What is yoga meant to be?

I love Yoga.

It has truly transformed my life in a positive way.

The more I see how many people are starting to practice and how this discipline is being embraced everywhere, this really gives me hope for a better society.

Yoga is an ancient discipline that for me works not only on the physical, but also on the mental and spiritual planes of your body; it changes the way you look at the world and the choices you make. Even if you start yoga just for fitness, you will soon find yourself making different food or lifestyle choices and looking at life in a more positive way. This secular Gift to the world, definitely spread out from India, but that does not mean it is “owned” by India.

It is clear that with the recent boom of yoga, the way people think about this discipline has changed a lot; mainly because of the opportunity to make money out of it.

Tara Stiles

New yoga hybrids, patenting sequences, trademarking styles are happening; many people are wondering if this practice is losing its sacred character under the pressure of commercialization.

There’s a campaign called “Takeback yoga” founded by the Hindu American Foundation, whose message is to differentiate the purely physical asana practice from the bigger meaning of yoga, which according to the Foundation embraces philosophy, spirituality and Hindu traditions. The aim of the campaign is to claim yoga as a Hindu practice. However nowadays many yoga portals and teachers are very careful to use the word “Hindu”, because of its obvious religious implications and the commonly held belief that if you practice yoga, then “you must be a Hindu”.

Many new yoga styles are now emerging like Boxing Yoga, Tara Stiles new Strala, DDP Yoga and many others, where the practice is presented purely in its physical form and doesn’t include any spiritual “mumbo jumbo”. Is this possible? Is this still Yoga?

Jivamukti founders, Life and Gannon, believe that one of the biggest mistakes is differentiating the physical and spiritual part of us, and that “there is no such thing as a purely physical practice. We need to have a new perspective so that no longer spirituality is in opposition to the physical, but that nature, the world, the earth is seen as a spiritual place as well.”( from al Jazeera documentary, “Who Owns Yoga”).

Another form of trying to own yoga for me is the recent passing of a patent by one of the biggest online yoga classes companies. The company has managed to successfully patent their camera height and disposition of the mats in the recording of classes, with  the result of legally pretty much cutting out anyone else wanting to offer online yoga classes. I was shocked to hear that this was even possible! A clear central aisle, a camera positioned 3 feet high from the central point are really standard ways to record a class, not really an invention that can be justifiably patented, in my opinion. It may be about yoga, but it’s clearly business, after all.

History of Yoga

Of course not all people who do yoga related commerce are so centered in their profits to the point of destroying the spreading of common knowledge.  Many are honestly trying to enhance the practice with better ethical and eco products, for example with the aim to raise the vibration and quality of everybody’s practice and life.

I think in the end, what makes the difference is the Intention you have when you start to practice, or a yoga related business or career. Everyone has to make a living and spread their message, but yoga is too precious, too vast to own, it’s a gift to the world for the betterment of society and should be enjoyed freely by all.

Ultimately yoga is really about who you are as a person: your intention to do good should be carried on and off the mat in your daily life. If you have this Intention, if you are doing a positive contribution to the world in what you are sharing then that is enough.

Yoga is a very personal journey, and only you can know your Intention.


(Post Picture by Mario Tama/Getty Images)