Yoga Debate Continues

Today, yoga has become an integral part of the exercise routines of many people in the Western countries. In 2004, Bikram Choudhury (personality famous for Bikram or hot yoga) obtained a patent from the U.S. government for his sequence of 26 poses. Since then, there has been an ongoing debate about who should be credited for the invention of yoga. It has been practiced in India for over 5000 years, even before humans invented writing. It was introduced in the western countries in the 1930s during the health and vegetarian movement. Its popularity began to soar in the 1960s after endorsement by influential groups like the Beatles and by influential people like Bellur Krishnamachar Sundaraja Iyengar.

The practice of yoga has so many benefits that it is almost unethical to deny anyone the rights to practise and teach it. Then what is the purpose of the debate. In 2001, India set up the Traditional Knowledge Digital Library as a repository of the traditional knowledge, especially about medicinal plants and formulations used in Indian systems of medicine. Its objective is to protect the ancient and traditional knowledge from exploitation by documenting it as per international patent standards. This organization has hired several yogis and scientists to review the original yoga texts; this group is documenting the thousands of yoga postures and preparing a video catalogue of the most popular ones. This catalogue will be submitted to the international patent system. Dr. V.K. Gupta, the head of the digital library, states that such a move is important in order to ensure that the ancient practice can be accessed universally and that wrong style variations are not unduly credited or marketed for business.

On the other hand, groups opposing this believe that this move by India has come too late when many styles have already branched out from the original practice. Such a patent may shut down many well established commercial organizations which may not put in efforts to obtain legal copyrights. This, in turn, will deprive millions of people of the opportunity to learn the practice of yoga.

This is such an irony. The ultimate goal of yoga is to achieve enlightenment and salvation through inner peace. However, such a debate harms the true spirit of yoga.

For more information, check out the debate at

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