Sure, DC Comics can copyright the Batmobile. However, Yoga guru Bikram Choudhury, infamous for his hot yoga, cannot copyright his popular 26-posture sequence that also contains two breathing exercises, a federal appeals court ruled Thursday.
What we identify as the practice of Yoga is actually quite new.
Though Yoga is first mentioned by name in some 2,500-year-old Hindu religious texts called the Upanishads, this is actually a term relating to a method of strapping horses together. It is actually the origin of the word Yoke. For the Upanishads yoga was used as a metaphor for a mental prayer technique and only mentioned one physical posture—which is to just sit in a comfortable way so as to make meditation comfortable.
In the 19th century, an Indian prince came up with something resembling what we now call Yoga. His manual was called the Sritattvanidhi and it listed 122 poses—mostly taken from Indian gymnastics. What really kicked the trend into overdrive was the influence of the Imperial British, as they were undergoing their own health craze at the time—and so this union of the too gave us what we now identify as Yoga.
Fast forward to B.K.S. Iyengar—the father of modern Yoga— when he comes up with the idea of combining these exercise techniques with some of the teachings described in old Hindu texts like the Yoga Sutras. Good read for anyone who is interested.
Classes can be unique to the instructor, even within styles. But my experience of taking yoga almost 20 years ago is different than what I’ve seen recently. Some add in some pilates, some aerobics… Not my cup of tea, but it is nice to get some variety.