Does creating a new yoga pose give you any rights to it? By Diane Ashfield
Imagine an astronomer gazing through their telescope and discovering a new galaxy, or a paleontologist digging up fossilised bones, and to their amazement, finding an entirely new dinosaur. Chances are these discoveries will be named after the person who first found them, so could the same be applied to yoga poses? Do we have any rights over something we found or think we created? Does it belong to us? Can we name it?
I was playing around on my mat, as I usually do, looking for inspiration to make Child Pose (Balasana) more interesting for my students. First I popped a cushion under my bottom, stretched out my arms and sank my bottom back into the cushion. Heavenly! Then I toyed with changing the position of my arms, so, keeping my forearms on the mat, I drew my elbows towards me, so that they were directly under my shoulders. My pose then became a fusion of Child and Sphinx (Salamba Bhujangasana). I spread out my fingers, relaxed my shoulders down and away from my ears and pushed my bottom further into my cushion - this felt really good! It then dawned on me that I could also work with the spine here by practicing Cat/Cow (Chakravakasana) whilst still positioned in my Child/Sphinx. How totally fabulous! I quickly scribbled this all down ready for me to include in my lesson plan for next week’s class, but what was this posture called? Did it even have a name, and if so, what on earth was the Sanskrit for it?
I spent the next hour or two desperately searching on the internet for anything that resembled this pose. I couldn’t find anything. Was it a variation of Child or Sphinx or Cat? I drew a blank. So what do I call it? Child–Sphinx–Cat–Cow Pose? Bit of a mouthful. As my pen hovered over my draft lesson plan, pondering over the possible Sanskrit name, I wrote the word 'Dashasana' in capital letters and made it my own. This pose now belonged to me! I’ve invented a new asana, it’s mine and I can call it whatever I like!
Then the Hindu legend of Bharadvaja popped into my head. He was a very dedicated student of the scriptures and philosophies of the Vedas – these are sacred texts containing all the mantras, rituals and spiritual observances of ancient India. In fact, Bharadvaja was so dedicated that he became a recluse, devoting three lifetimes studying, reading, copying and memorising the Vedas. He also created beautiful hymns from studying these ancient scriptures which he kept to himself. At the end of his third lifetime, Lord Shiva visited Bharadvaja on his deathbed and encouraged him to share his wisdom and knowledge to keep the scriptures alive. So Bharadvaja’s next lifetime was spent not studying but teaching. People came from far and wide to listen to his teachings and insights on the Vedas and Yoga, and he became highly respected, loved and admired by all of his students. The seated twist Bharadvajasana is dedicated to him.
To be honest, I’m not sure that there is actually anywhere I could register a new asana, or if I would even want to copyright it, as the moral of this story is that whether you’ve created new hymns from ancient scriptures or discovered a new asana, yoga is for everyone. If this is indeed a new pose I’ve managed to create, it doesn’t matter what it’s called because it doesn’t belong to me. Having it named after me doesn’t mean a thing - the greatest gift is being able to share it, see yogis practicing it and finding out how it makes them feel.
I may have more chance of having a galaxy or dinosaur named after me than an asana, so should you ever come to any of my classes and I ask you to come into Child–Sphinx–Cat-Cow pose, you will know exactly what I mean. Just don’t ask me for the Sanskrit because there’s the possibility that I might say Dashasana!
Diane Ashfield (aka Yoga With Dash) is a British Wheel of Yoga instructor, teaching in the London Borough of Bromley.