Who Owns Yoga?

There’s a lot of conversation out there about the yoga of Instagram and trademarks; the idea that yoga is an “exclusive” practice or one that belongs to a certain group of people. According to a new survey from Yoga Journal and Yoga Alliance, these ideas are keeping some Americans from trying yoga while, at the same time, the number of yoga practitioners in the U.S. swells each year.

It is also true that the same elements that draw some people to the practice, such as the yogic philosophy or spirituality, can alienate others. As millions of people in the Western world have adopted the ancient physical and spiritual practice of yoga, we have modified it to suit our modern cultures, values, and lifestyles. People are practicing yoga for an incredible variety of different reasons. And here’s the important part—all of them equally valid.

While this rapid societal adoption and adaptation of yoga has undoubtedly benefited many people, it has also produced some troubling stereotypes that have a tendency to exclude many potential yoga practitioners. Unfortunately, some students are unintentionally alienated as they encounter these stereotypes and don’t feel as comfortable with these “norms.”

This situation is reversible, and we can all take part in making positive changes to help create a global yoga community that is more inclusive and accessible for everyone. We don’t have all of the answers on the how-to here, but know our girl Dianne Bondy, and many others, are on the right track….

Who Owns Yoga?

Check out this fascinating video from Al Jazeera English correspondent Bhanu Bhatnagar as he seeks to answer the question: Who Owns Yoga? This is a long video, but brilliantly done and completely worth the watch. (Bonus points if you can make it through the whole video without passing judgements!)

As Bhanu discovers, “it’s the variety and diversity of yoga that makes it so popular; it fits the practitioner.” Because after all, nobody owns yoga, and yoga is for everybody.

Who Owns Yoga?

Film Credit: Who Owns Yoga? is part of an Al Jazeera English correspondent series presented by Bhanu Bhatnagar and filmmakers Micah Garen and Marie-Helene Carleton.