Bikram yoga founder Bikram Choudhury has filed a lawsuit against Yoga to the People, a studio chain that offers donation-based yoga classes in New York, San Francisco, and Berkeley. In the suit Choudhury claims the "Traditional Hot Yoga" offered at Yoga to the People studios in New York infringes on Bikram's copyright on the 26-pose sequence taught by Choudhury and Bikram-affiliated studios. The lawsuit seeks damages in excess of $1 million, and an injunction stopping Yoga to the People from offering the classes, according to DNAinfo.com.
Greg Gumucio, founder of Yoga to the People and a former Bikram student, claims the Traditional Hot Yoga class is legal since it doesn't use Bikram's name. Gumucio and Yoga to the People's lawyer William Fisher liken Bikram's copyright to that of a recipe, reported the NY Daily News. The language describing the food can be copyrighted, but the recipes themselves cannot.
"This 26-pose sequence already has a copyright," Choudhury's lawyer Robert Gilchrest told NY Daily News. "It's like a series of dance steps; like the choreography in a musical. And musicals are copyrighted."
In 2002, Choudhury sued two former students who were teaching hot yoga in their studio in Costa Mesa, California, and began sending out cease-and-desist letters to other studios teaching similar techniques.
Gumucio plans to fight this latest lawsuit. "This issue is much bigger than Bikram the man, much bigger than Bikram Yoga," he wrote on his blog YogaTruth.org. "It is much larger than myself or Yoga to the People. This is about whether yoga asanas and the sequencing of asanas that are part of Traditional Knowledge will remain in the public domain for everyone to use, for everyone to teach, and for everyone to practice."
Do you think someone should be able to copyright yoga sequences?
Photo:Rebecca Greenfield for Details Magazine