February 23, 2009
India has been angered at attempts by mostly American yoga teachers to patent moves from their classes as their own originals.
Since its arrival in Britain and America in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when it was popularised by Beatles guitarist George Harrison, among others, Yoga has become a $225 billion industry.
In India, however, it remains collective knowledge – practiced in public parks where gurus often teach fast breathing exercises, like pranayam, and different 'sun-salutations,' free of charge.
But as the number of Western yoga teachers has grown, there has been a steady increase in patent applications claiming each pose in their class is not part of the ancient discipline of mind and body, but their own unique invention. In the United States alone, there have been more than 130 yoga-related patents, 150 copyrights and 2,300 trademarks. Now India's Traditional Knowledge Digital Library is being made available to patents offices throughout the world so they can establish whether the claim is a genuine innovation or "prior art" from Indian systems of medicine.
So far a team of yoga gurus from nine schools have worked with government officials and 200 scientists from the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) to scan 35 ancient texts including the Hindu epics, the Mahabharata and the Bhagwad Gita, and Patanjali's Yoga Sutras to register each native pose.
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