Whether you are looking to get inspired by a spiritual cinematic journey or learn more about yoga’s origin and practice, movies are always the answer.
Yoga in has been featured in movies more than we might think, sometimes nearly unnoticeable, remember the sexy yoga instructor in “He’s Just Not That Into You” portrayed by Scarlett Johansson, or Elizabeth Gilbert’s spiritual journey of meditation and self-awareness in India played by Julia Robert in “Eat Pray Love”?
Yoga has had different portrayals in cinema, but there are some educational and entertaining documentaries on yoga which stand out. Here is our list:
Ayurveda: The Art of Being
The 2001 Ayurveda: The Art of Being documentary directed by Pan Malin explores the intricacies of the tradition of Ayurveda, the sister science of yoga, which has been practiced in India for hundreds of years.
Find out how Ayurveda is the science and art of living, where the body, mind, and spirit are equally valued, and the alignment of all three is the optimum resolution for people seeking clarity and health. The documentary looks at Ayurveda from the very beginning and includes a number of interviews with practitioners and followers. This fascinating film sheds light on the practice that millions of people find invaluable for their own wellbeing.
When Sri K. Pattabhi Jois visited New York City in 2001 to teach a group of dedicated Ashtanga yogis, what began as a routine retreat turned into a life-changing event when the September 11th attacks corresponded with his visit. Diving into the beauty and ritual of the Ashtanga yoga practice and allowing a unique glimpse inside the Jois family, this film not only accurately reflects the Ashtanga community but illustrates very poignantly how the practice can unite both in times of joy and times of immense tragedy.
This 2008 documentary from director Kate Churchill, is a die-hard yogi with a firm belief in yoga’s power to transform anyone’s life and spirit. In Enlighten Up!, Churchill recruits Nick Rosen, a yoga sceptic, and attempts to “convert” him through immersion in the world of yoga. Churchill and her guinea pig travel the country meeting celebrity yogis, gurus, eccentrics, and true believers. What they discover surprises them both.
Into Great Silence
This meditative 2005 film by Philip Gröning quietly follows six months in the lives of Carthusian monks at Chartreuse Monastery in the French Alps. These hermits spend most of their time alone in their cells–in study, silence, and contemplation. They get together for prayer services, but the only time they speak informally is during weekly walks in the stunningly beautiful countryside. The film, which utilizes natural light and sound and has little dialogue, has been called “one of the most mesmerizing and poetic chronicles of spirituality ever created,” and shows the importance of svadhayaha (reading and reflecting upon sacred books), mauna (silence), mantra (chanting), dharana (meditation), and satsang (keeping holy company). During and after watching this film, I felt as if I’d also spent time in the monastery: calm, centred, and incredibly sattvic (peaceful).
Yoga Unveiled is an educational and uplifting experience with all of the aspects of yoga harmoniously discussed. It serves as a perfect tool to yoga teachers, students, and practitioners by emphasizing the ultimate goal of self-realization. Starting from a strengthening of the body, we are guided on to reach finer and finer levels of our being unfolding the potential of each and organically uniting it to the goal of life. It is a great introduction to the deeper dimensions of yoga, especially the history and philosophy of yoga that often gets neglected. It is perfect to watch at the outset of a yoga teacher training program.
Sita Sings the Blues
This is a brilliant, funny and ironic modern re-telling of the ancient Hindu epic The Ramayana, which relates the possibly tragic story (depending on how you look at it) of Rama & Sita. The 82-minute animated feature that combines autobiography with a retelling of the classic Indian myth the Ramayana, and that required its creator, the syndicated comic-strip artist Nina Paley, to spend three years transforming herself into a one-woman moving-picture studio.
Ram Dass: Fierce Grace
This is a touching, insightful film about the life and work of Ram Dass, author of the famous book” Be Here Now” and recently featured by Oprah on her online network. Once a symbol of ’60s counterculture and psychedelic drug use, Ram Dass has since become a renowned speaker and author on the topics of aging, spirituality, and overcoming the mistakes of the past. This documentary chronicles his journey from his affiliations with LSD advocate Timothy Leary to his endeavour to continue remaking himself after his stroke in 1997.
This documentary charts the involvement and role of women in what was once predominantly a male sphere. Directed by Kate Clere McIntyre and Saraswati Clere, “YogaWoman” is a searching look at how yoga brings women self-awareness and empowerment, and how it relates to modern-day concerns like body image, family life, and femininity. Despite its titled, “YogaWoman” is as inspirational to male yogini too.
Why We Breathe
“Why We Breathe” is a documentary about Yoga that was filmed over a period of six months as the crew traveled across the US to discover what drives yoga practitioners to practice. WHY WE BREATHE was born out of the desire to understand what drives people to get involved in and become passionate about this system of techniques that has been defined as “a spontaneous state of wonder.” “Why we breathe” explores yoga’s popularity by asking yogis “Why do you do yoga? Why do you love it?” The film also focuses on the positivity that yoga can cultivate in your life.
The title comes from an ancient Sufi word translated as “a blessing, or the breath, or the essence of life from which the evolutionary process unfolds.” Very much an essence, “Baraka” takes viewers on a visual journey across 24 countries in six continents. With no dialogue or traditional storyline, this experimental documentary serves as a meditation on the ebb and flow of life around the world, with the juxtaposition of incredible images—some painful, many stunningly beautiful—creating a commentary on what it means to be human.