News & Thoughts on Yoga in DC

Archive for April, 2011|Monthly archive page

Questions About Who (Anyone?) Owns Yoga Poses

In News on April 27, 2011 at 6:00 AM

India is sounding the warning shot: Keep your Prana Flow® off our poses.

© AFP/ Dibyangshu Sarkar

Prana Flow® is a trademarked style of yoga developed by California yoga master, Shiva Rae. Though the Indian government has not cited a specific American school of yoga, it has filmed hundreds of yoga poses and registered them with international patent offices. Its goal is to stop American and European entrepreneurs from patenting yoga poses and advertising they have created new types of yoga. This week it also signed an agreement with the Japanese Patent Office.

Yoga originated in India. People cannot claim to invent a new yoga when they have not,

says Vinod Kumar Gupta, who runs the Indian government’s Traditional Knowledge Digital Library which is heading the effort.

As American as Aerobics and Revival Meetings

Almost 16 million American adults practice yoga, spending $5.7 billion a year on yoga classes and products, according to a study released three years ago by Yoga Journal. Americans practice everything from Christian yoga and Jewish yoga to Naked Yoga and Laughter Yoga. The U.S. Patent Office has issued more than 130 yoga-related patents (most for merchandise), 150 copyrights and 2,300 trademarks related to yoga. Most of copyrights and trademarks are for yoga-studio branding and training manuals; none is for individual poses.

The firestorm over yoga ownership was lit in 2004 in Beverly Hills when Calcutta-born Bikram Choudhury claimed ownership of a sequence of 26 postures he called Bikram Yoga practiced by students in a hot room. He tried to collect money from other studios that also offered “Hot Yoga” classes, according to The Washington Post. So far no one in the U.S. has patented a yoga pose.

Wasted Energy

Some experts wonder why the Indian government is spending resources on a non-issue.

“If copyrights have been granted on works depicting the yoga practices of concern, the rights granted would be limited to prohibiting others from copying instructional videos or books used to teach the yoga moves or positions,”

wrote patent attorney Joseph Breimayer in a blog post.

“Copyright cannot be used to prohibit teaching or performing the moves or positions by someone who has learned to do so using the copyrighted materials.”

For Indian Eyes Only

India is releasing 30 to 40 of the yoga videos to the public, says Gupta. The government will not allow yoga practitioners to see or use most poses, many of which he says have been culled from ancient Sanskrit texts.

A Missed Opportunity for India

Americans will continue to Americanize yoga. Who knows what’s next; perhaps reality TV. Might we see:

  • Extreme Yoga Makeover?
  • Project Down Dog?

India has the chance to share new poses — and millennia of yoga tradition — with hungry yoga students:

  • Imagine a You Tube site featuring “new” ancient poses.
  • Imagine distributing Indian yoga for free.
  • Imagine even charging 99 cents per download, and giving the proceeds to India’s other national treasure: their starving children.

Despite India’s economic boom, at least 46 per cent of very young children in India suffer from malnutrition, according to a 2009 study backed by the British Government. There are a number of private India charities who are doing the hard work of feeding, clothing and educating 1000s of destitute kids and could use the help.

Or we can argue about who owns yoga.

What we call the beginning is often the end

In Poets & Preachers I Like on April 25, 2011 at 6:00 AM

And to make and end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from. And every phrase
And sentence that is right (where every word is at home,
Taking its place to support the others,
The word neither diffident nor ostentatious,
An easy commerce of the old and the new,
The common word exact without vulgarity,
The formal word precise but not pedantic,
The complete consort dancing together)
Every phrase and every sentence is an end and a beginning,
Every poem an epitaph. And any action
Is a step to the block, to the fire, down the sea’s throat
Or to an illegible stone: and that is where we start.
We die with the dying:
See, they depart, and we go with them.
We are born with the dead:
See, they return, and bring us with them.
The moment of the rose and the moment of the yew-tree
Are of equal duration. A people without history
Is not redeemed from time, for history is a pattern
Of timeless moments. So, while the light fails
On a winter’s afternoon, in a secluded chapel
History is now and England.

With the drawing of this Love and the voice of this Calling

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, unremembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.
Quick now, here, now, always—
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flames are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.

T. S. Eliot

From “Little Gidding” 1942

The Four Quartets

White House Meditation

In Photos on April 22, 2011 at 6:00 AM

    Photo by Maria Morgan

Cousins Rowan, Calvin, Declan and Liam practice their Oms after visiting the White House grounds.

40 Days Without Hulu

In Essays & Scattered Observations on April 20, 2011 at 6:00 AM

Practice is the sustained effort to rest in that stillness.

Sutra 13, Pada One

For Lent I gave up watching Hulu, an online-TV service. With a bit of irony, I note that Lent offers me a way to practice yoga when I am off the mat.

                  The 13th sutra of  The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, a manual for the study and practice of yoga, tells us essentially that yoga is a full-time occupation. Yoga’s ultimate goal is to achieve awareness, or isvara, by stilling the whirling kaleidoscope of thoughts we call consciousness, or cita vritti.  We still our minds to attain isvara through practice (abhyasa) and nonattachment (vairgya).

                  I live on a farm, a large, uncluttered piece of cultivated wilderness 30-miles outside Washington, DC. The plate-glass window of my study overlooks a field and a tree where cardinals, blue jays and orioles perch like large-petaled flowers.  I spend much of each day at my desk writing and reading and am blessed to have happiness close at hand. I left the city six months ago to gain some distance from the clatter of the streets and the busy boutiques of my former, up-scale neighborhood. Happiness is now as close as a walk up the rough hills outside or as easy as unrolling my yoga mat by the window. But off my mat, away from the forgiving lifestyle, how do I live my yoga? How do I practice yoga all day?

It's hard to escape Hulu. Coming out of a hermit's cave in India.

    Lent takes place during the 40 days prior to Easter, and for Catholics and many Protestants it represents the period toward the end of Jesus’ life when he retreated to the desert to pray and meditate. The number 40 resonates in Judaism and Christianity with associations to devotion, discipline and preparation – Noah waited 40 days for the floods to recede, the Israelites traveled 40 years in the desert, Moses fasted for 40 days on Mount Sinai, and of course, Jesus prepared himself for his final sacrifice for 40 days, with no food or companion other than the barren cliffs of the Judean Desert and the temptations of Satan. Read the rest of this entry »

Visiting Yoga Master

In Hot Classes, News on April 18, 2011 at 6:12 PM

Annie Carpenter

“How can someone so petite be so mean?”

A small voice comes from the floor of the Yoga Source studio in Richmond, Virgina.

“I’m not mean. I’m unrelenting,”

says Annie Carpenter.

Annie, who also teaches nine classes a week at the Exhale Center for Sacred Movement in Venice, California, gave a three-day workshop this weekend in the trendy Carytown district of Richmond. The 14-hour workshop was so demanding, many a chaturanga collapsed in a sweaty, trembling heap of spent muscle fiber.

Annie calls her method of practicing and teaching SmartFlow because its flow-inspired sequencing grows organically out of the body’s alignment.

Formerly a dancer with the Martha Graham Studio in New York, Annie has the honed physical intelligence of a dancer. She flits across the studio floor like a fairy to communicate joy or marches like a toy soldier to express solidity and rhythm. She transforms those familiar movements of dance into a yoga that draws on her early training in anatomy and kinesiology, and her classes, she says, are “informed by the body’s structure and evolution.”

“If you clench your butt, I will slap it!”

Annie announces to her students playfully.

Good alignment ensures a safe practice, she says. But hard work and a disciplined practice provide a way for each yogi to find her own inner stillness and meditation. Annie calls these entry points to inner stillness “points of dharana.”

I believe that yoga truly is a shamanic path, capable of leading us through transformation on all levels. Yoga reminds us what is real, and thus who we are — the light radiating from within.

Annie Carpenter

Annie is known as a “teacher’s teacher,” but you don’t have to be a teacher to love her classes. There are few yoga teachers with Annie’s level of knowledge — or who will take you deeper in your own practice — so kick on out to Los Angeles to take a class — and relax your butt.

Organge Bliss

In Photos on April 11, 2011 at 11:19 PM
Orange Bliss

Monks, by Valerie Brown

This photo used to hang in Valerie and Lloyd’s house in Maryland. The photo was large, and the monks were so unguarded and immediate, that I had the sense when walking into the suburban living room that the monk on the left was glancing down at the carpet just in front of me, taking me in from beneath his lowered lashes. The strange — and calming — effect was not that the monks had entered my world, but that I was standing at the steps of a monastery in Chang Mai, Thailand.

Hot Classes in April & May

In Hot Classes on April 8, 2011 at 8:58 PM

I’ve collected the best of visiting master teachers, yoga retreats and teacher training workshops in DC. Click on the chart to view what’s headed to DC in April and May.

Double click on the image to enlarge. Print out and enjoy!

Click on the image, and then click again to enlarge.

Love bade me welcome;

In Poets & Preachers I Like on April 7, 2011 at 8:43 AM
    Yet my soul drew back
    Guilty of dust and sin.
    But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack
    From my first entrance in,
    Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
    If I lack’d anything.
    ‘A guest,’ I answer’d, ‘worthy to be here:’
    Love said, ‘You shall be he.’
    ‘I, the unkind, ungrateful? Ah, my dear,
    I cannot look on Thee.’
    Love took my hand and smiling did reply,
    ‘Who made the eyes but I?’
    ‘Truth, Lord; but I have marr’d them: let my shame
    Go where it doth deserve.’
    ‘And know you not,’ says Love, ‘Who bore the blame?’
    ‘My dear, then I will serve.’
    ‘You must sit down,’ says Love, ‘and taste my meat.’
    So I did sit and eat.

Love by George Herbert

George Herbert (3 April 1593 – 1 March 1633) was a Welsh-born English poet, orator and Anglican priest.

Yoga Calms the Heart

In News on April 6, 2011 at 5:51 PM

Do you know the feeling of calm that comes about 45 minutes into yoga class? You begin to feel mellow and in your groove. That happy feeling is doing good things for your heart, too, especially if you suffer from an irregular heartbeat, called atrial fibrillation.

Regular yoga practice cuts in half the incidence of irregular heartbeat, according to scientists at the American College of Cardiology’s 60th Annual Scientific Session. In a study, patients with no yoga experience practiced for 45 minutes three times a week. They learned to do poses and to breathe and meditate. The patients had significantly fewer episodes of atrial fibrillation, as well as less anxiety and depression.

Anatomy of the Human Heart, in English, by Ties van Brussel

“It appears yoga has a significant impact on helping to regulate patients’ heartbeat and improves their overall quality of life,” says Dhanunjaya Lakkireddy, M.D., associate professor of medicine at the University of Kansas Hospital and lead investigator of the study.

Read the rest of this entry »

When love beckons to you,

In Poets & Preachers I Like on April 3, 2011 at 7:19 AM

follow him,
Though his ways are hard and steep.
And when his wings enfold you yield to him,
Though the sword hidden among his pinions may wound you.
And when he speaks to you believe in him,
Though his voice may shatter your dreams
as the north wind lays waste the garden.

I first heard this poem, Gibran’s Love, on a “heart opening” yoga retreat led by Gopi Kinnicutt. I was struck by the image of the soul being taken to the “threshing floor.” The obvious questions was not how much was I willing to suffer, because at that point I was in a fair amount of spiritual anguish. The question was, how much was I willing to open my heart?

The Prophet cover art

Read the rest of this entry »


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