Lack of Vision or Yoga of the West?

I’ve added a number of news articles to the Yoga in the News page.  Two of them from yesterday grabbed my attention.  The first is an articfle about Power Yoga and the second about the Triangle Yoga studio in Chapel Hill North Carolina.

The Power Yoga article makes the following statement as its conclusion:  For those who have tried yoga, Power Yoga offers the chance to be challenged, invigorated and achieve a higher level of fitness.  I am puzzled as to the exact reason why this is the article’s concluding paragraph.  Does it mean that, in the opinion of the author, any form of Yoga which is not Power Yoga offers no challenge, won’t invigorate the individual and won’t help the individual achieve a higher level of fitness?  Is this a lack of vision as to what Yoga can accomplish?  Is this a sign of ignorance as to what Yoga truly is?  Both of these causes can be readily corrected by simply practicing and experiencing the other more desirable benefits of Yoga practice; there is, however, a third possibility and it is, in my view, somewhat sinister in its nature.  This third possibility is the divestment of Yoga’s spiritual nature so as to focus soley on the physical benefits.  Such a view of Yoga is good for business but not likely to be good for the yogis.  I say that this is sinister as it will leave no more lasting impression than step aerobics or jazzercise whereas true Yoga leaves a lasting influence upon the souls of those who practice it.

Not only does this article touch on this topic but so do those dealing with Bikram Yoga.  The following is my response to someone asking for view points on the Bikram copyright issue:

I really see two possible issues here:

If I choreograph a ballet, then I can copyright the physical movements of the dancers even though the individual moves and positions of the dancers are publically available to everyone to use.  Seen in that light, I can understand (but not exactly agree with) the arguement for Bikram’s copyright.

HOWEVER, I cannot take a ballet written by my ballet instructor and make minor modifications to it and copyright the result, yet that appears to be exactly what Bikram is doing.

“I created something from Patanjali’s hatha yoga system, and it works,” Bikram says.  “I don’t want anybody to mess with my system.”

ASANA™, Yoga Journal December 2003, pg 99

According to his own words, his system is only a derivative of Patanjali’s system and would fall into my second ballet example.

Bikram does not claim to have invented the poses, just the sequence – which he derived from the 84 poses taught by his guru, Bishnu Ghosh, brother of Paramahansa Yogananda (author of the classic Autobiography of a Yogi).  “It’s become the Birkram system, but there’s no such thing as Bikram Yoga; yoga is yoga, yoga is hatha yoga,” Bikram admits.  “It’s not anybody’s property; it’s like God, it’s love, it’s nature.  But anybody picks up a few postures in a sequence and makes it a book, it’s a copyright, so somebody copies my book, I sue them.”

ASANA™, Yoga Journal December 2003, pg 99

His system is derived from that of his own teacher and so not copyrightable.  Does he have a book about the system?  Fine, copyright it.  Does he has a specific dialog which must be used to teach Bikram Yoga?  Copyright that.

None of that is, to me, the most important aspect of this situation. I think you strike to the heart of the problem with this question JC:

Is Bikram the man very Yogic, or is his apparent greed getting in the way of good work?

Bikram claims to be a student of Patanjali and yet his actions contradict him.  His attitude appears to be that of “it’s mine, it’s all mine and I deserve homage from all.”  The first limb of Yoga according to Patanjali is Yama (the outward observances).  The fifth Yama is Aparigraha or non-greed (also translated as abstinence from avariciousness/covetousness and other similar concepts depending on the translation) see Yoga Sutra 2.30.  Patanjali goes on to say that the five Yamas form a great vow placed on everyone regardless of rank or station, YS 2.31.  Bikram also seems to have forgotten the second limb, Niyama (the inward observances).  The second Niyama is Santosha or contentment, YS 2.32.  He does not appear to be content to enjoy the things his own efforts can bring him.

In short, Bikram’s actions show me that while he may know the Asanas, he does not know Yoga.

The issue I have with the second article appears, on its face, to be completely unrelated but on looking more closely I think they are very closely related.

Highly qualified, expert teachers are what makes Triangle Yoga stand out, Bogart said.

“Yoga teachers are a dime a dozen now,” she said.  “You can get a yoga teaching certificate over the weekend now.”

Why, if what Bogart says is true, is it so easy to become a Yoga teacher?  Money, money for the newly “certified” instructor and for the weekend workshop that certified him.  My greatest fear is that one of these weekend wonders will do someone great harm and cause problems for all instructors and would be instructors.