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Yoga: A Global Sutra

Dr. Navodita Pande throws light on the findings of Yoga in ancient scriptures in India and also, elaborates a mythological legend behind it. It tries to put emphasis on patenting of this ancient exercise form before it is claimed by any other country owing to its growing popularity!

Yoga is an ancient art and philosophy. Everyone knows that Yog or Yoga has its roots and origin in India and many other countries, people from all over the world are benefitting from it in different ways. Apart from body, it is based on enthusing the power of your mind over your overall health and life. Let us ponder further and look at the mythological evidences, legends and mention in the ancient scriptures of India.

It began with the sages of whom Sage Patanjali is considered to be the first great Yogi. His work ‘Yoga Sutras of Patanjali’ or ‘Patanjal Yogadarshan’ is the most popular. It is a treatise on Yoga where most gurus and Yogis have consulted it for reference. There is an interesting story behind the birth of the legend - Lord Patanjali.

Patanjali, the Founder

According to a legend, shortly before Patanjali was born Lord Vishnu was seated on his serpent, Adisesa (Adisesa is in fact many of the incarnations of Vishnu). While seated on his serpent carriage, Vishnu was enraptured by the dance of Lord Shiva. Vishnu was so affected that his body began to vibrate causing him to pound down heavily on Adisesa- who consequently suffered great discomfort. When the dance ended the weight was instantaneously lifted. Adisesa asked Vishnu what happened. On hearing about the dance, Adisesa wanted to learn it so he could personally dance for the pleasure of Vishnu, his lord. Vishnu was impressed and predicted to Adisesa that one day Lord Shiva would bless him for his understanding and devotion and that he would be incarnated so that he could both shower humanity with blessings and fulfil his own desire to master dance. Adisesa immediately began to ponder on the question of who his mother would be. At the same time a virtuous woman named Gonika, who was totally devoted to yoga, was praying and seeking for someone to be a worthy son to her. She wanted to pass on the knowledge and understanding she had gained through yoga. Concerned that, with her days on earth now severely numbered, she had not yet found a candidate, she prostrated herself before the Sun, the earthly manifestation of the light and presence of God. She scooped out the only gift she could find- a handful of water- and beseeched him to bestow her with a son. She then meditated upon the Sun and prepared herself to present her simple but sincere offering. On seeing all this Adisesa- the bearer of Vishnu- knew that he had found the mother he was looking for. Just as Gonika was about to offer her handful of water to the Sun, she glanced down at her hands and was astonished to see a tiny serpent moving in her hands. She was even more astonished when, within a few moments, that serpent had assumed a human form. Adisesa, who it was, in his turn prostrated before Gonika and pleaded with her to accept him as her son.

Prominent Yoga Texts

Thus was the story of the birth of the founder of Yoga. The Yoga Sutras are considered to be his work on both Sankhya and Yoga. On the other hand, he could have been reinterpreting and clarifying what others had said, freeing them at the same time from contradictions. The very least that can be said is that he brought many threads, some dating back to the Vedas and Upanishads, together, and that he did so with what modern psychology would call genius. What had previously been long-winded and obscure he encapsulated in the nuggets of his sutras; and what had previously been abstract he made practical and easy to validate through the lives and experience of a long line of teachers and practitioners. While the Yoga Sutras initially appears to be a dry and theoretical text, it explains human nature and psychology while also being an intensely practical manual for spiritual advancement.

Among some other prominent yogic texts that remained cornerstones of contemporary yogic study are The Bhagvad Gita, Yoga Vasistha, Hatha Yoga Pradipika, The Vedas and the Upanishads. There has been extensive study of these texts where the knowledge is being used by many practitioners worldwide. However, the most recent trend of yoga being done globally has raised questions about its place of origin and people are discussing whether it should be patented by the United States of America as it has become a huge fad in the country.

Yoga: A Contemporary Fad

If the United States has its way, Yoga may no longer remain an Indian treasure. The US Patent office granted American companies patents and copyrights to Yoga related accessories. A Los Angeles based Yoga guru, Bikram Chaudhury, claimed intellectual property rights over 26 asanas, which he says are postures developed from the ancient tradition. Can wisdom be patented?

A task force was set up by the Indian government in 2003 because there was talk of all herbal medicines that needed to be patented by India, which were being taken away by many individuals across the US and Europe as well. However, nothing was done, maybe because the Indian Government was lacking and also because there was a certain sense of apathy towards ancient Indian traditions.

Hoslistic Health Guru Mickey Mehta tried to answer this very question by speaking to a news channel, News 18, saying, "It's ridiculous and unfortunate that if anyone practices a Yoga asana that has been patented by Bikram Chaudhury, he or she could well be granted a legal notice."

However, he added that one must hand it to the US for taking Yoga to such epidemic proportions. "U.S. and Europe have really been the place where Yoga came to light, even though India may have given birth to Yoga."

It’s high time then that Indians start taking this ancient art and philosophy more seriously and contribute for its upliftment. PM Narendra Modi has done much to declare an International Yoga Day on June 21, but more needs to be done to promote it in schools and colleges. As we move towards a ‘global village’ due to the easy accessibility of technology which bridges geographical distances, cultures are getting merged and that thin line that bifurcates ‘Indian’ and ‘Western’ traditions is getting blurred. There are more interactions and exchanges across diverse platforms between Westerners and Indians due to which Indians are fast adopting ‘gymming’ as the new fitness mantra and westerners are easily taking to ‘Yoga’ and Pilates. Yet, is it alright to patent a country’s ancient Indian art/exercise and meditation form is the big question?

About The Author

Dr. Navodita Pande

Navodita Pande is a journalist and has also authored books on TV journalism and Yoga. She has been doing Yoga since the age of nine. She taught Yoga at the age of fifteen to you.... Read More..

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