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Bikram Settles Million Dollar Copyright Suit

in Business of Yoga, YD News

Joy to the world, the latest Bikram million dollar lawsuit is over. Or is that ding dong, the yoga copyright witch is dead? Well, not quite. But at least the most recent ugly brawl between Bikram Choudhury and former student turned successful yogapreneur himself, Greg Gumucio, with bi-coastal studio chain Yoga To The People has been settled.

The two were at odds over Bikram’s “copyrighted” sequence of 26 poses, which Gumucio’s studios generously borrowed along with the heated temps and for a much cheaper price at the growingly popular YTTP. So, naturally, Bikram launched a million dollar lawsuit against Gumucio in November 2011 claiming copyright infringement, which as we learned, is kind of bogus. More on that later.

About a year and many sweaty asanas later, the opposing sides reached a settlement this past Thursday, ABC News reports. The deal? The old tried and true “If you stop, I’ll stop. Stop looking at me! I’m not touching you!”

In a joint statement to ABC’s “Nightline,” Choudhury and rival Greg Gumucio said they have agreed that, “starting in February, Gumucio’s Yoga To The People studios, located in New York City, Seattle, San Francisco and Berkeley, Calif., will no longer teach the sequence of 26 Asana poses and dialogue known as Bikram’s Beginning Yoga Class.” Though it wasn’t exactly a peaceful compromise.

“Here you have this traditional knowledge that’s been around for 5,000 years and there was kind of a run on the bank,” Gumucio told “Nightline” in a recent interview. “It’s kind of like if Arnold Schwarzenegger said I’m going to do five bench presses, six curls, seven squats, call it ‘Arnold’s Work’ and nobody can show that or teach that without my permission. That’s crazy to me.”

“It’s kind of like the ‘Emperor’s New Clothes,’” Gumucio said. “Somebody has to stop and say this is crazy, and hopefully we are starting to take the lead.”

Bikram fires back,

“He is my student,” Choudhury told “Nightline.” “I trained him. I gave him gift of my school in Seattle to run it and he did it very successful, and then he get greedy. So it has to be stopped.”

Stop. The insanity!

Back to the copyrighting yoga thing. The U.S. Copyright Office released a statement this past June stating that “if yoga postures improve health, they cannot be copyrighted” and any prior yoga copyrights were “issued in error.” In other words, oops, they made a terrible mistake. And yet, Bikram still clings to his lucky copyright in his steaming blinged out fists, and essentially wins this round.

The settlement was approved Friday and posted by a U.S. federal district judge in Los Angeles making it official. The suit is dropped, the sacred sequence won’t be taught at Yoga to the People and we can live happily ever after, with liberty and justice for all.

photo via androidspin.com

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6 comments… add one

  • Chris

    There’s only Yoga – the Yoga-Shastra, born of Hinduism 5000 years ago in ancient India, and compiled beautifully in Rishi Patanjali’s Yoga-Sutras.

    There is no Hyphenated-Yoga, only Yoga !

    And Yoga-to-the-People is EXACTLY how it was taught in ancient India, in the not-for-Profit Gurukuls and Ashrams of the wise Gurus, to their eager, diligent, dedicated Shishyas. The Guru-Shishya-Ashram tradition still exists in India.

    In India, Guruji BKS Iyengar’s Yoga-Institute, Baba Ramdev’s Patanjali-Yogpeeth and several other Yoga Institutes continue to disseminate Yoga to the people, in a near-not-for-profit manner, charging their students tuition-fees that are designed to be just adequate for the Institute to continue operating in a viable manner.

    Here in the US, we sadly continue to see Yoga, Inc. rear its ugly, commercial head.

  • lunananda

    haha – look who greedy.

  • That sequence sucks anyway. It’s clunky as all hell. I bet Greg Gumucio can come up with a better one if he works at it just a teeny-tiny little bit.

  • Sai Kumar Reddy

    Its a nice sequence but there’s nothing special or extraordinary about it. There are hundreds of poses and any well trained yoga teacher should be able to come up with several good sequences. Don’t know why every one clings to this sequence only.
    One special thing about the Bikram sequence is that there’s not a single pose where you put weight on the hands like Plank or Chaturanga or Down Dog. So if someone wants to imitate him they can just pick poses that don’t put weight on the arms. Tony Sanchez’s sequences are nice. I like his DVDs. How come more people are not teaching his style?

  • Sai Kumar Reddy

    Its a nice sequence but there’s nothing special or extraordinary about it. There are hundreds of poses and any well trained yoga teacher should be able to come up with several good sequences. Don’t know why every one clings to this sequence only.
    One special thing about the Bikram sequence is that there’s not a single pose where you put weight on the hands like Plank or Chaturanga or Down Dog. So if someone wants to imitate him they can just pick poses that don’t put weight on the arms. Tony Sanchez’s sequences are nice. I like his DVDs. How come more people are not teaching his style? Don’t know much about the Barkan method.

  • Norman

    I’ve just read a wonderful book about Bikram (no, I am not the author…): ‘Hell-Bent’ with the great subtitle of ‘obsession, pain and the search for something like transcendence in competitive yoga’. It’s by Benjamin Lorr – though I do have some criticisms (of course!) it is a beautiful revealing of the monster that is within the body of Bikram. x

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