New German film explores yoga’s modern roots

This movie might prove way too dry and earnest for my taste, judging by the voice over on the preview clip, but no doubt it is worth a mention.

It’s a look at yoga’s modern roots, with the obvious focus on T. Krishnamacharya. Guruji and Iyengar also feature prominently — and the movie was shot in part before Guruji passed, so there is footage of him.

Here’s the preview clip:

The director, Jan Schmidt-Garre, has a philosophy background — the Wikipedia page says he has an M. A. with a semiotic thesis on Wagner’s “Ring of the Nibelung” — so I imagine that will inform the movie. He also seems to have gone to pains not to either “go native” or take an overly Eurocentric look at India.

I do like the apparent immersion that Schmidt-Garre attempts — lotus with Guruji, headstand with Iyengar.

I’m also attracted to its promise of being “pleasantly clichee-free.” We’ll see if that balances out the “earnest-filled.”

Here’s the online synopsis:

Modern yoga, that is, the form practiced daily by tens of millions of people around the world, goes back directly to the god Shiva according to Indian tradition. At the same time, however, modern yoga originated in the early 20th century, a creation of Indian savant T. Krishnamacharya (1888-1989). That story is far less known and is what this film is all about.

Krishnamacharya’s life and teachings are seen through the eyes of the director Jan Schmidt-Garre on his search for authentic yoga. His journey leads him from the legendary students and relatives of Krishnamacharya’s to the source of modern yoga, at the palace of the Maharaja of Mysore. From Pattabhi Jois Jan learns the “Sun salutation”, from Iyengar the “King of Asanas”, the headstand, and finally Sribhashyam reveals to him his father’s secret “Life Saving Yoga Session”.

The movie seems to have been released in 42 theaters in Germany. No word I can find about additional release, although the Wiki page suggests it may become available on DVD. That would seem likely enough — it’s kind of how things work at this point.

Looking at the Youtube page, it looks like Grimmly has seen this, too. Quick mention that he’s got online a lengthy asana sequence from an old Krishnamacharya book. To be honest, it’s a bit too dense for me at my stage in the practice, and advanced poses are just theory, but I’m sure it will be interesting to others.

Posted by Steve

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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

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