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Sunday, May 19, 2024 | Back issues
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Bikram Yoga Copyright Goes Into Downward Dog

(CN) - Indian yoga guru Bikram Choudhury cannot copyright a sequence of 26 yoga poses and breathing exercises that he has been offering since 1971, a federal judge ruled.

In 1994, over 20 years after he first began offering yoga classes at Bikram's Yoga College of India, Choudhury created a teacher training course for his method.

The Bikram yoga system involves 26 poses and two breathing exercises performed for 90 minutes in a room heated to 105 degree Fahrenheit. Choudhury also obtained copyrights for books depicting and describing the yoga sequence.

Mark Drost and Zefea Samson became authorized to teach the Bikram yoga system, formed Evolation Yoga LLC and opened yoga studios offering classes that used Bikram yoga sequence.

Choudhury said they did so without permission, and that he and his school asked the pair to stop teaching Bikram yoga. When they did not, Bikram sued the yoga teachers in July 2011.

U.S. District Otis Wright found Friday that the Bikram yoga sequence does not fall into any of the categories of copyrightable creative works, even though the arrangement is unique.

"The sequence - Choudhury's compilation of exercises and yoga poses (and not the book or videos depicting the compilation) - is merely a procedure or system of exercises," Wright wrote.

Noting that the U.S. Copyright Office will not protect exercises said to improve health, Wright said that Choudhury has admitted that the sequence helps to prevent and cure disease.

The judge also rejected Choudhury's attempt to classify the sequence as a pantomime or choreographic work, which could be copyrighted.

"Choudhury's copyrighted works are not either of those," the ruling states.

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