Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is seeking to have yoga formally recognised as an India, Hindu tradition. If he is able to do so he’ll be able to take a substantial slice of the multi-billion dollar global yoga profits.

Last year he appointed to his cabinet a Minister for Yoga, Shripad Yesso Naik. The appointment was followed by an international marketing campaign to bolster India’s manufacturing sector – Make in India. However, this campaign focuses on reclaiming and protecting Indian intellectual property. As such, the practices and traditions, it is claimed, fall under its purview.

Minister Shripad Yesso Naik was quoted in January as saying, “There is little doubt about yoga being an Indian art form. We’re trying to establish to the world that it’s ours.”

The argument over the origins of yoga have a long history; one almost as long as the arguments over the interpretations of its practices.

The ‘Take Back Yoga’ campaign of 2008 sought to reunite yoga around the world with the Hindu traditions from which it ostensibly came. Yoga purists believe divorcing the exercises from the beliefs sullies and corrupts the entire practice.

The CEO of the Hindu American Foundation (HAH) responsible for the ‘Take Back Yoga’ campaign, Sheetal Shah admitted ‘Nobody owns yoga. Our idea was not to claim ownership; it was just to acknowledge that the philosophy behind yoga is based in Hinduism.”

Claire Nettley, president of Yoga Australia, has heard it all before.. This debate, she says comes up regularly.

“Because we have so many different varieties of yoga in the west, it really is mportant to protect what yoga really is. It’s so much more than a physical exercise class. It’s about building a conscious, holistic lifestyle.

“It’s about becoming friends with yourself, it’s about self-awareness, it’s about kindness to the self, really taking care of yourself.”

Apparently it’s also about getting a slice of a multi-billion dollar pie.

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