Are Yoga Poses Copywritten?

by Doug Zanes | Last Updated: November 4, 2015

Are Yoga Poses Copywritten? 

Yoga Poses Are Not, In Fact, Under Copyright

Some of you love to sweat it out during a session of Yoga while other prefer to have a night stretch session over candlelight…

Still others go for the traditional yoga sessions…

Some of us only know “child’s pose” or nap time 🙂

But a series of 26 poses, which yogi Bikram Choudhury claims to have created and refers to as “the sequence,” is not in fact protected material according to the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The court ruled on Thursday that 26 Yoga poses are an  “unprotectable idea”  which cannot be copyrighted…

Additionally,  Choudhury’s breathing exercises are also not subject to copyright protection despite a 1979 book he wrote detailing the practice…

Choudhury’s techniques make up what he calls “Bikram yoga,” which has strict rules about the sequence of poses, breathing methods and the temperature and furnishings of studios…

Choudhury is your expert entrepreneur who has licensed hundreds of studios across the United States, and his boot camps bring in $4.9 million annually, according to the Washington Post.

Choudhury’s  written books do have their copyrights but he was seeking a ruling “to restrict to himself the right to teach the methods he developed.”

Evolation Yoga, a national collective of yoga teachers and studios co-founded by a former member of Choudhury’s training staff, was named as a defendant in the case.

Judge Kim Wardlaw, who wrote the opinion (PDF), notes that “the practice and philosophy of yoga dates back thousands of years.”

“The lawsuit,” Wardlaw wrote “was attempting to secure copyright protection for “a healing art: a system designed to yield physical benefits and a sense of well-being.”

The opinion upholds a Central District of California ruling that found “the sequence” is not appropriate for copyright protection.

So feel free to teach your friends your cool yoga poses without the threat of copyright infringement 😉


Doug Zanes: Founding Attorney Raised in Douglas, Arizona, and went to college at Arizona State University and graduated from law school at St. Mary’s University School of Law in Texas. Doug began practicing law in Phoenix Arizona in 1997.
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