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Make-a-Buck-Asana: It’s a Yoga Branding World and Somebody’s Gotta Trademark It

in Business of Yoga, YD News

BROga® is real! We know because it’s been US Trademarked. So has Hillbilly Yoga®, Cougar Yoga™ and Metal Yoga™, along with the 2,213 other applications with the word “yoga” filed in the government’s Trademark Electronic Search System – 2,000 of which have been steadily pouring in since 2001. That’s a lot of yogapreneurs!

Does trademarking a name brand yoga style mean you invented it? Does it mean you’re out to be a megayogamillionaire?

If you read one article on yoga branding, trademarking and asana-jacking we recommend this succinctly informative piece from Business Week examining the ins and outs of yogapreneurship, and it’s not only because we simply adore their description of Bikram as the “man-thonged” Emeril of yoga. (Frankly, we’ll go ahead and say he’s rivaling Charlie Sheen now for outrageous quote master).

On the yoga as a business front, there’s still the argument that yoga teachers deserve to live a sustainable life – everybody wants to make a living! Can we do that without selling out? Some say it’s par for the course.

“Yoga today is where the Food Network was 15 years ago,” says Ava Taylor, whose Brooklyn-based Yama Talent manages the careers of 41 ambitious yogis. “Many of these teachers will cross over into the mass market.”

As some of you are aware, YAMA is a unique agency that assists teachers in booking paying gigs, tours, and doing just that, crossing over into the mass market. Many of the stars YAMA represents have purchased a first class ticket on the express train to brandnameyogaville.

And who else do we all recognize as the rebel rover crossover queen? Naturally, the article mentions Tara Stiles and her mass appeal approach, oh and her plans to open a line of studios in strip malls? Eep. Or is that yay? Crap, we are so confused at this point.

And then we’ve got team India still set on preserving their legacy with the Traditional Knowledge Digital Library preparing to launch the 1,000-pose-strong yoga portion online in this spring. While physical poses themselves are open to fair use, the campaign is to prevent “yoga theft” and western capitalistic pirates from patenting Arrrrrdha Chandrasana as their own.

Still we don’t expect Yoga, Inc. to take a savasana any time soon. And thank holy Krishna, because that would crush our dreams of Mother Monster Gagurasana – a sequence of hot toddies and sweaty yoga in your birthday “born this way” suit.

(full disclosure: YD has its own fancy ™, somewhere around here)

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14 comments… add one

  • damn, someone stole my idea of Cougar Yoga. Can’t wait for Hillbilly Yoga tho….why am I hearing the music from Deliverance right now?

  • Just ‘cos it’s got the word Yoga in the name, doesn’t mean it’s yoga…

    In fact, trademarking a thing and calling it yoga is like saying it ain’t really yoga. ‘cos yoga defies trademarking.

    Besides which, we’re all plugging into the collective creative unconscious whenever we “invent” something… it all comes from the same ultimate source. Ownership of an idea is inherently a matter for the ego…

    Do I own the words I write? Or do they just come through me? If those words can heal… what’s more important? That I stake ownership and control distribution… or that the words are picked up and scattered to the four winds where they may reach as many people as possible?

  • Guilty as charged? I trademarked the name of my yoga mat cleaner. It’s um, Namaspray. :)

  • Elizabeth

    Don’t forget Punk Rock Yoga®!

    Although…if it’s trademarked, is it still punk, much less yoga?

  • HAHAHA! I want me some Namaspray! LOL Thanks, YD for keepin’ it real AND disclosed ;)

  • Meri

    I’d be really happy if when the Traditional Knowledge Digital Library is accessible, you would let us know. THAT is something I feel will help me grow as a person. Metal, Cougar, Gaga yoga, not so much…

  • Guess I don’t see why any of this is wrong.. if you come up with a great idea then you damn well better protect it or someone else will take it. Glad to know yoga is spreading into lots of different arenas and if that means teachers can support themselves with the money they make then kudos. my 2 cents

  • Yoga always rises to the occasion. It maneuvers its way into any culture as easily as Richard Freeman slips from chaturanga to up-dog. Thank Vishnu there are those seeking to preserve the traditions. Thank Brahma there are those innovating, updating, and amending the poses to suit their needs. How else will the whole world become enlightened – if the self-proclaimed punk rockers, hillbillys, cougars, teens, dudes, don’t first show up where they feel comfortable and welcome? Then once we’re all in chillin in Down Dog and nirodhaing our vrittis we can all drop the qualifiers and, to quote Maya Angelou, see that “We are more alike my friends then we are unalike.” Thanks YD.

  • yogasanas

    nice Joyce.

  • i guess it’s obvious at this point that, stopping yoga branding is not the question or the answer now, but how will we (as a society and individually) deal with it?

    as for me, a minnow in a crevice, it’s wait and see, then see what’s what… ;-)

  • Emily

    I’m just curious if the blogger generates any income from yogadork.com.

  • yogasanas

    I wonder if there is a market for “Unauthorized Uncertified & Unrecognized Yoga TM” Probably not, but its a darn good idea. I, whoever and whatever that is, say just practice a lot – all the time and in all manners – and then someone someday and in someway may ask for some help and there is the teaching moment. If you want to get paid for it in any way then all you’ve done is racked up your Karmic debt (as you drive away in your BMW). Which is fine as you have countless lifetimes to pay for it – the Karma, not the Beemer – haha.

  • Chris

    It appears that the US Patent Office is now willing to employ just about any dumbass, with a college degree, who couldn’t hack it at any other job.

    How else can one explain the utterly nonsensical happening going on, with morons being allowed to trademark parts of Yoga ?

    Yoga is Hindu. Yoga is a 5000-year old Hindu science from the ancient Nation of India, located in South-Asia. Look it up.

    No pre-existing knowledge can be copyrighted or trademarked or patented. The US Patent Office should know this.

    The U.S. Patent Office was even dumb enough to allow some American companies to trademark the famous fragrant rice of India, Basmati rice. Similarly, some American dumbass tried to patent the famous tea that has traditionally been grown for several centuries on the hill-slopes of Darjeeling, India. Then, the Americans tried to patent the use of Neem, an ancient medicinal-plant that grows in India, and whose medicinal properties have been documented in the ancient Hindu scriptures, 5000 years ago.

    Tomorrow, I am going into the U.S. Patent Office and applying for trademarks on Hinbrew (when a Hindu speaks Hebrew), HinApple-Pie (when a Hindu bakes apple-pie), and Hinball ( the Hindu take on baseball). Stop me if you can.

  • yogasanas

    Introducing “The Crap I Just Made-Up Yoga TM”. This is now registered with the patent office. Now anyone who makes anything crappy up, which by the way is everything one has or could make up, will now have to pay royalties to me. HAHA. I will be the first YogaBillionaire!!!

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