Bikram on wrong end of major court ruling

A three-person panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled against Bikram Choudhury in a case involving his attempt to copyright his yoga sequence.

The news is out there at various outlets. Here’s Time:

Bikram Choudhury, the self-styled creator of Bikram yoga, has for years threatened to sue practitioners that he feels are copying his signature yoga poses. However, a court ruled on Thursday that he has no legal right to do so.


Choudhury’s most recent legal case involved Evolation Yoga, a Florida-based studio that the magnate accused of copyright violations.

A three-judge panel on the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has now disagreed with him after he appealed a district judge’s ruling in favor of Evolation. The judges clearly stated that his sequence cannot be protected by copyright law, the Times reports.

“Copyright protects only the expression of this idea — the words and pictures used to describe the sequence — and not the idea of the sequence itself,” Judge Kim McLane Wardlaw, one of the judges on the panel, wrote.

Radio coverage I heard here in Los Angeles of the ruling — Bikram’s based here — reported that the judges also determined yoga is meant to improve people’s health and well-being and that copyrighting such a thing would be akin to giving a doctor exclusive rights to using a certain medical procedure.

He could appeal up… but I’m not sure given the substance of the ruling that he has a good chance. But you never know.

Posted by Steve

‘An unusual sight’ in Venezuela

At about 90 seconds long, this report from Caracas, Venezuela by the BBC is absolutely worth a look:

A yoga scheme has been set up in the slums of Caracas to improve the quality of life for the people living there.

In this part of the Venezuelan capital, hundreds of thousands of people live on top of each other in a sprawling maze of homes and shacks.

Full video at the link. Definitely an example of the good efforts to bring yoga to those who need it.

Posted by Steve

What should a description of a Mysore class include?

I came across this description of a Mysore class/program at Ashtanga Montauk, which admittedly is a spot more on my radar for surfing than yoga:

Mysore Style Classes

are Ashtanga Yoga classes, as traditionally practiced in Mysore, India, the home of the late Sri K. Pattabhi Jois. The Mysore class is a group class where students have a self-paced practice, with verbal instruction and hands-on adjustments from the teacher. Because the instruction in a Mysore class is highly individualized, it is appropriate for both new students as well as more advanced practitioners. This unique combination of individualized pace and instruction within a group class gives each student the ability to work at his/her own level, while enjoying the inspiration and energy of a group. Each student is taught and supported by the teacher as he/she memorizes the sequence and develops a personal rhythm to the practice. This class is appropriate for students of all levels and is an excellent opportunity to develop a practice that can slowly build over a lifetime. Knowing the sequence of postures is not required, just being open-minded, curious, and receptive to learning.

We’ve got housed on our site a link to Yoga Workshop’s briefing on Mysore. It has a nice mix of irreverence and information. This one seems to do a pretty solid job, as well. But I wonder: Is there anything you think is missing? Anything that ought to be included in any Mysore description? Something more on the asanas and how they are likely to be approached? Maybe the one thing that seems to be missing, as opposed to most, is a semi-requirement that a student commit to the first month and a certain number of days per week.

Anything else?

Posted by Steve

OK, so tea’s OK, too

There’s no secret about our extolling of coffee’s benefits.

But just to be fair to all you tea drinkers, we’ll throw some leaves your way. Via the New York Times’ Upshot column, here’s some of tea’s health benefits:

At the end of all of this, I’m a little less impressed with the body of evidence regarding tea than I was with that of coffee. I admit that this is an interpretation, and others may disagree. The lack of a dose response in many of these trials, coupled with the fact that so many were performed in countries with markedly different tea consumption from our own, makes these results less generalizable than those of coffee were.

But the conclusions I would make are similar. I wouldn’t strongly recommend that anyone take up tea based on these findings. But there seem to be few harms, and some potential benefits. Drink it if you like it. It, too, seems to be a completely reasonable addition to a healthful diet.

Click on the link to get a whole mouthful of different studies.

We of course like this conclusion, giving coffee its great due. But maybe for those who want a little less of a boost in the afternoon… you can have your chai.

Posted by Steve

Have Ashtanga, will travel

Two different sounding positions for an Ashtanga teacher are out there, via the October newsletter at

1. Ashtanga Teacher Wanted – Basel, Switzerland
Looking for a qualified teacher to cover my evening classes (Mysore and 2x led class) in Dec 2015 (up to Dec 22) atAshtanga Yoga Basel, Switzerland. Housing next to the shala and a small salary can be given. Contact

2. Ashtanga Teacher Wanted – Huaraz, Peru
This is a work-trade position at a shamanic holistic healing center in the mountains of Peru. The minimum commitment is 3 months. We are looking for a teacher who can teach the 8 Limbs of Ashtanga Yoga to retreat guests. Every applicant must first complete a retreat as the first part of their evaluation process. This is required before beginning your work exchange with us, so that we can see if you are suitable to work with our team and in this line of work. Please visit the website for more information and to apply for the position:

Given my impression of Switzerland — orderly to the nth degree — and my idea of a shamanic holistic healing center, I’m not sure you’d find two jobs more on the far ends of the employment spectrum. But we’ve had some success in connecting teachers to jobs, so have at it if you’re interested.

Posted by Steve

Making yoga accessible to the people who need it

I don’t think there’s a whole lot of argument that there is a lot not to like about how yoga continues to grow in the West.

There may be a lot of argument about what, specifically, to dislike, but from conversations I have with yoga practitioners (not to mention not-yogis), everyone seems to have some concern or complaint about some aspects of the “yoga industrial complex.”

One thing I think we all can agree is good is the relatively recent realization that yoga in the West tends to be a pursuit of the privileged — and subsequent efforts to address this.

There’s Urban Yogis. There are efforts in Africa. There’s more of an embrace of people who don’t like the usual Instagram stars.

All of that is absolutely great. Let there be more.

I want to add one other group, which in most cases isn’t underprivileged, but for which yoga as practiced (and set up as a business) is largely inaccessible.

It’s a group I belong to, so I’m biased.

It’s the 40+ hour a week, 9 to 5ers.

A big reason I have a home Ashtanga practice is time constraints. I really need to be heading into backbends and finishing poses by about 7 a.m. in order to be able to get ready and get to work.

In most cases, that’s about when a Mysore practice at a studio — from West Coast to East, north to south — starts. And that means I’m there with one or two others and then maybe get an adjustment and some backbend assistance. Sundays are the exception (and when a room is exceptionally crowded).

Frankly, it’s hard to cough up $180 a month for that. That’s just the plain truth.

When Bobbie and I were down in Encinitas while she took the Third Series training, I realized — not to pick on Tim Miller by any means — that were we to live down there (side note: I know few series students of Tim who haven’t pondered whether a move there is possible) and my maintain my same work, there would be days of the week that his schedule wouldn’t work for me. Maybe even like half.

Looking around at a sampling of Ashtanga schedules, this seems pretty routine. They work great if you have free mornings or, perhaps, some freedom early enough at the end of the day. But otherwise… it’s kind of hard.

Now, I know there is one big reason for this: Teachers have to practice, too. Do I expect a teacher to be up and assisting by 6 a.m., meaning he or she may have had to start practicing at 4 a.m. — maybe even 3:30 a.m.?

No, I don’t. I do have a shred of humanity.

The places that are set up for the 9 to 5ers are larger, semi-corporate places like YogaWorks. Their schedules kick off, often, at 6 a.m., and that first class is done by 7:15 a.m. If the place is really nice and has fantastic shower facilities, it’s even possible (although a bit of a bummer) to head straight to work. You just have to figure out breakfast. (And the post-practice coffee.) But spots like YogaWorks don’t always, maybe even often, offer Ashtanga, if that’s what you’re looking for.

And here at this blog, we are.

Those who know Los Angeles and know the YogaWorks here are perhaps saying, “Hold on a second, Steve.” And I get it. There is an unusual number of Ashtanga classes, even Mysore ones. Our friend Maria Zavala leads one in West Hollywood, beginning at 6:30 a.m.

To those folks, I of course counter with: Traffic. I won’t bore you with how long it would take me, even at 6 a.m., to get to WeHo and then back home or even to work.

And that’s the thing. Ashtanga is intended to be for house-holders. But to a certain, and important, extent, it doesn’t work that way, because of what house-holding means and entails.

That is, unless you practice at home.

I’m not now about the offer some solution. One doesn’t pop easily to mind. But I think it unfortunate that a whole big group of people — those with stresses at work, with long hours at desks, with perhaps a career they didn’t really intend but can’t for any number of reasons abandon (note: I’m not obliquely referring to myself there) — who really could use the benefits of yoga, and of Ashtanga in particular, are effectively locked out of experiencing them.

Maybe the next life will be more accommodating.

Posted by Steve

Friday asana aid: Second’s seven headstands

A little different take on our regular video feature this week.

Instead of multiple different perspectives on a pose, we’ll give you one teacher’s multiple perspectives on sort of one pose: the seven headstands that finish up Ashtanga’s Second Series.

They come via Pacific Ashtanga and Diane Christinson. Here’s the first, with all seven at double speed:

And here’s headstand No. 1:

You can find all the videos right here.

Posted by Steve