Practitioners of yoga lose no time in waxing eloquent of its antiquity. Yet in the modern world there have been repeated attempts to claim copyrighted ownership of certain ‘innovated’ techniques of yoga.
While in 2012 the United States Copyright Office had refused to grant copyright for Bikram Choudary’s ‘Hatha Yoga’, last week the Delhi High Court dismissed a petition from the Philippines-based Institute of Inner Studies seeking copyright for its pranic healing exercises. The court held that exclusive rights cannot be claimed for yoga and pranic healing under the Copyright Act.
A section of global yoga gurus from India has welcomed the ruling. “Invention, discovery or knowledge that is of immense significance to larger humanity should never come under the purview of intellectual property rights,” Isha Yoga founder Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev told Express. He pointed out that that while Adiyogi transmitted yogic science to his seven disciples he had mandated that it should always be offered down the line unconditionally.
According to him, when one is thinking of putting boundaries and restrictions of ownership in yoga, nothing of great significance will flow through.
Endorsing him, Chennai-based Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram trustee
S Sridharan said, “Nobody can claim rights over aspects of yoga like asanas, pranayama and dhyana. None can claim rights over a combination of postures too. These have been developed over a period of time and belong to the public domain.”
“For example, if someone makes changes to Shirshasana (headstand) and introduces it as some other posture, it does not work well. Similarly, if one person from a school of yoga starts another of his own and teaches what he/she learnt from the former in another name, it is only like giving old wine in a new bottle,” he added.
However, Art of Living founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has a different view. “In fact, we are also of the same opinion, but in the world’s scenario it does not work. When we were teaching Sudarshan Kriya there were other organisations which learnt from us and tried to copyright it. We had to go for copyright only because others were trying to copyright it,” he said in an e-mail response.
Sri Sri lamented that most of the ancient intellectual property of India had been copyrighted by western organisations. Worse, spurious programmes and imitations come up once something is popular.
“Also, from the point of view of the recipient of the wisdom, copyright may be essential so that it comes from an authentic source. Since there is a lack of organised education all and sundry can start yoga (classes) without a central authority or authenticity,” he argued.
Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev felt that if a certain piece of knowledge is recognised, the government should be willing to pay for the intellectual property and make it available to the larger public.