Yoga Piracy

Last updated: December 21, 2023

What Does Yoga Piracy Mean?

Yoga piracy is the practice whereby those who profit from yoga claim copyrights on specific yoga postures and practices. These are usually ancient Indian practices, which have been adopted using information which is within the public domain, or is traditionally passed down as yogic knowledge.

Typically, accusations of yoga piracy are made against Western fitness-focused individuals or organizations who claim copyright on certain yogic practices in their home countries. This can prove a financially lucrative practice, given the value of the yoga fitness industry internationally.

The Indian government has responded to yoga piracy by taking steps to document 1,500 yoga asanas as traditional knowledge of India, so that individuals cannot claim to have created “new” yoga postures.


Yogapedia Explains Yoga Piracy

The most prominent case of yoga piracy was with Bikram yoga in the United States. Bikram attempted to copyright his method of teaching yoga, but was unsuccessful. He wanted to ensure no unauthorized people would teach his method. As a result of his attempts, the United States Copyright Office clarified that yoga asanas, like Bikram’s sequence, are not copyright-able material. This was affirmed in 2015 in a ruling by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

The Indian government’s defense against yoga piracy has been in assigning a task force led by Vinod Gupta to document the asanas of yoga, preserving them as material that no one can claim as their own. He states that 150 yoga postures have already been pirated by people in countries like the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany and Japan. Fifteen yoga schools, including the Iyengar Institute, are involved in the documentation process. These will be stored in the Traditional Knowledge Digital Library for easy access by patent offices worldwide.

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