Yoga Piracy

yoga piracy

Yoga piracy refers to the practice of claiming copyrights on yoga postures and techniques found in ancient treatises originating within India by persons residing in foreign countries, often of other nationalities. The ongoing debate centers around those who profit by creating legally proprietary systems of yoga in countries other than India using information generally felt by Indians to be within the public domain, if not proprietary traditional knowledge.

Cases of Yoga Piracy often center around fitness instructors of non-Indian origin who claim copyrights on asanas (yoga poses), pranayama techniques and sequences, and ayurvedic medicine in their home countries, the most notable example being the case of Bikram Yoga in the United States. This has become a lucrative international industry, with some estimates for the yoga fitness industry in the United States as high as $3 billion annually.

In response, the Government of India has initiated the documentation of 1,500 yoga asana or postures  – from the ancient Yoga Sutras of Patanjali to present times – and is storing them in the Digital Traditional Knowledge Library to be made available to patent offices worldwide. As of 2005, one-third of the estimated 30 million database pages have been compiled by the Indian Commerce Ministry. Fifteen of the most prominent yoga schools in India are involved, including the Iyengar Institute and Kaivalyadham, run by Nitin Unkule.

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