Court rules Bikram Yoga is a cookbook

After much court battle, the US Appeals Court compared the Bikram’s 26 yoga poses as being a cookbook. His book is like a recipe to be used by readers and is therefore not entitled to copyright. This is important news to all yoga teachers because it means they can instruct freely without fear of legal action on copyright infringement.


On October 8, the UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE NINTH CIRCUIT issued a legal opinion that upheld an earlier judgement stating that

the “Sequence,” developed by Bikram Choudhury and described in his 1979 book, Bikram’s Beginning Yoga Class, was not a proper subject of copyright protection because it was an idea, process, or system designed to improve health, rather than an expression of an idea. Because the Sequence was an unprotectible idea, it was also ineligible for copyright protection as a compilation or choreographic work.

Legal wording and interpretation of the law can be confusing. Luckily in the published opinion, the judge explains one of the basis for his thinking using a simpler example.

the Seventh Circuit held that recipes contained in a copyrighted cookbook are not entitled to copyright protection, for they merely “describe a procedure by which the reader may produce many dishes,” and “there can be no monopoly in the copyright sense in the ideas for producing certain foodstuffs.”

So there you have it. Although the book is copyrighted, the use of the sequence is not.

This is a relief to yoga teachers and practitioners because it means that we can use any sequence we wish without fear of copyright infringement.


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