because of our trademarking, play on words, and business antics, than go for it—but if it is not serving any greater good than your ego, please revisit the yamas and niyamas while they are available to us all.
Like Bryan Kest says, “You can take what you learn from Yoga and apply it to your life, or you can bring what you do in life to mat, and turn your yoga into shit.”
Let’s get real and get it right! Rock on!
Bio: Dani is a yoga teacher and asana addict that loves Love, Life, Family, Food, God, and, of course, Yoga. “Since I am unable to quiet the mental chatter and control thirst for earthly pleasures I live, write, and laugh and my human-ness.” Dani leads yoga workshops and teacher trainings, and is the founder of Pranayoga Foundation, a nonprofit teaching yoga to people with cancer and chronic illness. For more about Dani check out danimcguire.com and pranayogafoundation.org.