Bikram sues Yoga to the People.

Via Waylon Lewis
on Dec 2, 2011
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^ Click for full lawsuit. Can Yoga be owned? Sign the petition, here, if you say no.

Yoga from the Bikram, Yoga to the People.

Bikram sues Yoga to the People, which is copying Bikram and charging far less—bad business! But yoga, of course, isn’t just a business.

Scumbag Bikram? Not so fast.

It’s on the cover of the NY Times, right now.

Clearly, Yoga to the People has borrowed/stolen/adapted a great deal of Bikram’s sequencing and teachings.

From a strictly business point of view, Bikram has a case. Yoga to the People‘s founder was close with Bikram (“For almost five years, I worked with Bikram was often a guest in his home and he in mine”), studied with him, and essentially teaches Bikram’s sequencing and messaging in a hot environment…at a far lower price. Similar, you could say, to cheap fake fashion knock-offs.

But, yoga lineage is not analogous to the fashion industry, nor Capitalism. And so…

From a You’re-a-Great-Yoga-Teacher-but-still-a-Miserable-Unhappy-Human-Being point of view, greedy Bikram should probably go take some classes at Yoga to the People:

^ Note the copyright symbol. Painful / Delicious Irony, anyone? ~ ed.



About Waylon Lewis

Waylon Lewis, founder of elephant magazine, now & host of Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis, is a 1st generation American Buddhist “Dharma Brat." Voted #1 in U.S. on twitter for #green two years running, Changemaker & Eco Ambassador by Treehugger, Green Hero by Discovery’s Planet Green, Best (!) Shameless Self-Promoter at Westword's Web Awards, Prominent Buddhist by Shambhala Sun, & 100 Most Influential People in Health & Fitness 2011 by "Greatist", Waylon is a mediocre climber, lazy yogi, 365-day bicycle commuter & best friend to Redford (his rescue hound). His aim: to bring the good news re: "the mindful life" beyond the choir & to all those who didn't know they gave a care. | His first book, Things I would like to do with You, is now available.


27 Responses to “Bikram sues Yoga to the People.”

  1. Christine says:

    A friend of mine had some videos years ago made by Racqeul Welch demonstrating birkram yoga. He said the videos are no longer made because she was sued by Birkram. Sounds to me like Birkram is making it about business and not about people. My friend really benefited a lot of these videos in reducing pain. Don't worry, Birkram, you won't be getting any of my money.

  2. cathy says:

    Still love my Bikram Yoga… I don't feel like it is expensive. And if someone has gone and ripped off Bikram's copyright well sorry…. go take regular Yoga.. I like that also and practice both regularly, but the benifits of Bikram have been so great I am happy to pay him and his franchisees the money to do it. His is just protecting the franchisees that have paid to provide his service.

  3. elephantjournal says:

    Via Reddit: "No individual poses are copyrighted. Bikram copyrighted a sequence of 26 postures (out of thousands of Yoga Postures). YTTP is teaching that 26 posture sequence, and the owner of YTTP used to own a bunch of Bikram Yoga studios."

  4. Ben_Ralston says:

    Pains me to see the word Yoga in so many of these things. Will there come a day when *nothing* is sacred anymore? Are we already there?

  5. elephantjournal says:

    PS: there "will be a proper payment"…I don't think the classes are donation any more. ~ Waylon

  6. elephantjournal says:

    Francine Fournier I love the "pure" discipline of Yoga. I hate how certain people have turned it into a greedy business:(

    Tabitha Kot K, so, NO ONE owns Yoga. And if you can sue someone for teaching the same sequencing I'd best get ready for my teachers to come banging on my door with a subpoena, cuz I borrow what's good, plain and simple. Seriously….I think we've lost sight of something here, BIG TIME!

    Terry Younglove Bikram needs alot of money to be happy in his Journey. Lets not pick on him and his business model

    Carson Zi My opinion… Yoga (union) is our birthright as human beings. Bikram's thinking here (again, in my opinion) is archaic… this is "old thinking." Time to move forward, forward into an era where it's not all about the "getting"… time to move forward into a time where it's all about the *giving.* Time to stop trying to get enlightenment for ourselves and time to start giving it away. Time to work together, not against each other. Just my opinion. ♥

    Jackie Dumaine I am not against yoga being a business – it adds HUGE value to the world and is rapidly transforming our planet. There is nothing wrong with creating an abundant life from this. What saddens me however, is when the focus shifts from sharing yoga as vehicle for transformation to one of competition and greed. APARIGRAHA.

    Kate Jones It's the age old adage that if you pay for it you will value it more.. what a tradgic commentary on our times…

    Terry Younglove let examine it1.bikram has a patent on a limited series of postures done in a certain way. no one says you cant do yoga it is his series and business model. each person or studio can come up with their own if they choose to create a trade mark. Yoga to the people has copied and marketed his trade mark. In this country it is unlawful. let them make their own series it is pirating and that is not right

    Kate Jones their own series…mmmm… is not all yoga a series passed from teacher to student? Is it not ALL copying and marketing something you've learned from another? IF that opinion holds true.. then how could anyone share what they HAVE LEARNED WITH OTHERS….
    Lisa Ostrikoff Interesting read re: business of yoga <in one instance>

    Carson Zi My opinion….aaaagain. ;D

    As we continue to open and see ourselves more clearly (by engaging in consistent yoga practices) there is a natural progression towards karma yoga (selfless service). This happens because yoga practices help to dissolve the veil of separation between "self" and "other," and as this veil dissolves we naturally start to see our Self in everyone and everything around us. Then, every action/non-action becomes service to the Divine that exists in everything.

    That said, Bikram is certainly (lawfully) entitled to trademark his own intellectual property (the Bikram sequence and dialogue). But, if you are looking at Bikram's Hot Yoga as a system to bring oneself to a place of Union (which is the goal of every traditional yoga system), and if you are looking at Bikram himself as someone who epitomizes the fruit of practicing Bikram's system of yoga, then I would conclude that his system does not work (to bring about a living experience of unity). He is obviously not acting from a place of service to others. He is acting from a place of serving himself. There is nothing wrong with making money by helping others to come to experience their true nature…. we all have to make money. But when money becomes the goal and it's no longer about serving other's selflessly, well, in my opinion we have lost sight of what really matters in Life.

    Again, just my (very long-winded) opinion. ;P

    Kate Jones But if you wanna sell the exact same burger use a single different spice and instead of secret sauce call it thousand island dressing and you have the same thing.. there's no protection in the law in this instance.. it's got to have some small differences that make it unique and different… other than price or people wouldn't do it!!!In my humble opinion : in this case Bikram should just lower their prices: the original is always the better if the price is the same…. but a better question: why would anyone defend the right to be greedy, selfish or exclusionary? Should not the teacher be proud of the student and revel in the success they helped create????

    Mel Smith As much as I am not a fan of the bikram approach to yoga, I do have to agree with Terry. He is suing for the combined use of the series and script. I agree those 26 postures and free to take and teach at will however to do then in the same order, with that same horrific (in my opinion) 500 page script?? Anyone who has been to birkram classes knows what script I am talking about! I don't think there is an instructor out there that would just walk into a studio and bark out that script without spending a lot of time memorizing it. In my mind he has a case, like it or not.

  7. elephantjournal says:

    Terry Younglove ‎Bikram Choudhury may be self serving and I say "may" carefully cause i will not judge him. He and his business /school has every right to preserve itself in our economy. Yoga to the people are doing things intentionally wrong and Im sorry but unless trademark issues become void they will lose. I am am not sure Bikram is wrong in preserving his school

    Alison Estill This is a loaded issue. I fudamentally disagree with Bikram suing for the use of the 26 Asanas, as they are not his original material, they have been gifted to us as an opportunity for growth & as a path to enlightenment. I just feel that trying to own something such as Yogasana, is very similar to the biotech debate. Can you own genetic material? Is it possible to quantify & subdivide the Divine? When we allow one Teacher to claim ownership of something bigger than ourselves, it seems that the potential implications for other practitioners become quite frightening. Where does it stop? It seems to open up a serious Pandora's box in which anyone can claim & patent a series of postures, which would then potentially limit the availability of them to others….. I just intuitively feel that the ramifications of this lawsuit could be really damaging to the yoga community…. Jus sayin,

    Kate Jones And here I thought the purpose of knowledge that benifits : is to be shared…

    Marnie Oatway Wow! Bikram's at it again!

    Sylvie van Steenoven This is not the first time he sues someone either!! I am torn because a) he did trademark the 26 poses and that insane script that ALL his teachers use, so legally he has a case b) if we are talking about morals and the principle behind yoga, then it is a sin that this is about money. shouldnt a teacher be proud that their students have learned from them and want to now become teachers themselves and spread the love to everyone they can? I have done Bikrams classes and the poses are amazing, I do however block out the script from the instructors because it is WORD FOR WORD at every class! Does he have a case, yes…..should this never be about money and about helping your fellow human beings…YES!!

    Connie Ellis I dont know alot about Bikram..and am new to the yoga scene…but all i have seen or read is disturbing…he seems to have a platform on simple control and greed…so sad


  8. elephantjournal says:

    Stephen Garrett Doesn't yoga mean union? Odd how it can be used to separate!
    Scott Wallin It will be interesting to see what happens, I can imagine Bikram has a possibility of "winning" ~ however~ I LOVE this from the article;
    "From a You’re-a-Great-Yoga-Teacher-but-still-a-Miserable-Unhappy-Human-Being point of view, greedy Bikram should probably go take some classes at Yoga to the People" =)

    Sylvie van Steenoven very true Stephen!

    Sylvie van Steenoven Scott, he will win as he has in previous law suits! He legally has trademarked his sequential poses and script, so the law is on his side without question. It boils down to the principle behind Yoga, which to me, he doesnt follow.

    Kate Jones I think Scott's right.. no correct clothes, proper payment, glorified teachers.. I think someone is thumbing their nose at someone and the only retaliation is a childish and hurtful lawsuit….

    Scott Wallin ‎"Houston, we have a failure to transcend!" =) it sounds like that, doesn't it, Kate?… people tripping over "self" on their way to losing it…

    Jackie Dumaine I'm loving the engagement and conversation in this thread…there are so many ways to look at it and I'm so open to all of it! – Here's another thought: First of all, I don't believe Bikram studios charge much more than others (although his teacher training is quite pricey). If someone's first introduction to yoga is Bikram, they will begin to notice changes and benefits – but may soon tire of the same sequence and dialogue, prompting them to explore other forms of yoga. Then it's their choice on which "style" suits them…and this may change from month to month and year to year. I know for me it does, which is why I'm so grateful to have a variety of yoga lineages to practice from. I'm FAR from being a completely enlightened human being however (although I would consider myself AWAKE). It's a misconception that yogis spend every moment of their lives in pure bliss. In the end, it's all YOGA and it's all GOOD. Let's just hope that the judge in this lawsuit is a yogi 🙂

    Danny James Ryan ‎"Use only that which works, and take it from any place you can find it." -from "Jeet Kune Do" by Bruce Lee-
    Christa Stewart I just came upon this issue and being in yoga teacher training and learning about a lot of the gurus and sages… Bikram certainly has a opposite approach. All the other great teachers that are blessed to pass on the teachings of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras understand the responsibility in that. A lot have even given up all material possessions to become Swami's. Bikram got caught up in the world of ego and greed… the antithesis of yoga. However, a patent is a patent and money buys GREAT lawyers and he did create his own "business model". It is what it is…. I am just surprised that such a "well known" yogi doesn't understand the concept of Karma 🙂
    Sandra Munro Thorne Imagine what the Yoga community would be like if Pattabhi Jois had put a copy right on the Ashtanga series.

    Jackie Dumaine Okay – I've decided I will be developing my own sequence. I'm calling it "Rock the Savasana" and it will be 90 minutes of Savasana. The dialogue is silence. I will be trademarking this exclusive sequence so if any of you Yogis try to steal this from me, watch out! I used to watch Law and Order, I know my rights! (sorry, just had to add a little humour to all of this).

  9. mimi says:

    GO into inner cities and open studios there and teach for free….No? Oh I forgot. It's a business. uhuh. Yoga for everyone?

  10. AlanC says:

    I love the universe of yoga that exists. I love the fact I can now go to a number of studios, all featuring a range of different styles and approaches. I also love the fact that Bikram exists and maintains his standard. I can (and I do) travel anywhere in the world and know exactly what the experience is going to be walking into a Bikram classroom. And seriously, from a business perspective, it takes very little thought to be far enough away from Bikram class to not get sued – in this vast universe of yoga. Anyone without the imagination to be far enough away is either stupid or looking for publicity themselves.

  11. Maddie says:

    the traditional hot classes (i.e. bikram style) are not donation–they're $8–but the vinyasa classes at the st. marks studio still are and always have been by donation.

  12. Maddie says:

    How can one steal yoga? By saying this you resign yoga to the category of something that can be owned, patented, copyrighted. Should something so good, so transformative really be limited to those who can afford it only for the sake of protecting one (greedy) man's "intellectual property"? I think it will be a deeply upsetting if YTTP is prevented from making yoga accessible to so many people, regardless of how much money they have.

  13. elephantjournal says:

    Well, that's great. And $8 is great, too. Just not sure the above manifesto is 100% accurate anymore.

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  15. catnipkiss says:

    WOW. I love Bikram yoga and practice it everywhere I visit, but at home I can really only afford to go to one studio. I will choose one that has the Bikram elements: the series or some facsimile thereof, the holding and going deep, and of course the heat. But it will also have a variety of other choices: Vinyassa flow classes, etc. At a Bikram studio you just don't get that. What do I feel bad about? Knowing that the "hot yoga" class is indeed borrowed from Bikram without being an actual Bikram class. But in these classes there are differences: usually there is no verbatim script, variations in poses are suggested and allowed, etc.

  16. catnipkiss says:

    Bikram is no more expensive than any other yoga. Joining a studio costs a minimum of $100 a month ANYWHERE, and some are a lot more. Devotees will always find their local Bikram studio if they want to only do one style of yoga. Other people will find studios that offer more variety. Of course you cannot patent centuries-old hatha yoga asanas! Many studios do a hot yoga class without getting sued. I think this is a personal thing, if the YFTP guy was indeed a friend and then did a rip-off move and was smug about it, then Bikram is retaliating. (That would piss me off, too!) I don't think it is about greed; it's about disrespect.
    – Alexa Maxwell

  17. Kevin says:

    John Chisenhall hits it on the nose, and Maddie obviously works for YTTP, or is a complete moron, or both…how can you say they did not steal? What do you think stealing is? They ripped off the exact yoga sequence from Bikram after working beside him for years, and deny it to this day. Bikram copyrighted the sequence of postures, not the postures themselves. Like Zumba, or Swan Lake. If you don't know what big words like "copyright" and "steal" mean, look them up.

  18. Vision_Quest2 says:

    The soundtrack to your Rock the Savasana has to be a looped John Cage classic – 4'33"

  19. iganz says:

    yoga is the only thing i have right now. something that keeps me going… please don ' t ruin it for me. i don't want to know who is suing whom on yoga… shouldn it be left to their karma?

    i left business and i am practicing yoga exactly not to be close to business and law suits. i am not naive, just tired of business.

  20. cathy says:

    And it is not much less I can go to a bikram class for less then 8 dollars if I buy an unlimited month and commit to doing it at least 10 times that month… which for me is not a hard commitment.

  21. chad says:

    I think I saw somewhere that Bikram received his signature sequence of poses from his own teacher, whoever that was, and I doubt his teacher copyrighted or trademarked the sequence. I'm sure Bik wants to protect his sequence as it is the keystone of his fortune (reminds of the Maharishi, who owned so many rolls royce autos). But it really stinks IMO, and though many love his hot classes and benefits, many do not and have had physical problems from doing this sequence. He puts out books with his sequence in it, so actually anybody can learn the sequence for the price of a book. I hate institutionalized yoga–anusara, whatever, you name it.

  22. YTTP < BY says:

    After spending my time and reading these three particular comments/replies… Kevin. i could not agree with you more. WELL SAID. You nailed everything i was thinking. the creator of YTTP… ex- certified BY teacher. (gone Benedict Arnold). How many times do we hear something along the lines of this in this century? Music Business, Movie rights, etc. If BY is not the way it is, their would be more (Greg Gumacios) in this world. People who act upon emotions. In this case… jealousy or intuitive thought. Look back to everyone Bikram has had to sue in the past. And all in respect to ensure the future safety of HIS certified BY instructors. SO (maddie and everyone else). just THINK about where you live… and what humans are capable of doing. Someone has to challenge the master? rite? its all about COMPETITION at the end of the day, no? if not why is YYTP created by a EX- BIKRAM YOGA INSTRUCTOR.?? YA"LL ARE BLINDED BY THE TRUTH! "Blind leading another blind": its almost like we were warned about this… oh wait?! we where? its called HISTORY. its human nature to challenge the best. otherwise how do you excel?

  23. Hot yoga is similar to traditional yoga. A single session lasts for 90 minutes wherein the exercises (26 postures and 2 breathing exercises) are performed in a heated room of 105F (or 40.6C).

  24. Sammy says:

    Hatha Yoga Pradipika, rather, talks about the 84…Patanjali's Sutras do not mention the specific postures.

  25. […] this time involving the size and the commercialism of his new Manduka mat. Next was the news that Bikram was suing Yoga to the People. More recently, this week was the controversy about the New York Times article labeling yoga as […]

  26. […] Open Letter to Yoga to The People and their Devotees: Answer me […]

  27. cathywaveyoga says:

    what happened in the end?
    Did YTTP have to pay? Did B win or lose?