Yoga experts oppose attempts at patenting
Written by Jane Coyle on 17 May 2007« Return to Reading Room
A number of yoga enthusiasts and experts in New Delhi are strongly opposing attempts at patenting yoga overseas.
Reacting to recent reports of yet another application filed in the US for patenting yoga, experts here feel that the very idea of patenting knowledge like yoga violates the art. "Patenting of any kind is highly unjustified and when it comes to patenting yoga, it is even more criminal. The entire issue of patenting is very corporate, said" Navtej Johar of Abhyas, a yoga centre in the capital. He added: "Patenting an invention is understood but patenting organic matter like turmeric, neem and then knowledge like yoga is very unfortunate. Saying that yoga belongs to the country and the entire human race, yoga guru Swami Ramdev also echoed Johar's thoughts on the patenting issue: "Yoga can't be owned and run like a company. Since there are attempts to patent this tradition (of yoga) in America, the Indian government and yoga organisations should take measures to prevent it."
A Sanskrit word, yoga means the union of body and soul and is being practised in India for thousands of years. Yoga finds mention in scriptures - the Upanishads and Puranas - composed by the Aryans in the Vedic and post-Vedic period. Deepika Jindal, a yoga enthusiast said: "Yoga has its roots in India. How can anyone else think of patenting it?" That's the thing with us. We don't take our possessions seriously until someone else tries to grab it from us. Patenting of yoga overseas must not happen,"
Author Suketu Mehta of "Maximum City: Bombay lost and found" fame goes one step ahead saying that if the copying of western drugs is illegal so should be the patenting of yoga. "After all, this is also an intellectual piracy stood on its head," he said. Kiran Sawhney of Fitnesolution, a fitness and yoga centre in the capital, said yoga as such can't be patented but a particular style can.
"How can you patent yoga? It's knowledge. But yes, if someone has devised a particular style then that can be patented," Sawhney said. She said that hot yoga, which is essentially yoga in a steam room, was devised by Indian born Bikram Choudhury, who teaches in California and has recently patented it. Interestingly, Ramdev referred to this style of yoga and said: "How can yoga be taught at a controlled 45 degrees centigrade temperature when it is ideally taught in the cold Himalayas?"
The US Patent and Trademark office has issued 150 yoga related copyrights, 134 trademarks on yoga accessories and 2,315 yoga trademarks. Taking a cue from this, the Indian government has set up a task force that is cataloguing traditional knowledge, including Ayurvedic remedies and yoga postures to protect them from being pirated and copyrighted by foreigners. The data, which will be translated from ancient Sanskrit and Tamil texts, will be stored digitally and be available in five international languages.
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