A Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in California has ruled out on 15 October that yoga poses and breathing exercises are not eligible for copyright protection. Yoga instructor Bikram Choudhury, who gained popularity all over the US for his signature “hot yoga”, also known as “Bikram yoga”, since the 1990s, filed the suit on grounds of copyright infringement.
This special brand of yoga consists of two breathing exercises and twenty-six positions. These poses are meant to be performed in precise sequence in a controlled temperature of 105 degrees Fahrenheit. According to Choudhury, this sequence of poses constitutes a choreographed compilation and is therefore eligible for copyright protection. The court rejected this notion.
The judge held that Choudhury’s sequence of poses and breathing exercises can be classed as an idea, process or system designed to improve health and wellbeing. She stated that, "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” and added that "Although there is no cause to dispute the many health, fitness, spiritual and aesthetic benefits of yoga, and Bikram Yoga in particular, they do not bring the sequence into the realm of copyright protection”.
It was further held that if yoga poses were eligible for copyright protection, it would not be long before routine or specialised physical movements such as brushing teeth or performing surgical procedures, would fall within the ambit of copyright protection as forms of dance or choreography.