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Bikram Yoga
Religious origins: Hinduism
Regional origins: Yoga College of India, Mumbai, India
Founding Guru: Bikram Choudhury
Mainstream popularity: Growing from the late 20th century
Practice emphases: unchanging sequence of postures designed as a rejuvenating exercise to strengthen the entire body from head to toe
Derivative forms: {{{derivatives}}}
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Bikram Yoga (Bikram Parmar), also known as Hot Yoga, is a style of yoga developed by Bikram Choudhury and a Los Angeles, California based company[1]. Choudhury claims that his method is the only true hatha yoga practiced in the West, though this is not accepted by many other schools. Bikram Yoga is ideally practiced in a room heated to 105°F (40.5°C) with a humidity of 50%. Classes are guided by specific dialogue including 26 postures and two breathing exercises. Classes last approximately 90-minutes. People of all levels, ages and body types practice together.

Bikram Choudhury, the self-proclaimed "Yogi to the Stars", lives in Beverly Hills and teaches at the Yoga College of India in Los Angeles and in Calcutta, India, and other locations around the world, including San Francisco, London, Paris and Tokyo. His best-selling book Bikram's Beginning Yoga Class consists of a sequence of 26 yoga postures (or asana) and two breathing exercises.

Intellectual property controversy[edit | edit source]

Bikram Choudhury has aggressively enforced claims of copyright and trademark protection, including the claim that the sequence of asanas in Bikram's Beginning Yoga Class falls under his copyright. This development is controversial within the United States yoga community. Some practitioners object to the idea that Bikram can have exclusive control over a series of postures derived from traditional practices. Also, some object to Bikram's stated plans to create a formal franchise of studios.

The following text is based on Open Source Yoga Unity v. Bikram Choudhury[2]:

Choudhury first registered the copyright for Bikram's Beginning Yoga Class in 1979 and subsequently filed additional copyrights for various books, audiotapes and videotapes. In 2002, Choudhury filed for copyright for the yoga sequence itself under 17 United States Code Section 410. Choudhury claims that registration by the United States Copyright Office acknowledges his exclusive right to the distinct series of postures and breathing exercises comprising the sequence. However, unlike the United States Patent and Trademark Office, the Copyright Office does not analyze submissions for requisite originality and applies the benefit of doubt on an item's copyrightability. Choudhury recognizes that the asanas are in the public domain, but claims that his yoga sequence constitutes a copyrightable compilation of information and that all the accompanying rights of copyrightability flow from his registration. Choudhury has also registered various trademarks connected with Bikram Yoga.

Over the last several years, Choudhury has notified yoga instructors that they must obtain a license from him in order to teach Bikram yoga, which he asserts includes not only the exact 26 asanas and two breathing exercises, but all "substantially similar" derivative forms of the sequence as well. Choudhury also demanded that yoga teachers teaching his sequence of asanas obtain a license to use the term BIKRAM YOGA. At the hearing, Choudhury stated that he was not at this time pursuing individual yoga practitioners who do not teach but simply perform the Bikram yoga sequence, either at home with the books and tapes or in yoga classes.

Open Source Yoga Unity (“OSYU”) filed for a declaratory judgment, seeking a court declaration that Choudhury does not have enforceable copyright or trademark rights. OSYU claims include that individual yoga asanas are in the public domain and constitute functional information rather than expressive creative content, and as a result yoga in general cannot be copyrighted. One legal commentator has argued that while Choudhury’s book is properly copyrighted, “Bikram's particular method of performing yoga postures cannot be protected via the copyright he holds on the book,” as copyright does not protect systems or ideas, only the expression of ideas.[3]

The United States District Court for the Northern District of California denied both sides’ motions for summary judgment on all issues except one. The court dismissed the claim that Choudhury misused his copyright. Questions of trademark invalidity, whether the sequence is in the public domain, the copyrightability of the sequences and the proper publishing date remain.

OSYU announced on its website on May 3, 2005 that OSYU and Bikram Yoga had reached a "mutually satisfactory resolution" to the suit.[4]

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. Corporate registration for "Bikram Choudury Yoga, Inc." Number: C2288343
  2. Open Source Yoga Unity v. Bikram Choudhury, 2005 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 10440, 74 U.S.P.Q.2D (BNA) 1434, Copy. L. Rep. (CCH) P28,982 (N.D. Cal. 2005)
  3. Katherine Macham, Bending Over Backwards for Copyright Protection: Bikram Yoga and the Quest for Federal Copyright Protection of an Asana Sequence, 12 UCLA Ent. L. Rev. 29 (2004). See also Jordan Susman, Your Karma Ran Over My Dogma: Bikram Yoga and the (Im)Possibilities of Copyrighting Yoga, 25 Loy. L.A. Ent. L. Rev. 245 (2004).
  4. John Pallatto, Yoga Suit Settlement Beggars Open Source Ideals,, May 13, 2005.

See also[edit | edit source]

External links[edit | edit source]

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