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Yoga Documentary Examines the Business of Om

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Yoga, Inc., a documentary by John PhilpEven if you’re not into yoga, you might want to grab an OM-centric friend and check out Yoga, Inc., a documentary about the underbelly of the yoga industry, which is screening in San Francisco, New York and New Jersey this summer. The film, which was written, produced and directed by John Philp, takes an in-depth look at the Americanization of the ancient spiritual practice and interviews some of its major players.

Philp provided Pilates-Pro.com with a review copy, which I eagerly watched with a Pilates instructor friend. We were both struck by the parallels between what’s happening in the Pilates and yoga industries. The explosion in popularity of the two practices in the West has opened the door for capitalism to rear its head in ways that aren’t always consistent with the ideals of either one.

The similarities are many. In their early days, both disciplines got boosts from the celebrity set. Once it became clear there was money to be made, the intellectual property issues bubbled up—the Pilates industry dealt with its trademark demons a few years back; yoga’s version revolved around Bikram Choudhury’s copyright claim on his hot form of the practice. And each is dealing with whether to impose standards and ethical codes on its teachers, as well as the new phenomenon of chain studios. But yoga also has its unique issues—ever heard of “competitive yoga”? And what about the guy in New York who has a store selling products with the slogan “F*@& Yoga“on them?

The film—which includes interviews with yoga luminaries such as Rodney Yee, Trisha Lamb and the founders of YogaWorks—presents these issues fairly and with a good balance of humor and sensitivity. After all, it’s a complex topic. It’s not a bad thing to earn a living in the yoga or Pilates worlds, but it seems even things as pure as spirituality and fitness bring out the best and worst in a capitalistic society. Perhaps that’s why we need them so much.
Click here to learn more about upcoming Yoga, Inc. screenings, when to catch it on TV in Canada or how to purchase a copy.

Also, be on the lookout for Yoga, Inc., the book, coming in 2009.

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