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OFF BEAT: Battle over yoga copyright heats up


The term “yoga war” might seem to be an oxymoron in light of yoga’s emphasis on meditative poses, but that appears to be what’s going on in a legal battle between two yoga studios in New York.

The Bikram Yoga NYC studio in New York’s Flatiron District offers sessions costing as much as $25 each for workouts in 105-degree heat, according to the New York Times.

Meanwhile, just a few blocks away, Yoga to the People offers what it describes as “traditional hot yoga” in 103-degree heat for just $8.

Bikram Choudhury, Bikram Yoga’s founder, has copyrighted Bikram Yoga and is suing Yoga to the People for copyright infringement. He is seeking monetary damages and has asked a federal judge to block Yoga to the People from offering hot yoga.

Mr. Choudhury’s attorney, Robert Gilchrest, a partner with law firm Silverman Sclar Shin & Byrne L.L.P. in Los Angeles, who has represented Mr. Choudhury in at least one other comparable lawsuit, said an investigator was sent to take the classes at Yoga to the People and that the two studios’ classes are “virtually mirror images and the dialog was consistently the same” as Bikram yoga.

Yoga to the People founder Greg Gumucio says, however, that Mr. Choudhury “enlightened him” by saying, “You are your own teacher. You are responsible for your own experience.”

Presumably, that means he ultimately may find himself responsible for his own legal costs as well.