So there was a recently a spurious patent issued for shooting video of a yoga asana class from a particular angle. From my view, this is the inevitable result of “yoga” not being about … well, yoga. Fortunately, there can never be a patent on the inner state of awakening that makes one lead a life of love and service, whether it is go feed the hungry, console the suffering, take joy in the good of others, help awaken the spirit of the downtrodden, or humbly serve in whatever ways one can. In my experience, many yoga teachers in America get this, and lead very simple lives for the privilege of teaching or otherwise serving full-time. However, many studio owners and corporations like YogaGlo are perpetuating the concept of the yoga “industry” — and it reveals deep ignorance of the yama of aparigraha — non-grasping, non-covetousness, non-possessiveness (aka generosity). For some reason, of all the yamas and niyamas, this one is the most freely dispensed with in the West.
We cannot imagine it is yogic to have a lifestyle based in hurting others, lying, stealing, or lusting, but — yet this one, we hold on to. Of course we have to look out for number one! People won’t take us seriously if we don’t charge something! Americans don’t ‘get’ the culture of generosity — as a studio owner, what can I do? I have to survive??
From the start, having a fixed price of entry for a yoga class begins a slippery slope — while not ill-intentioned — it can create a profound violation of this principle of aparigraha. Many of those who most need to experience mindfulness of their bodies — victims of childhood abuse, the trauma of war, homelessness and extreme poverty — see yoga culture as utterly inaccessible to because of the prevalence of fee-based yoga. I view all such classes as physical exercise classes which incorporate, selectively, and perhaps unwittingly self-servingly, only those elements of yoga culture which are convenient to the class of people who can afford them — and leave out the rest.
This type of public legal battle over specious “intellectual property” claims is a natural consequence of ignoring this principle of aparigraha. Yoga need not be for wealthy studio owners to pay their extra jumbo mortgage or children’s private school tuitions — perhaps this may be a happy consequence after many years of dedicated service — but from the start, the purpose of yoga is to give away a kind of freedom, which if you experience, you could never imagine charging for the privilege of sharing, or ever suggesting you might deny anyone access to on the basis of money. Denying people the right to take a “money shot” angle of a yoga class is not so different.
Until one personally experiences this freedom, the natural tendency is to seek control instead, which are what the fees, the “industry” and the patents are about at their base. As a community, it is time we moved away from all this needless grasping. It’s just getting in the way of our own freedom. There is beginning to be a movement for completely donation-based studios — LA has 4 at last count. This is yoga. I believe in it and I stand for it. Yoga is actually possible, here in America. And not just possible, but inevitable.
Addenda: A little while after this was written, in October 2014, YogaGlo Inc elected to relinquish all claim on this patent. I continue to stand by the inevitability of yoga.