Wednesday, September 04, 2002

Breathe: A media mogul is the most powerful man in the industry. It has been rocked by sex scandal. The big players live lives of extravagant luxury. There is dissension and resentment among the rank and file. The marketing is shameless. The cost outrageous. The competition cutthroat.

Now guess the industry.

Nope, try again.

Nope. Sorry, you'll never get it.

It's the Yoga industry.
"Be successful" is the new mantra of the yoga universe, which has become so competitive that trying to crack the big leagues is far more difficult than it was even a few years ago. But how do yogis in our covetous culture separate themselves from the pack without violating asteya, the yama that strictly forbids stealing? For millennia, the intricate techniques of yoga were passed down freely from teacher to student. Today they form a collection of highly marketable intellectual properties -- a phenomenon that has only encouraged some rather unenlightened behavior.

[Yogi] Bikram says there has been so much stealing of his "hot yoga" techniques during the last few years that he had to spend $500,000 in January for a lawyer to trademark his sequence of 26 asanas, or yoga poses, as well as his word-for-word monologues describing how to do them. Thus yoga, the franchise, was born. "People were doing illegal things," Bikram growls. "I had to stop them."

At Jivamukti in New York City -- the downtown studio with 2,000 students per week and a website that lists 51 celebrity clients, from Steve Martin to Monica Lewinsky -- owner David Life complains that several former teachers have set up shop nearby, offering the same method he painstakingly developed with co-owner Sharon Gannon during the last 17 years. "They're not calling themselves Jivamukti, but the staff is almost 100 percent certified through our training program," Life says, adding that he might consider taking action if they start using the word Jivamukti -- which, naturally, the couple has trademarked.
How long until the Sopranos move in on this racket? These folks should devote more time to their downward dogs or they'll all end up in corpse pose.