It was about 12 years ago when I decided to register the trademark Subtle®Yoga and here’s why.
Someone came to one of my weekend workshops. I provided a certificate of attendance as I always do. And then she went back home and started teaching classes called “Subtle Yoga.” A year or two later, a wise and thoughtful woman attended one of my trainings. She told me she had attended a “Subtle Yoga” class in another city taught by this same person, and that this class was very fast-paced vinyasa, not much different than most of the other vinyasa classes out there. She wanted to know what Subtle Yoga actually was.
That got me thinking.
Soon after, another wise and thoughtful woman signed up for and attended my 200 hour training. At the end she said to me, “What I’ve learned from you is different from other yoga – much safer, more accessible, and deeper. In my opinion, you should really consider protecting your intellectual property by trademarking the name “Subtle Yoga.” Because if you don’t, it will get watered down and people won’t understand what you teach. It will be a big mess.”
That got me thinking a little more.
I realized that, as reluctant as I felt about it, I probably needed to look into registering the trademark. I was reluctant because I don’t think anyone owns yoga and I was reluctant to put myself out there with a trademark because it made me feel too vulnerable, and it felt too self-aggrandizing. I also didn’t want to build a brand around my name or as a personality; I wanted something that was more tangible and lasting, so that’s why I’ve never called what I do, “Kristine Weber Yoga,” and if I was going to train people in “Subtle Yoga” I had to somehow make sure that it wasn’t getting morphed into everything-under-the-sun yoga.
And I was starting to feel concerned about creating a “big mess” by not doing any quality control. I had to do something. I teach yoga in a particular way. I have integrated what I’ve learned from many yoga teachers over several decades of study (too many to list all of them all, but I can’t write this without mentioning Gary Kraftsow who has been a profound influence on my work) as well as some of my bodywork, Chinese medicine, qi gong, Feldenkrais and other movement teachers.
So I contacted an intellectual property lawyer and told him my story. In addition to doing all the legal stuff around trademarking Subtle®Yoga, he suggested that it would be wise to develop requirements for using the Subtle®Yoga trademark.
I dragged my feet for a while.
I really didn’t have the confidence, or feel like I had the experience even to own that name with any integrity. I felt a lot of shame around it actually. I had started using “Subtle Yoga” in 2004 simply as a way to differentiate myself from the fitness yoga that was ubiquitous in Asheville. I thought it was important in terms of helping my students understand the difference and in helping people looking to become yoga teachers to understand that there are other ways to train and other ways to teach and that subtle practices are not inferior to fast, sweaty, strenuous ones, they just have a different purpose and goal.
Subtle® Yoga isn’t always gentle. Subtle can also be quite strong. But its primary goal is not fitness, its primary goals are building nervous system resilience, improving mental health, and facilitating self-knowledge and self-actualization.
It took me a long time to step into my power and feel okay about owning the name and trademark. And about 7 years ago, I finally got around to creating requirements/competencies for others who want to use the name. I drafted a document. I sent the document to all my grads, but not many decided they wanted to use the name so I kinda stuck it in the back of my digital drawers. I have authorized use of this name with several teachers but up to this point, only informally.
Recently the question has begun to arise again and so I decided that in order to use the trademark Subtle®Yoga, I had to pull that doc back out and make a few changes.
And here are the current requirements:
- Yoga teachers are required to complete Subtle® Yoga Teacher Training at both the 200 and 300 hour levels in person in order to use the name, registered trademark, and logo of Subtle®Yoga.
- In addition, Yoga teachers must also request authorization before using the name, registered trademark, and logo of Subtle®Yoga.
- Yoga teachers who have only trained at the 300 hour level with Subtle®Yoga may use the name, registered trademark and logo of Subtle®Yoga only if they have also completed the 40 hour Subtle Yoga Revolution Online Teacher Training program as well.
- Subtle®Yoga teachers must attend a weekend (about 12 hours) continuing ed training once every 3 years either in person or through an online course.
- Kristine Kaoverii Weber and Subtle®Health, LLC reserve the right to revoke Trademark privileges when these requirements have not been followed, or if classes are not being taught according to Subtle®Yoga methodology.
In this way, I can assess and implement quality control and make sure the trademark is being used with accuracy and integrity.
Others have asked what to do if they’ve studied with me and want to honor the Subtle®Yoga style, but have not completed the above requirements.
So here are our guidelines:
- If you have trained at the 200 hour level of Subtle®Yoga or
- If you have completed the Subtle Yoga Revolution 40 hour online Teacher Training (and have at least a 200 hour training from another school) then
- You may use the term “Subtle Yoga Inspired” (without the ® or logo) to describe your classes.
- Kristine Kaoverii Weber and Subtle®Health, LLC reserve the right to revoke the use of “Subtle® Yoga Inspired” when these guidelines have not been followed or if classes are not being taught according to Subtle®Yoga methodology.
This is my sincere request. Please do not use Subtle®Yoga or the Subtle®Yoga logo without permission.
The Subtle®Yoga trademark exists in order to maintain the integrity of the teachings, as well as protect the public and provide quality control. At the same time, I am happy and honored that those who have studied with me in a less intensive way want to use the name. I hope that “Subtle Yoga Inspired” provides an adequate vehicle for getting the subtle message out there in a bigger way.
With Gratitude and love,
P.S. Here’s a link for more information about the Subtle®Yoga Revolution 40 hour Online Yoga Teacher Training program.
Done yoga for over 40 years not heard of Subtle Yoga before now, but will listen and read about it,Thank you.
Nice clarification, Kaoveri! I’m glad you’re protecting these important foundational concepts and practices so the term subtle yoga won’t lose its meaning. Thank you!
thanks for the clarification! As an almost newly 200 hour trained teacher I wondered how this worked!
This is strong and clarifying, Kaoveri! Thank you for protecting the foundational concepts and practices of subtle yoga for all of us!
Thank you Kristine. This is well drawn up and clarifies questions that I had not yet asked but was about to. Thank you for all your great work and your support.
I’m afraid I’ve used the term subtle yoga (lower case) for a very long time and will continue to do so. I don’t market my yoga teaching as such, I use the term in my classes to emphasize the distinction from power and other forms of “hard” yoga (I dislike the term “soft”). I don’t have a website.
I’m so glad you did this, Kristine. For yourself and for the integrity of your program. I teach many forms of yoga, including restorative a la Judith Lasater. Recently, a student described an experience with “restorative yoga” where she was sweating from the number of salutations in the class and from holding the rigorous poses for so long. Restorative? Not hardly. It’s now a buzzword and has no meaning. So protect subtle yoga—it was your brilliance that gave what you do a name and it deserves as do you to keep its distinction as YOU define it. Blessings.
Thanks so much for your supportive comment Paula. I really appreciate it. 🙏
Yes, Kristine Trade Marking to maintain integrity as you found out, is important. I worked with a business coach this past year and she stressed this also! I have yet to do it for The BEAR Yoga Project because of the same reasons that you mentioned but after reading your story, I am reminded that it needs to be done! We don’t want the purity of our original intentions to be mutated beyond recognition! Subtle Yoga truly IS!
Great Lyn, I hope that it helps you to feel the courage and inspiration necessary to take this kind of step. It’s important. All the best with the BEAR Yoga project! 🙏
Kristine – I think you are very wise. I love your approach and see so much overlap with Trauma Center Trauma Sensitive yoga (TCTSY). TCTSY has had similar experiences which suggest a need to protect the commitment to serve folks true to the intended purpose.
Thank you Anne. It is a scary thing to do for sure. But sometimes you have to put a stake in the ground. Thank you for the beautiful work you are doing in the world.❤️