Frozen Yoga? It’s Snowga

It seemed as if yoga should have exhausted its opportunities for expansion by now, considering it has already made such unlikely alliances as marijuana, dogs, karaoke and stand-up paddleboards. But the yoga creep carries on with what may be the practice’s strangest bedfellow yet: snow.

This latest incarnation of yoga is called, inevitably, snowga, and it’s done outside in freezing temperatures, that archenemy of stretching, often as a mash-up with snow sports like skiing and snowshoeing.

In Bozeman, Mont., this winter, a company called Flow Outside began a twice-weekly class in which participants snowshoe to their destination as a warm-up, do about a half-hour of yoga, and then snowshoe home. Stowe Mountain Lodge in Vermont offers snowga (calling it Stowega) with both skiing and snowshoeing. And at Finger Lakes Yoga Escapes in Canandaigua, N.Y., an owner, Jennifer Hess, said snowga (her version is with snowshoes) has been such a success that she plans to introduce a class at night, with headlamps.

There’s also a popular hashtag, #snowga, with yogis posting pictures of themselves holding poses in the snow, occasionally with ad hoc props, like snow shovels. The hashtag took off a couple of years ago, after two of yoga’s Instagram stars — Laura Kasperzak (one million followers) and her high school friend Masumi Goldman (125,000 followers) — began using it.

Laurie Riedman, who regularly skis, snowshoes and practices yoga (but never all together), said she was surprised by how good a combination snowga was when she tried it recently in Canandaigua.

“Yoga and cold just sounds like an oxymoron,” said Ms. Riedman, a public relations consultant. “But I got hot. There were some parts where I had to open up my coat and take my gloves off. We were really working out.”

Carin Gorrell, editor in chief of Yoga Journal, said this latest version of yoga was almost predictable, especially because outdoor hybrid classes like yoga and hiking or yoga and stand-up paddleboarding are always the first to sell out at the magazine’s events.

“People who are passionate about practicing yoga want to do it everywhere — they’ll tell you yoga goes with everything,” she said. (Yoga Journal Live classes tend to be in warmer months, but if an opportunity arose to offer snowga, “we probably would,” she said.)

Fans say the pairing is more natural than it sounds. Beth Stewart, a spokeswoman for Windham Mountain Resort in the Catskills, said the company was inspired to offer snowga for the first time this winter after guides on snowshoe outings watched women spontaneously strike yoga poses, “a grown-up version of making snow angels,” she said. A class description suggests the snowshoe portion of the class is “meditation in motion.”

Anne Anderson first paired yogic breathing with skiing to calm students’ nerves while she was a ski instructor at Mohawk Mountain in Connecticut. Buoyed by the results, she spent a summer kitted out in shorts, boots, skis and poles to figure out what poses worked when weighed down with equipment, then went to the Kripalu center in Massachusetts to earn her 200-hour yoga teacher training certificate.

Ms. Anderson pointed out that yoga’s chair pose is essentially skiing’s racing tuck. “Eagle wings,” her variation of a pose with arms out, forming a T-shape, helps students figure out where to distribute their weight on skis and helps with turning. They try it on a groomed trail without poles. (Ms. Anderson recently moved to Vail, where she is hoping to resume teaching snowga.)

Lynda Kennedy, who offers snowga in Chelan, a resort town in north-central Washington, said some of yoga’s warrior poses (the ones that are variations on lunges) and forward bends are ideal preparation for one of the hardest parts of snowshoeing: putting on the shoes.

“Many people’s hips are too tight,” she said. “So we start with just our boots on, and the yoga gets us flexible so we can reach down and put our snowshoes on.”

The winter sports “props” make yoga more accessible. Snowshoes can help the less limber achieve a backbend known as camel pose, while ski poles do the same for Warrior 2, a lunge in which one arm is extended to the front and the other to the back.

Susan Sirianni-Grimm, a chiropractor in Pittsford, N.Y., near Rochester, usually does hot vinyasa yoga, but no matter how warm she gets, she can get only so far with her standing forward fold. Recently, though, she put on three layers of clothing, joined a snowga class in 5-degree temperatures and 18 inches of snow, and went deep into the pose with the help of her snowshoes, which curve up, making them easier to reach than bare feet.

“It was stretching for my body as well as for my mind,” she said, laughing, of her frozen yoga experience. (She said it was a mental struggle to stay focused as the wind picked up, the sun glinted off nearby Canandaigua Lake — and as a couple of classmates went splat in the new-fallen snow.)

For seasoned yogis, the snow makes nearly everything more of a workout, including getting back up if you fall.

“Your balance is challenged because you may not be on a completely flat part of the snow or because of the wind,” said Jen Brick DuCharme, owner of Bozeman’s Flow Outside. “You may feel like you’re having to work a different part of your body to maintain that asana,” or pose.

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Julie Kleine, who frequently practices vinyasa yoga in a studio, said she struggled to do the same poses on snowshoes in Ms. DuCharme’s class but felt less self-conscious about the idea of falling.

“Class outside is more playful and people interact a bit more than when you’re on your own mat,” she said. “Falling is kind of less dramatic and probably more fun.”

Yoga in the snow does have its limits. Poses like plank and chaturanga, the yoga push-up, are nearly impossible if there’s a thick coating of fresh powder, because the hands sink too fast. (“It’s fun to try, but then you get stuck,” Ms. Kennedy said.) Most teachers avoid suggesting anything that involves a face-plant in the snow or inversions, like handstands or headstands.

But the more challenging the pose, the more likely it is to end up, done by yogis in carefully chosen camera-ready clothes, posted with the snowga hashtag on Instagram.

Ms. Kasperzak, who documents her yoga practice daily, said, “It’s how yogis play in the snow.”

Modern Yoga in the Place of Yogis

This paradox emerges, in part, because the practice known as ‘yoga’ around the world is a modern invention of the globalised and capitalist 20th century. A brief look at the history of yoga may help to explain why this industry has not had a straightforward development in India.

Yoga in India has never represented an unbroken historical tradition. Although many of the postures, breath practices and meditations have their roots in classical and medieval Indian texts, the very meaning of ‘yoga’ has varied widely across texts and periods. ‘Yoga’ has been variously understood as a search to separate the spirit from bodily matter, as a quest to unite with the divine, as a tool to strengthen the nation, as a means of magic, and as a form of military training. Before the 20th century, yogis were usually depicted as sorcerers, spies and soul-stealers. They did not do very many lotus poses.

In the early 20th century Indian innovators like Krishnamacharya, began to rehabilitate yoga as a modern physical pursuit that laid important foundations for the commercially successful global yoga industry we see today. These innovative and experimental yogis drew upon Indian textual lineages of yoga, as well as the Western physical culture movement of the early 20th century. Ideas about the moral value of cultivating one’s body appealed to an Indian nationalism looking to combat colonial stereotypes of Indians as weak and effeminate.

Influential students of Krishnamacharya, such as Pattabhi Jois and B.K.S. Iyengar, continued to sow the seeds for a commercial yoga industry by ‘branding’ these emergent forms of postural yoga in the mid-20th century. They created formal institutions, named styles of yoga and authorised new generations of students to teach their particular lineages. Many (though not all) of today’s yoga institutions trace some path back to these figures.

Ironically, this new postural yoga was often most appealing to students coming from outside India. Training spaces were often populated by students from the Western counterculture who transmitted these practices back to Europe and America. Sensitive to this phenomenon, Indian tourist boards in the 21st century have explicitly marketed yoga to foreigners, with regions associated with yoga promoted as Destination Wellness.

In her memoir Yoga School Dropout, when Lucy Edge records conversations with Indians about yoga, her anecdotes are telling. In contrast to the idealised body emphasised in many globalised commercial yoga studios, Edge’s Indian interlocutors tend to think of yoga as something undramatic they do at home, like having a glass of whiskey after a hard day’s work. Usually there is a focus on breath control or meditation rather than on poses. These practices are often done for free at home, rather than in an expensive studio.

Yoga in India has also been historically promoted through robust alternatives to commercial studios. Nationalist Hindu groups have frequently run camps to introduce yoga techniques to middle-class Indians. In these camps, learning yoga is often only one first step in a larger project of religious nation-building. Religious organisations have sometimes turned to yoga as a way to make themselves relevant to ordinary people, as in the case of the Jain Svetambara Terapanth. Such religiously-sponsored forms of yoga are often much more affordable than commercial studios.

In another irony, the Indian state has been reluctant to commercialise yoga to its fullest extent because it wants to maintain yoga as an icon of Indian cultural heritage. For example, the Indian government fought against yoga entrepreneurs, some Indian, being awarded copyrights for yoga sequences in other countries.

Given the rapid growth of yoga across the world, the current situation in India is likely to change. As India’s middle class grows, the combination of stressful lifestyles, chronic illnesses and increased disposable income is apt to produce a new generation of Indians who seek the same respite in yoga as their counterparts abroad. Even the seemingly sedate yoga guided by television-savvy Indian gurus like Baba Ramdev is becoming increasingly entrepreneurial.

Yoga is also, through its promotion by Bollywood stars, beginning to appeal to an Indian youth culture. Standards of beauty and health in India are shifting from the plump ideal of a century ago to slender flexible figures. This ideal is embodied in globalised yoga and appeals to young Indians precisely because of its distance from stodgy stereotypes of ancient Indian tradition.

Yet, even though the Indian yoga industry is almost certainly set to grow, one key question lurks: are yoga studios actually all that lucrative? In the West, commercial yoga’s immersion within a rent economy makes studios very vulnerable. When rents rise, longstanding yoga studios can disappear overnight. Yoga in India is backed by religious organisations and has much more institutional stability to draw upon. But as yoga in India moves beyond religious institutions into secular commercial ones, it is likely to confront similar challenges.

Will developing yoga commercially in India destroy precisely what makes yoga powerful, and even what makes it Indian? Perhaps. There is no doubt that the race to make money from yoga has shifted the kind of cultural work that yoga does. But this doesn’t mean that yoga necessarily ceases to be a transformative pursuit.

For some, globalised yoga has enhanced rather than destroyed the ‘Indianness’ of the practice. As Indians develop their own creative responses to globalising yoga that invoke both tradition and modernity, they are not just making new kinds of money: they are making new kinds of cultural meaning. In the end, this may be the most valuable development of all.

Say What? Montana Bill Proposes Sentencing Women To Five Years In Prison If They Wear Yoga Pants In Public Three Times

A lawmaker in Helena, Montana is trying to make the state’s “indecent exposure law” include yoga pants.

Representative David Moore said introduced House Bill 365 on Tuesday in the House Judiciary Committee. He said the bill is in response to a group of nude bicyclists who participated in a group bicycle ride through the city of Missoula back in August.

The proposed bill would drastically expand the existing indecent exposure law to include any sort of expose of nipples – including men’s – or any clothing that “gives the appearance or simulates” buttocks, genitals, pelvic area or female nipple.

That means men can wear shirts with fake nipples, but women cannot. Neither can go topless for any reason – again, including men – and yoga pants that reveal the shape of one’s buttocks are completely prohibited.

“Yoga pants should be illegal in public anyway,” Moore stated openly after the introduction of the bill.

The Missoula Republican representative said that he even agreed with people being arrested for “wearing provocative clothing.”

He added that he trusts police officers “to use their discretion.”

Walt Hill, a retired professor in Missoula, helped to draft HB 365. He said, “I want Montana to be known as a decent state where people can live within the security of laws and protect their children and associates from degrading and indecent practices. I believe this bill is written preserving that reputation.”

Currently, if a person is convicted of indecent exposure three times in Montana, they could literally be sentenced to life in prison and up to a $10,000 fine… which sounds almost merciful by comparison.

Moore said the bill “lenient,” because lessens that provision to include a maximum five years in jail and $5,000.

Here Comes the Starbucks of Yoga

“Yoga juggernaut” seems like an oxymoron, and a laughable one at that. Until you consider Denver-based CorePower Yoga, the brainchild of serial entrepreneur Trevor Tice.

In the late 1990s, Tice was busy building Tech Partners International, an IT outsourcing company. Tice had grown up in Telluride, Colorado, enjoying skiing, hiking, mountain biking–“all the things you do in the mountains,” he says–until a rock-climbing accident shattered both his ankles.

Knowing he’d never be able to rock climb or mountain bike in the same way again, Tice turned to yoga. He was traveling all over the world with his IT company, and whenever he’d land in a new city he’d ask the hotel concierge to direct him to the hot yoga place in town. What he discovered surprised and disappointed him: “I was very underwhelmed by the facilities, the delivery, the consistency,” he says. “It was lacking anything a good customer experience would have.”

In response, Tice founded a chain of yoga studios in 2002 that has since expanded nationwide. His CorePower Yoga focuses relentlessly on consistency and customer experience. The studios, with full locker rooms and climate control, have more in common with high-end health clubs than with independent studios; they teach only CorePower Yoga, which Tice designed himself, inspired by power yoga, ashtanga yoga, and Bikram yoga. Classes are 60 minutes, not 90 as at most studios; there are mirrors and music.

The business model is more like that of a health club as well, focusing on members who pay $135 to $170 a month to take unlimited classes at any studio, and relying less on drop-in classes, which generally cost about $20. In 2012, CorePower Yoga had $45.2 million in revenue; Tice says revenues are now on a $100 million run rate.

Tice says he funded the first 20 studios, each of which costs from $500,000 to $750,000 to open, with proceeds from the sale of his last company. In June 2013, CorePower Yoga turned to private equity firm Catterton Partners, receiving an investment Tice describes as “well north of $100 million.”

Managing the sort of growth Tice envisions can be a daunting challenge, however, so CorePower used some of its private equity money to bolster its management team, allowing Tice to remove himself from the company’s day-to-day operations. Amy Shecter, formerly president of Elie Tahari, became the company’s CEO in May; Heather Holland, who had been general counsel for Le Pain Quotidien, came on board in September 2013; and Tess Roering, formerly vice president of marketing for Athleta, joined in September.

CorePower Yoga has its critics, which Tice says sometimes include studio owners in the neighborhoods where CorePower Yoga has opened up shop. “The local yoga studios have felt extremely threatened when CorePower Yoga has entered a market,” he says. “In hindsight, their concerns were unwarranted.” He says most of the independent yoga studios actually have benefited from the arrival of CorePower Yoga. “I know most of the studio owners in the geographies where CorePower Yoga is,” he says. “I always get the call that they’re worried, and four years later I talk to them again and they’re doing great.”

“We are seeing an onslaught of new franchises,” says Tkach, mentioning not just CorePower but additional companies such as Pure Yoga, Yogafit, and Exhale. But so far, he thinks there’s ample opportunity for all of them. “There are so many different styles of yoga,” he says. “You tend to find your tribe, so to speak.”

For all of these companies, there is also the danger that yoga is just a fleeting trend–and that by the time CorePower has built out its 500 studios, its one-time fans will have moved on to other pursuits, like Tae Bo or trampolines. Tice isn’t having it. “People have been concerned for years that yoga is a fad,” he says. “I don’t believe it is. It’s such a powerful practice. People who have experienced it will agree.” The bigger challenge, he says, is much simpler: “Now we have to execute efficiently and properly.”

THE 5 BEST YOGA MATS FOR MEN

As men, we’ve all had a moment when we thought that yoga didn’t look like exercise. It doesn’t even really look like warming up. Then, we tried it and discovered to our horror how hard it was to contort into positions that nature never intended. We now know that yoga is an important part of any fitness regiment in that it increases flexibility, mental focus, and muscle definition so we can get that sculpted look. While yoga doesn’t require much equipment, having the right yoga mat is still important and can change your workout.

During the early rise of the modern yoga craze, when it was mostly done by a few scarecrow women in back rooms while everyone else did Tae Bo or sweated to the oldies, yoga mats came in an array of pastel colors that no guy could strap on, pretending it was a travel backpack. Now, the new set of yoga mats for guys – or brogamats as they are sometimes called after the popular company – are made with macho designs and crafted with men in mind. So that you can select the right tool to begin your bendy adventure, here’s the 5 best yoga mats.

KHATALAND YOFOMAT

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Pro: Folds instead of rolling
Con: Can get slick with sweat

Road Warrior: Here’s what you do if you’re a new yogi: You buy this mat to kick off your practice the right way, then, when you have found enlightenment and inner peace, you get a nice professional mat while you use this as your travel yoga mat. It’s just under 3 lbs., making it a little on the heavy side for a to-go mat, but that extra weight comes from 4 mm of padding and up to 72″ in length which makes it comfortable on any floor and long enough for most people. For quick travel it folds rather than rolls up to fit in a suitcase or hiking backpack and comes with its own little purse eco-friendly travel tote. It’s hyper-allergenic since it doesn’t use any latex in the construction. When you aren’t practicing, you can also use the folded body as a cushion for meditation. It isn’t quite as sticky as some, but still doesn’t let you glide away, though you may want to couple it with a yoga towel if you’re a hot yoga aficionado.

GAIAM SOL DRY-GRIP YOGA MAT

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Pro: Moisture wicking material
Con: Made of PVC

Most for the Money: First note that this just looks badass. With a body that has a mandala-style design that looks like something a Buddhist biker would have emblazoned on his motorcycle jacket, it’s damn cool. The Dry-Grip uses a closed cell material that is antimicrobial so that bacteria can’t live on it which reduces odors and the need for cleaning while also preventing you from contracting anything from a public yoga class where bodies are turning the room into a petri dish. With a moisture wicking PVC upper layer that uses wicking technology to actually grip harder when covered with sweat, you will never suddenly take a nose dive when moving from plank (Kumbhakasana) into low push-up (Chaturanga Dandasana / Ashtanga Namaskara). Works equally well for high and low impact routines because you’ll stick to this like flypaper. For padding, it is a full 5 mm thick, which is a nice height for cushioning without interrupting your balance. Our sole beef with this was that it was too short without the option of getting one in the 70″+ range. This is an ideal choice if you’re trying to get away from Lululemon’s slightly racist CEO or need a solid mat intermediate mat without latex.

BAREFOOT ECO YOGA MAT

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Pro: Sticky even when sweaty
Con: Includes latex

All Natural: Yoga can just be used for fitness, but it is meant to be an entire change in your lifestyle and way of thinking. If you really want to get a yoga mat that will help you expand your spiritual horizons and try to find greater fitness for your soul, rather than just your body, then you’ll want to get this completely natural, eco-friendly mat that manages to be both good for the environment and for your practice. Kindness to mother earth is not all that the Eco Mat has going for it, it also excels at staying sticky even when covered with sweat thanks to the natural rubber and jute fabric that comprise the top layer. The underside doesn’t slip or slide when placed on any kind of floor, from hardwood to linoleum. It’s 4 mm thick which gives it a moderate amount of cushioning that works with any kind of yoga practice. At 4.5 lbs. it is a little on the heavy side and those with a latex allergy will need to avoid it, but it’s durable enough to go the distance, even if you’re a yogi that practices every day. Comes in both 72″ and 84″ models.

MANDUKA BLACK PRO

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Pro: Lifetime guarantee
Con: Heavy

Big and Bad: Manduka yoga mats are considered by many yoga instructors to be the final word in the industry and the Black Pro stands out even among these as a force to be reckoned with. We liked it most of all because not only was it a great mat with a lifetime guarantee that shows the company’s dedication to their product, but it is nice and long for guys who are over 6 feet and don’t want their heels hitting the floor during corpse pose (Savasana / Mrtasana). It is 85″ long and 26″ wide (shorter 71″ models are available) with a thickness of more than 6 mm and weighing in at 8.5 lbs., so it’s a beast to carry around. Made of PVC material it starts off slick, but after a month of regular use you’ll find it gives traction without being sticky, even when covered in sweat. The materials used aren’t all natural, which turn some people off, but since it is meant to be with you for life the notion is that it will never need to enter a landfill since it will outlive you.

LIFORME YOGA MATS

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Pro: Diagram helps with accurate posing
Con: Expensive

Instructions Included: The best thing about the Liforme mats is that they have a diagram right on the surface so that even if you’ve never been to a yoga class in your life you can still get your poses perfect. This helps prevent strain and injury as well as getting the most out of your yoga routine so that all the grunting, sweating, and down-dogging gives you the best results. Using a combination of rubber and felt these are very soft which is important when your knees, elbow, or tailbone hits the floor. The patented “Grip For Me” material they use for the mat is a trade secret, but it works, whatever it is, and doesn’t slide under you or cause you to pull a muscle should your back leg go rogue and hit a sweaty spot. The material is environmentally friendly, right down to the helpful designs printed on it, which are etched rather than inked with caustic chemicals. A little longer and wider than standard, they work for just about anyone.

Yogis, doggies may set zen-filled world record

Hundreds of yogis and doggies set a Zen-filled world record Sunday at the largest dog yoga session ever, organizers of the event said.

At least 250 dogs needed to strike a pose with their humans for 30 minutes at the Carmel Valley Recreation Center class to break the Guinness World Record, said San Diego Humane Society spokeswoman Kelli Schry. At last count, about 265 canines showed up. The accomplishment won’t be official until the world record organization signs off on the achievement.

Dawn Celapino of Leash Your Fitness — a dog-centric fitness business — teamed up with the Humane Society to make the pet-friendly session happen. She said the event was put together to show how easy and fun it is for people to get active with their pets.

Sunday’s dogs weren’t expected to get into a triangle pose, or even downward dog, organizers said. Dog yoga, sometimes dubbed Doga, is really about bonding.

“If we are calm, our dogs are calm,” said Celapino. “Our dogs aren’t doing yoga, really. They are bonding with us. They are part of what we are doing.”

The Carmel Valley park, filled with hundreds of people and dogs of all shapes and sizes, was surprisingly peaceful. Most pups were curled up on their human’s yoga mats. People and pets breathed and panted in unison.

Nora, a 3-year-old English cream golden retriever, was the picture of relaxation. As Karen Gliner sat with crossed legs, her shaggy-haired pup rested calmly against her knees. Gliner has been practicing yoga for nearly two decades. She said Nora started joining her during her weekly sessions at home.

“She lays with me and sometimes she’ll put her face on my tummy,” the Carmel Valley resident said. “She keeps me centered and relaxed. She puts me in a very Zen place.”

Nora is a certified therapy dog, too. Gliner said Nora shares her calm demeanor with seniors and students during finals week.

Other pups, and their owners, were newer to the practice. Sunday’s session was a first for Peter Noll and his dog, Nani, an 11-year-old Bernese mountain dog.

Yoga was a first, but the two aren’t strangers to exercising together. Noll started SoCal Surf Dogs, a club for surfing dogs — or surFurs — and their owners. Nani won more than a dozen awards before retiring several years ago. Noll said getting people and their pets active is his passion.

“What can be better than that — getting active and taking your dog with you,” he said. “It’s a wonderful thing to be able to exercise with your dog.”

January is National Pet Fitness Month, and the Humane Society has pet-friendly opportunities planned for the entire month, the spokeswoman said.

“We want to encourage people that as they make their new year’s resolutions and work to get more fit, to remember that there are a lot of fun ways to incorporate your dog,” Schry said.

Who Owns Yoga?

Nailing a headstand in yoga class is already pretty difficult—it’s a balancing act that takes many people years to master. But if one of India’s recent initiatives is realized, perfecting the pose might become that much harder: The nation’s government is quietly wondering if someday it will be able to dictate what can be called “yoga” and what can’t.

Last month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched an effort to have yoga become recognized first and foremost as an Indian practice grounded in the Hindu tradition. Modi created a new cabinet post for what has been called a “Minister of Yoga,” and picked Shripad Yesso Naik—former member of India’s parliament, career politician, and lifelong yogi—for the position.

Already, yoga is being incorporated into India’s schools, hospitals, and police academies, and the government is also pitching in to help create a library of videos documenting the “correct” ways to strike more than 1,500 poses—which represents a centralized response to “unofficial” guides. These efforts are part of Modi’s larger Make in India campaign, which includes plans to improve the country’s public infrastructure and manufacturing sector. The end goal of Naik’s appointment might be to get a slice of what has become a multi-billion-dollar industry in the U.S. by establishing yoga’s Indian-ness.

For India to effectively claim to own yoga, Modi would need to secure what’s called a “geographical indication.” A geographical indication is a formal acknowledgement of location’s importance to a specific product—in the European Union, it’s what protects a fizzy beverage made in the Champagne region of France from imitators produced elsewhere. Geographical indications are bestowed by a country’s government trade office, but there isn’t a U.N.-like body to resolve international disputes.

The U.S. Patent and Trade Office acknowledges this vagueness, and as a result there’s a lot of champagne sold in the U.S. that’s not from Champagne, and there’s nothing that France can do about it. Similarly, the E.U. has squabbled with the U.S. for selling cheeses labeled “Rocquefort” and “Mozzarella” without verifying their origins.

What’s working against Modi, in the case of yoga, is that it’d be difficult to establish a concrete geographical connection. Unlike champagne—which is made from grapes grown in a particular region with distinct weather conditions and soil content—yoga can’t be held in your hand.

Practically speaking, securing a geographical indication for yoga would be nearly impossible. “While yoga certainly originated in India,” says Sonia Katyal, a law professor at Fordham University who specializes in intellectual property, “its widespread adoption in the West—including the hundreds of types of yogas created by enterprising westerners like mommy-and-me yoga, nude yoga, dog yoga—makes it a little harder to explain how its Indian origins are always essential the practice or characteristics of yoga today.”

On top of that, enforcement would be a logistical nightmare. “India can protect [a geographical indication] within the country easily,” says May T. Yeung of the Estey Centre for Law and Economics and International Trade. “But what about country to country? You have to watch every yoga studio in the world.”

That said, a geographical indication may not be entirely out of the question. “What’s working on India’s side is the government wants to do this,” Yeung says. “The government is providing significant resources and they have clout.” Still, even with governmental might, Yeung says, forming an effective bureaucracy to regulate yoga most likely won’t happen.

So, ultimately, it looks like little will change anytime soon for the U.S. yoga industry and its 20 million customers. But it’s easy to understand why Modi would explore the possibility: Yoga classes and the accompanying products (think retreats and Lululemon pants) are a $10 billion-a-year industry.

With all that money and cultural influence at stake, it’s not surprising that there’s a debate about where yoga owes its origins, and who, if anyone, it “belongs” to. “There is something about the United States that makes it a particularly booming hotspot for the contemporary yoga market,” says Andrea R. Jain, author of the book Selling Yoga and a professor of religious studies at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.

Jain traces the Western fascination with yoga back to the 1960s, when a generation was hungry for a spirituality that was cleanly different from their parents’ more rigid religious beliefs. “Metaphysical religion is at least as important as evangelicism in shaping American religious history and in identifying what makes it distinctive,” she says, referring to studies by the religious scholar Catherine Albanese that found yoga to be a means by which traditional Christian thought could be blended with Eastern philosophy.

Today, many Americans view yoga simply as a workout, which means that the practice has more or less been broken off from its millennia-old Hindu roots. A few years ago, yoga’s near-complete transition from spiritual practice to trendy fitness activity was marked by a spirited debate. Upset by yoga’s lack of religious connotation, Sheetal Shah, a senior director at the Hindu American Foundation, contacted the publication Yoga Journal asking why it had never linked yoga to Hinduism. She was told that Yoga Journal avoided the connection “because it carries baggage,” which prompted her to launch an initiative, called Take Back Yoga, to highlight yoga’s Hindu roots.

In response to Shah’s campaign, groups across the religious spectrum questioned whether there was a place in the ancient practice for yogis of other faiths and whether it was possible for any religion to “own” yoga. Others wondered if religious twists on yoga were contrary to the vision of Swami Vivekananda, the wildly popular monk who introduced yoga to the west and preached interfaith acceptance.

The Washington Post published a series of back-and-forths between one of Shah’s colleagues at the Hindu American Foundation and the physician Deepak Chopra. HAF board member, Dr. Aseem Shukla, and Chopra argued over yoga’s provenance. While the HAF maintained that the West ignores the connection between Hinduism and yoga, Chopra and many yoga instructors have pointed to the Sanskrit invocations peppered throughout a typical yoga practice as evidence that proper dues were being paid. Moreover, Chopra argued that the connection to Hinduism might be weaker than it is often presumed to be, seeing as the archaeological record suggests that yoga predates early Hindu scriptures.

Today, Shah says that “Take Back Yoga” is a misnomer. “We aren’t taking yoga ‘back’ from anyone,” she insists. She says she was simply interested in highlighting yoga’s Hindu roots without insisting that it must be practiced by people of a certain religion. That said, she still cares deeply about the distinction between “true” yoga’s respect for the past and American yoga’s relatively superficial concerns.

For Shah, the ultimate goal of yoga remains that of moksha, or spiritual liberation. But for many, apparently, there’s a very different angle from which to approach the issues of cultural ownership and geographical origins: As May Yeung asks with respect to obtaining a geographical indication, “For India, the question really is, ‘How much money are you willing to throw at it?’”

Yoga Can Reduce Risk of Heart Disease; Practice These Types Of Yoga For Better Heart Health

Yoga classes may soon be recommended as a therapy treatment for patients with risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Researchers from Erasmus University Medical Center in the Netherlands collaborated with America’s Harvard School of Public Health to study the extent of yoga’s heart health benefits and published their findings in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.

The study’s lead researcher Myriam Hunink said they were surprised to see just how beneficial yoga was on cardiovascular health, and they can’t really explain why. “Also unclear, are the dose-response relationship and the relative costs and benefits of yoga when compared to exercise or medication. However, these results indicate that yoga is potentially very useful and in my view worth pursuing as a risk improvement practice,” she said in press release.

Hunink and her team of investigators studied 2,768 subjects from the Netherlands and the U.S., and compared how well it lowered risk factors for cardiovascular health from other physical activities such as biking or brisk walking.

“This finding is significant,” the study’s authors wrote “as individuals who cannot or prefer not to perform traditional aerobic exercise might still achieve similar benefits in [cardiovascular] risk reduction.”

Yoga weaves physical, mental, and spiritual elements together to deliver a meditative workout. In the past, research has shown yoga to decrease risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease, such as bad cholesterol, blood pressure, and a high body mass index (overweight or obese). This time researchers wanted to see how patients with existing heart disease who have incorporated no other exercises into their life could benefit from yoga.

It was highly accessible for “patients with lower physical tolerance like those with pre-existing cardiac conditions, the elderly, or those with musculoskeletal or joint pain,” the authors wrote. Yoga isn’t as difficult to practice and doesn’t put the same strain on muscles, ligaments, and bones as other weight lifting or aerobic exercise do. In addition, it doesn’t usually require equipment or much exercise space, which means an easier transition into implementing yoga classes for patients in and out of hospital or care facilities can be possible sooner than later.

“Yoga has the potential to be a cost-effective treatment and prevention strategy given its low cost, lack of expensive equipment or technology, potential greater adherence and health-related quality of life improvements, and possible accessibility to larger segments of the population,” the authors concluded.

Yoga Practices For Heart Patients

Hatha yoga may be the most beneficial because it focuses on breathing and slow movement, which would be optimal for beginners.

Kripalu yoga is a slow-moving practice that teaches body-mind awareness. By focusing on how the body feels and moves while remaining calm through breathing exercises, patients will surely see a drop in blood pressure.

Sivananda yoga is highly recommended for those who have physical disabilities. It transitions a person through 13 different poses. In between each pose the patient will lie down and practice breathing. Many yoga instructors believe it can help decrease the chance of disease.

United Nations declares June 21 International Day of Yoga

The United Nations on Thursday declared that June 21 will be International Day of Yoga, adopting a measure proposed by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi who said yoga lets people “discover the sense of oneness with yourself, the world and the nature.”

The 193-member U.N. General Assembly approved by consensus a resolution establishing a day to commemorate the ancient practice, which Modi called for in September during his inaugural address to the world body.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the International Day of Yoga would bring attention to yoga’s holistic benefits.

“Yoga can contribute to resilience against non-communicable diseases. Yoga can bring communities together in an inclusive manner that generates respect,” Ban said in a statement.

“Yoga is a sport that can contribute to development and peace. Yoga can even help people in emergency situations to find relief from stress,” he said.

Daredevil nails expert yoga poses on speeding motorcycle

Gracefully balanced on his Honda motorcycle, the Indian yogi is on the highway to the danger zone!

Gugulotu Lachiram, a 40-year-old daredevil, was caught on camera revvin’ up his engine and listening to her howling roar as he nailed expert yoga poses on a road near his hometown of Khammam, Barcroft Media reports.

Lachiram may be a farmer by profession, but he feels his true calling is entertaining people with his death-defying moves.

“I saw people performing dangerous stunts on national television,” Lachiram said. “I thought if they can do it why can’t I, so I started practicing yoga on my bike,”

“I can do many yoga postures,” he added. “Some are performed by sitting, standing and lying down. I can stand on a bike on the tank, in the middle and in the end.”

Lachiram appears as stiff as a board as he expertly stretches into each position with ease. The adrenaline junkie doesn’t plan on stopping his high-speed yoga escapades any time soon, either.

“I completely love doing stunts on my bike,” he told Barcroft. “I will continue to do so for the next 15 years.”

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