I’ve been doing yoga on and off since high school. PE sucked — all those nasty outdoor team sports — so when yoga, modern dance and self defense were offered as indoor alternatives, I jumped, or at least  jettéd, at the opportunity to avoid the evil yellow hurty thing in the sky and its companion balls: soft, base and basket. Ugh.

I loved yoga; we did hatha yoga, and our teacher explained, theoretically, what organs were affected by the various poses. It was mellow, fun and meaningful, unlike other yoga classes I took decades later where there seemed to be a level of competition with regards to both dress and the ability to do a wheel pose. I felt kinda empty after those.

Yoga has been in the United States since the late 1800s, and really took off in the mid-1920s. A ban on Indian immigration from 1924 to 1965 kept traditional practitioners out of the U.S.; but in spite of the ban, yoga became an underground staple with celebrities and alternative types.

Then came the Sixties and all that came with that decade of seeking. The Beatles and the Maharishi, altered states of consciousness, health food, and the lift on the immigration ban.  Yoga expanded slowly at first, but by the mid-90s, yoga studios were cropping up everywhere, yogaini were appearing on morning news shows and gyms were expanding their classes to schedules to  include power yoga with its interminable aerobic “Astanga! Down dog!” Baby yoga! Doggie and me yoga! Yoga pants, yoga mats, yoga magazines, yoga work out videos…and inevitably yoga lawsuits.

In Yoga, Inc., director John Philp takes us through the development and marketing of yoga in the United States including the idea of yoga competitions — which have been around for century, just not with the hopes of a sponsorship by Mercedes Benz, as one promoter wishes for out loud.

Behind the competitions is super yogi Bikram Choudhury, founder of the hot — literally and figuratively — Bik who has copyrighted his own style of yoga and order of poses (asanas), and sued those who dare to use either his name or the poses in the the same order he does. In some cities, chain yoga studios are putting the individually owned studios out of business, and the spiritual practice of yoga seems to have been replaced by a material striving and the desire to have a hard body.  Yoga, Inc. asks the question, “Can yoga survive with its good karma intact?” That remains to be seen, as it’s an $18 billion dollar a year business…

(Watch – Yoga, Inc.)

Lisa Derrick

Lisa Derrick

Los Angeles native, attended UC Berkeley and Loyola Marymount University before punk rock and logophilia overtook her life. Worked as nightclub columnist, pop culture journalist and was a Hollywood housewife before writing for and editing Sacred History Magazine. Then she discovered the thrill of politics. She also appears frequently on the Dave Fanning Show, one of Ireland's most popular radio broadcasts.

170 Comments