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Firestorm After YogaGlo Moves to Patent Online Yoga Class Setup

in Business of Yoga

yogaglo-patentMore patents and lawsuits? This time it’s not for the sequence or even the style, but for the “art” of shooting online yoga videos. This post on Yoga International gave insight into the world of intellectual property when it comes to camera angles, yoga class setups and placement of the teacher and students. Having shot and posted a few videos of their own, YI (a division of the Himalayan Institute) received a cease and desist letter from popular online yoga class site YogaGlo.

Just three months ago we launched YogaInternational.com—a comprehensive resource to help you connect with authentic teachings and timeless wisdom in new and innovative ways. Our hope has been for YI to serve as a 21st century extension of the student-teacher relationship that has been held sacred through the ages, and since our debut in July, we’ve been excited to see sincere students and teachers share, learn, and grow via our interactive online platform.

Turns out, a well known online yoga website is trying to patent the standard yoga class set up: center aisle, students on each side, teacher at the front.

The actual patent (application number 20120162419) which can be found online, was published on 6/28/2012 and has yet to be fully registered. The “inventors” claim ownership over the position of the camera, and subsequent audience view, as well as creating “an experience of participating in a real class with real students even though the viewer is not actually present in the class.”  So the “invention” is “the unique setup of the classroom, the position of the yoga instructor and yoga participants and the position of the camera imaging the yoga exercises and stretches.”

The summary of the invention continues:

The perspective of the viewer watching the captured image is thus one of an actual participant in the class. The instructor is placed at the head of the studio with the yoga participants arranged between the yoga instructor and the camera. A direct line of sight between the camera and the yoga instructor, a “no mat area,” is provided so that there is an unobstructed view of the yoga instructor which allows for a participatory view of the yoga class for the viewer.

Why does YogaGlo feel entitled to patent this? Because no one else has before?

The patent abstract states:

The ability to view and participate in various types of instructional classes, including Yoga, remotely and on-demand has become increasingly popular and accessible. However, participating in instructional classes off-site does not replicate the same experience as participating in an instructional class on-site, live with an instructor. The claimed system and method allow the viewer participant to view and take part in an instructional class from any location and at any time without compromising the viewer’s ability to experience a participatory class experience. The system and method place the instructor at the head of the classroom with live-participants arranged between the instructor and the camera with a direct line of sight between the camera and the instructor allowing for the viewer participant to have unobstructed views while simultaneously allowing for the viewer participant to have live participants in the periphery, as if the viewer was attending a live class.

We’re no experts, but this doesn’t sound that unique. And what could this actually mean for other online yoga classes? For YI, they’re pretty much flabbergasted by the whole thing.

Here at the Himalayan Institute, we’ve been teaching yoga in the US for over forty years, and come from a five-thousand-year-old tradition of students and teachers sharing, and growing knowledge. This tradition has always been about students gaining wisdom from their teachers and expanding upon that wisdom to become great teachers themselves. The concept of controlling or owning a part of that process is very foreign to us.

While we certainly dislike the idea of (and would ideally like to avoid) “owning” a particular way of presenting yoga, this experience has left us wondering if we should look for means to legally protect our style of online teaching, lest another organization inform us that we can no longer present digital content  in our current manner either.

The comments have been colorful on both the YI post and the site displaying the patent. What’s next? Patenting our post-class savasana high? Thoughts during meditation? How will they know!?

UPDATE: YogaGlo responds…via their website:

In response, we want to clarify several points that were misrepresented in this article:

First, we want to make it very clear that YogaGlo has no intention to trademark, copyright or patent yoga itself or how yoga classes are set up and taught. That is not what we believe in and it is not what yoga is about.

We are simply protecting the proprietary filming perspective which makes YogaGlo’s online classes distinct. YogaGlo’s filming perspective was developed to help online users feel like they’re participating in the class from a remote location. People have independently acknowledged and recognized the look and feel of YogaGlo’s videos, including commenting on the unique setup of the classroom. This acknowledgement happened today, in fact, on the very post we link to above. With just a few short descriptors, many commenters immediately identified YogaGlo.

In order to continue to provide our community with this distinctive online yoga class experience at an affordable price, YogaGlo is required to protect its intellectual property, just like any other online business.

Although YogaGlo has already taken steps to protect its online videos, including obtaining both trademark and copyright registrations, we are waiting for our patent to issue. We are hopeful that once our patent registers, we will be able to resolve these matters in a way that protects our intellectual property rights and allows all online yoga services to thrive fairly.

We also want to make it clear that YogaGlo was founded on the principles of promoting more access to yoga, not less, so we support any website that shares this mission.

While we have always valued engaging in meaningful dialogue with our community, we are unfortunately restricted from responding to additional comments on this issue. We hope you can respect our position, now that it has been clarified, and understand that we cannot comment any further on ongoing legal matters.

Thank you for your ongoing support.


Derik Mills




43 comments… add one
  • Mike Gannon

    be assured that Yoga International was not the ONLY online video provider that has received these threats from YogaGlo … congrats to YI for having the balls to call out YG on this issue and make this public … PR nightmare galore for YG and their founders

  • Sarah

    I actually really dislike the way that YogaGlos vidoes are shot. Its one of the reasons I went to MyYogaOnlne instead.

    • Vision_Quest2

      I dislike much of the content and the themes … but I love their concept – wonder who else they sued … lol … the Kripalu vids look a lot like that setup …

  • Marjorie

    I still don’t see how a camera angle/set up can be patented. I’ve been in the training, eLearning, distant learning industry for years. To me setting up a camera where the person has a view of the teacher just seems like common sense, not “revolutionary.”


    I was thinking about purchasing a membership with YogaGlo after my free trial period but this ridiculous display of commercial greed is not what yoga is about. I’ll find another online yoga medium. YogaGlo made that decision really easy.

    • Vision_Quest2

      One of those times I am happy as punch I have a slooooow streaming speed {DSL/high populated area/busy PC operating system) and could do nothing with a site like YogaGlo, that gives me no option not to stream to be able to watch at peak times (i.e., to purchase a download) …

  • Neil

    I understand that any business needs to protect itself and I guess it must be possible for someone to patent an idea even if they are not the originator. But with something so simple as a layout and camera position it’s seems strange. Within the yoga community I would hope the spirit of yoga could come past the business head and allow all parties to share ideas like this. I really like yoga glo and part of that is the way it’s presented. But this move to protect that presentation doesn’t ring right to me. Would it not be better to let all use this as they like? The ultimate differing part of the product that is the site is surely the classes and teachers themselves. That is the reason I stayed with yoga glo after my trial.
    It’s a little disappointing. Understandable, from a pure business pov, but I’d hope part of what they want to achieve transcends business.

  • Julie Leatherbarrow

    Yoga means UNION and suing each other does not bring us closer together.

  • Trish

    I have heard a lot of ridiculous things in my years practicing yoga but this one pretty much takes the cake!

    Maybe the Directors Guild of America would be interested in hearing about this… and every filmmaker.

    What is next – controlling close ups, editing, music cues?

  • Go Yoga Girl!!

    Oh for fucks sake!

    Yoga is possible for anybody who really wants it. Yoga is universal….
    But don’t approach yoga with a business mind looking for worldly gain. ~K. Pattabhi Jois

    friggin assholes

  • Well I am going to have to patent breathing when on a mat then.

  • This is absolutely ridiculous… I think we all see the writing on the wall YogaGlo! To quote you above,
    “Hopeful that once our patent registers, we will be able to resolve these matters in a way that protects our intellectual property rights and allows all online yoga services to thrive fairly.”

    WE KNOW WHAT THIS MEANS!!! That IF you are given a patent you will force anyone that sticks a video camera in the back of their room to pay you royalties. The Buddha and Patanjali must be turning over in there reincarnated lives. I predict that you will have no customers by the time this all comes down. The Yoga community is a tight group and we know unethical practices when we see them!

  • Courtney

    I am clearly in the minority, but I am not bothered by this. As someone who has bounced around all of the online yoga sites, I always find myself going back to Yogaglo. I like knowing what I’m going to get in terms of quality with each class, regardless of the style or teacher. They do run the site like a business. It is all very clean and clear and professional and that makes me a happy customer. I recognize that they have bills and overhead and employees, and I respect their right to protect their brand. They deserve to make money and profit from the service they provide. To be honest, it feels a bit passive aggressive that YI would take to their blog with this instead of just dealing with it. They’ve obviously been around much longer and have a much larger audience than Yogaglo. I don’t really consider them the victims or underdogs in this case. But I hope both sides can come to a peaceful resolution.

    • Lisa

      Thank you for offering a different point of view. I’d like to take on a few of your points. Patenting the class set up and camera angle goes beyond protecting the brand and moves into the territory of a land grab. It’s Manifest Destiny, YogaGlo style. I also doubt YogaGlo is struggling to pay its bills. It’s an absurd patent, and another commentator is right: their likely solution to everyone offering online yoga, a peaceful resolution? Licensing, more money in their pockets. In capitalist society, if you can make money and get away with something, go right ahead.

      YI is a non-profit. It brought the issue to the attention of the Yoga community instead of hunkering down with lawyers that it can probably ill-afford. YogaGlo has funds and enough lawyers to apply for a patent, which is no small task.

      If you appreciate the customer service and amenities of YogaGlo, you have every right to enjoy it and pay for it. But I suggest we all reconsider the ways in which yoga has become a commodity, and take it seriously when lines are crossed.

  • Todd A

    Those yogaglo folks need to take their practice off the mat and into the board room. Corporate greed is the antithesis of yoga.

  • Semper Fi

    I wouldn’t worry too much about it. Yogaglo won’t last more than 3 years before they will be taken over by CorePowerZumbaTwerque…the new fad which will be unveiled by Lululemon when Yoga ceases to pay out for them.

    • Vision_Quest2

      Yes, but not before some celebrity extols the Twerque workout first!

      Seriously, I expect to see “copycat” lawsuits, such as Yoga to the People suing a bunch of power yoga studios (with the “aerobic” touch) that try to use the out-loud grunting/yelping/groaning each breath technique in their videos, etc. [“to make sure that you are BREAAATHING!!” the teacher exhorts to the 100 students in the room …]

  • Laurie Dean

    So I am curious……if this patent goes into effect- would it also apply to how other online classes are filmed? Or is this just about online YOGA classes? If University of michigan decides to use this set up in one of their online educational classes – is Yogaglo going to sue them?

    If the answer is no – them we have an answer as to why this suit has been filed – let’s be clear – it is CLEARLY about the money!!!!! NOT yogic Yogaglo!!

    • Vision_Quest2

      Great choice of academic institutions. 🙂

  • Really?! REALLY? What next! Patents of breath?meditation? YI is a quality publication, digital or otherwise, which supports practice in a positive way. Can the same be said about YogaGlo?

  • With all of this said… I strongly urge anyone reading this to forward this discussion to your local yoga community. That means post this to face book and all other social media so we can spread the word. We can’t have this happening! I know several people that have already cancelled their memberships with them and If I had one, I would have done the same. It just blows me away that such a wonderful idea can be consumed by greed. This all leads to another question… Have any of the teachers on YOGAGLO asked for there videos to be removed and are they ok with this?

  • Of course I’m disappointed to hear of more yoga lawsuits, a phenomenon that seems so oxymoronic that it sounds like satire. But in this specific case, I’m more confused by this from an artistic perspective. If the patent rests on the camera position & angle and the room configuration (interior design), then what they are looking to patent are creative methodology decisions. Perhaps their repeated implementation of those decisions does make their product (videos) seem uniquely identifiable but I don’t see how that’s any different from recognizing the distinctiveness of a particular filmmaker or photographer’s shooting/editing style or even a painter’s method of paint application. Artist’s works are covered under intellectual property law, and while the question of appropriation in art is controversial, mimicry isn’t unlawful. If this patent is approved, it opens the door for creatives of all sorts to file proprietary ownership not of their content, but of their methods. In addition to violating the spirit of yoga, that deals a huge blow to creativity in general and artistic progress.

    • I agree, this is quite ridiculous. I’m not a lawyer but from what I have seen in the past, many times companies make these patent attempts solely so they can send out the cease and desist letters.

      These types of things often fall through because of the reasons you have stated, simply because they were never truly meant to be approved, only used as a tool.

      Don’t lose faith yet, I work in digital marketing. Yoga has helped me immensely and I’m happy to say we are currently creating our own site to share content freely provided by the Yoga Community in a transparent fashion. 🙂

  • gordon overbye

    i am amused at the amount of kerfluffle over this.

    first, i think this patent application will have a hard time getting approved for the reasons already posted by a number here. so, much ado about nothing.

    second, be dismayed as much as you want but yoga in this country is a business. unless you are in an ashram you are taking part in a commercial venture. studios exist if they make money, otherwise they disappear. yogaglo is a business, to make money it competes with other on-line providers for subscriber dollars. yogaglo feels it has something that is being copied and wants to protect themselves. if they can get a patent on the filming technique creating the look and feel of a class, i have no problem with that. its a business, people. businesses should protect intellectual property (if they have it, and its not clear they do, the patent review office will determine that) otherwise they go out of business. if the patent is issued, it can be challenged and overturned (the use of the word “pilates” was patented and overturned by the supreme court). the system works if you work it.

    now having said, i consider bikram’s attempt to patent a yoga series of poses (that isn’t even a very good series) a complete fraud and disgusting. i don’t give them money or any respect.

    lululemon, nike, yoga journal, prana, all businesses. all exist to make money.
    vote with your dollars or feet. you don’t have to patronize businesses you don’t like.

    • Vision_Quest2


      Still, this leaves a very bad taste in my mouth … this site was supposed to be not just a supplement to studio yoga; but even to supplant it in some cases …

      Do they think their subscribers are imbeciles?

  • Cathy Ge

    I never lie dth eonline classes. I go to a studio or practice by myself. Getting too dependent on technology produced classes and other non-homan interaction tech involvement reduces one’s community involvement and increases isoalation.

  • Cathy Ge

    ** I never liked** I apologize for the error.. Oh, dear.. I must need to speak to a person in person1

  • Madison

    If this kind of stuff persists, the yoga world in North America anyway, is gonna implode on itself.
    The greed, the artifice, the hypercompetitiveness, the anything-is-for-sale attitude are going to bring this bloated juggernaught down.

  • drama

    this whole discussion is boring. if you don’t like YG, don’t use it. everyone has their own view of yoga, or democracy, or catholicism. just shut up already. whether a market is for profit or not, markets are markets. if YG isn’t meant to exist, it won’t. if it is, it will.

  • Dear Drama,

    Let me apologize for you to all the hard working Yoga Instructors out there that believe this issue is extremely important. As the Buddha or any yogi or yogini would see this as a lesson in skillful means. This discussion is going to continue because of the greed of this company and their attempt to control the yoga industry online. It’s obvious that you must not have a vested interest or truly care to much about the future of yoga online. Although this may seem boring to you please consider the ramifications to this issue. If YG gets this patent they will send a signal to large companies with very deep pockets to control and manipulate every small yoga studio across the country.

    So, for the record this is the problem with our concept of democracy and reflects some bigger issues that we have in this country with infused government, corporate greed and capitalism. So with all respect, if you are BORED with this discussion then please stay off the blogs and comments pages and leave room for those of us that know how important this truly is. Thank you and Namaste!

  • Dan

    YG does not have a patent yet, they only applied for one. Two of the four requirements for a patent to be issued require that the invention be new and also that it be non-obvious. I don’t see this being either really.

  • Kim Watson
  • Onetaste

    Yogaglo should change the name of their business to Yoga-greed and sell their story and camera angle to Hollywood.

  • Mike
  • philokalia

    This seating arrangement is not ingenuity, it’s common sense. Every photographer or film student that has ever shot at a wedding or a conference knows about getting a clear an unobstructed view of someone whileincluding the crowd. It has an obvious emotional effect, but it’s not unique. I’ve also taken a lot of online lecture classes where the POV was from the audience with no one sitting in front of the camera. They likely all protect their knowledge work, but not the seating arrangement.

    Also, their request for rights to patent this seems inconsisetent when they also have videos where there are a bunch of people lined up against the back wall, or videos where there are less people in class, or videos where there are no people in the audience and it’s a direct shot of the teacher.

    That being said, I like my yogaglo membership, but the class arrangement does nothing for me. It has not made me feel more included. In fact the only thought that ever arises in regards to the other students in the video is whether or not being filmed from behind makes them feel uncomfortable, and whether they spend a lot of time getting ready to go to yoga class because they know they will be watched, or who doesn’t show up at all for that same reason. If someone filmed a yoga class I was in for global distribution, I would be freaked out and distracted, focusing way more on my form and balance than anything that was really happening in my body. I’d probably hurt myself. No judgement on those who choose to attend, everyone handles it different, but that’s just what I think about when I see them up there.

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