Here are a few inspirational films to get started with to deepen your knowledge of yoga and expand your horizons. All these films offer a different perspective on yoga that reflect its intricate nature to broaden the mind.
1. Awake: The Story of Yogi Ananda
Awake: The Story of Yogi Ananda is the biopic of Yogananda, author of the famous book The Autobiography of a Yogi. Yogananda was an important figure in bringing Hindu spirituality to the West. Awake tells the story of his life and influence on yoga, religion and science. It’s a fascinating film that includes interviews with Ravi Shankar, Deepak Chopra and George Harrison.
2. Enlighten Up!
Enlighten Up! poses the question of whether yoga can transform anyone. The protaganist Nick Rosen travels around the world to study with some of the planet’s best teachers including Jivamukti founders Sharon Gannon and David Life and Sri K Pattabhi Jois, founder of the Ashtanga style. The film depicts an in-depth look into what yoga means to the individual and paints a rich picture of the transformative power of yoga.
3. Ashtanga NY
Ashtanga NY is a documentary telling the story of when Sri K Pattabhi Jois visited New York City in 2001 – coinciding with the tragic events of September 2011. Devotees were arriving from all over the world to partake in a rare opportunity to practice with the 86 year-old Jois. The viewer is gifted with a beautiful depiction of Ashtanga yoga practice and community, a real-life look into the combination of ancient practice and modern life.
4. Why We Breathe – A Yoga Documentary
This documentary asks the questions why do you practice yoga? Why keep doing it? Why do you like it? In an effort to obtain an understanding into the potential that yoga can provide. The film covers the notion that many are attracted to yoga for the physical aspects of it and to get in shape. Yet what keeps them coming back for more? Largely it is found that they resonate with the spiritual and restorative advantages on a much deeper level.
5. Ayurveda: The Art of Being
This documentary explores the fascinating tradition of Ayurveda, the sister science of yoga, which has its origins in ancient India. You’ll discover how Ayurveda is the science and art of living, the balance of the body, mind and spirit and how the optimum state for health is the alignment of all three. The film charts the roots of Ayurveda up to the present day and features interviews with practitioners and those who have been helped.
6. Yoga Inc.
An interesting look at the business of yoga. Yoga has evolved into something very different to what the ancient yogis practised. Whilst yoga is undoubtedly booming in popularity, is it losing its spirituality and true to its roots — can it survive with its karma intact? Does anyone really own yoga? The film delves intro the controversial founder of Bikram yoga and the commoditisation of this ancient practice.
7. Breath of The Gods
A journey to the modern origins of modern yoga is a documentary about the origins of modern Hatha yoga and the search for authentic yoga. The story of Krishnamacharaya, the creator of modern yoga is shown including over three hours of bonus features including rare historical footage
8. Yoga Is
Filmmaker Suzanne Bryant meets with the most promonent yogis and teachers in the West as well as travelling to India to explore its roots. Suzanne lost her mother to cancer and in an effort to deal with her grief, took up the practice of yoga. Along the way she travels to India to learn about its roots. There she studies Ayurveda, Ashtanga Yoga and Bhakti Yoga and experience profound internal shifts, which she carries through on her return to the U.S.
9. The Soul Of India
This documentary includes yoga in a wider depiction of Mother India, the birthplace of yoga. The film beautifully shows how India is infinitely diverse, beautiful and energetic and its incredibly rich culture and mysticism.
10. Yoga Woman
Entertaining viewing for men and women alike, Yoga Woman explores how women have taken over a practice that was originally intended for men. that attempts to show women’s role and involvement in the development of yoga starting with its inception in India centuries ago. The film also covers socio-political issues affecting the modern woman such as depression, body image, work life and how yoga can ease these challenges.
Not a yoga documentary, but nonetheless still relevant, Kumaré is a documentary about filmmaker Vikram Gandhi impersonating a fake guru and building a following of real people. Gandhi grows a long beard and pony tail, donned orange robes and moved to Arizona where he hired a yoga teacher and a PR woman to promote him as a guru. He quickly began to attract followers without question. The film won Best Documentary at SXSW 2011.