Heated debate - Page 2

Bikram hot yoga's campaign for copyright has implication for the Bay Area scene

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GUARDIAN ILLUSTRATION BY NAMITA KAPOOR

"And it's just like any profession — doctor, lawyer, massage therapist — you're required to get re-certified periodically," she says. As for as the franchising fee, she says that because she and her husband bought an existing studio, they were not required to pay anything beyond their teacher training to open their business.

Though that may soon change. In April, Bikram will require studios to pay $300 a monthy for the right to use his name, which has people "freaking out."

"I suppose some people are always going to feel exploited," she says, "But personally, I think it's a bargain. How else do you buy into a brand?"

Of course, Bikram wasn't always considered a brand. Sanchez explains that when he arrived in the U.S. in the 1970s, he slept on the floor of his studio. He taught for free until the actress Shirley MacLaine, a student of his, took him aside and told him that if he didn't charge money, no one would value what he did.

But if yoga is truly about a practice, not a product, why continue to replicate this one man's 26 poses?

Brian Monnier, of the California Yoga Company (www.calyogacompany.com), says of Gumucio, "I support his right to fight for this, but if your teacher doesn't want you teaching what he taught, why not grow and change the practice?"

Monnier points to his teacher Tony Sanchez, who learned directly from Bikram, but wasn't certified by Bikram's Yoga College of India. Instead, Sanchez returned to Bikram's own guru, Bishnu Gosh, in Calcutta. It was from him that Sanchez drew his practice, creating a new style of hot yoga altogether.

Even Bikram has said that the power should lie with the practitioner — not the teacher. The very idea for Yoga to the People came when Bikram asked Gumucio, then a student of his, to review another teacher. Gumucio gave a negative review, and Bikram chastised him, saying "You are your own teacher. You are responsible for your own experience."

How that plays out in the Bay Area remains to be seen. Katite Gumucio, Greg's sister and owner of Hot Yoga Ocean Ave., (www.hotyogaoceanave.com) believes that yoga isn't so different from many other types of big business with the opportunity to change paths. "Yoga can segue into a new way of doing business. YTTP is clear that you're the center of it all; you don't need to realize through anyone else. People can lead us, they can grow and do great work, but when they reach the point where they can only lead by force, it's time to redistribute the power instead of trying to hold on."

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