Harnessing the colorful commentary of the most prominent yoga scholars, teachers, and medical experts, Yoga Unveiled reveals how yoga began, tells the story of yoga’s passage to the West, describes its numerous branches, recounts the fascinating biographies of the foremost yoga masters, and explores yoga’s astonishing medical potential.
Stunning cinematography, ornate visual displays, and stirring music create a truly enchanting viewing experience. The great devotees of yoga grace the screen with their profound wisdom and delightful manner.
Yoga Unveiled also features commentary by Krishna Das, Dr. Herbert Benson, Edwin Bryant, Subhash Kak, Vasant Lad, Dr. Timothy McCall, Larry Payne, Pandit Rajmani Tigunait, Father Joe Pereira, Swami Sivananda, Dr. Martina Ziska, and Dharma Mittra.
1. What is Yoga?
¨ The experts define yoga in their own words.
2. Origins of Yoga
¨ An overview of the formation of the yogic philosophy in ancient India.
¨ Extensive commentary by Georg Feuerstein, Subhash Kak, and Edwin Bryant, the foremost yoga scholars.
¨ Archival footage of the excavation of the Indus Valley Civilization, the birthplace of yoga.
¨ An exploration of the Vedas and Upanishads, the ancient sacred texts which gave rise to yoga.
3. The Branches of Yoga
¨ Detailed commentary on Bhakti yoga, Karma yoga, Jnana yoga, Raja yoga, Tantra yoga, and Hatha yoga.
¨ The great modern masters and scholars share their insights on each branch.
¨ Rare archival footage of the great Swami Sivananda.
4. The Passage from East to West
¨ A biography of Swami Vivekananda, who introduced yoga to America.
¨ Old photos, newspaper reviews, and Swami Vivekananda’s speeches at the Parliament of Religions in Chicago.
5. Modern Yoga
¨ The life of Krishnamacharya, who preserved the ancient tradition of yoga and trained the greatest modern yoga masters, including his old footage.
¨ The biographies of Krishnamacharya’s great disciples, Indra Devi, B.K.S. Iyengar, Pattabhi Jois, and Desikachar, including footage of each.
¨ The story of how each Yogi brought Yoga to the West.
¨ Insightful commentary about the place of yoga in the modern world.
6. Yoga and Modern Medicine
¨ Interviews with the pioneers in the field, including Dr. Dean Ornish, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Dr. Herbert Benson, Dr. Mehmet Oz, Father Joe Pereira, among others.
¨ An overview of their alternative medicine programs.
By Kathy Nash
* article excerpted from the Yoga Association of Alberta newsletter, Yoga Bridge. (www.yoga.ca)
Yoga Unveiled, a documentary about the history of yoga, opens with B.K.S. Iyengar saying, “Yoga, in a nutshell, is to keep the entire–the external/internal–body clean, pure, sanctified, so that the mind flows, without any barrier within, and absorbs what goes on inside the body.”
Next, we see flashes of images of the numerous yoga styles, spaces, and familiar sights associated with yoga today: women, men, children, and the elderly eagerly participating in yoga and meditation classes. However, the narrator of Yoga Unveiled, Ajay Mehta observes, “To most practitioners in the West, yoga is merely a series of postures that offers physical benefits. This view confines the yoga experience to only what occurs on the mat.”
Yoga Unveiled helps to dispel this limited view of yoga. Viewers have the opportunity to learn that yoga goes far beyond the mat from a number of well-known and respected yoga scholars, yoga teachers, and medical experts, including Edwin Bryant, PhD; Krishna Das; T.K.V. Desikachar; Indra Devi; Georg Feuerstein, PhD; B.K.S. Iyengar; K. Pattabhi Jois; Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD; Subhash Kak, PhD; Dean Ornish, MD; Father Joe Pereira; Swami Rama; Swami Sivananda; Swami Tyagananda; Patricia Walden; and Rodney Yee, to name just a few.
Written by Gita Desai and produced by Gita and Mukesh Desai, Yoga Unveiled has a running time of just over three hours, on two DVDs. The first DVD is divided into four parts: “Origins of Yoga,” “Branches of Yoga,” “Passage from East to West,” and “Modern Yoga.” The second DVD discusses Yoga Therapy.
Origins of Yoga
Georg Feuerstein (author and yoga historian and one of the primary commentators in Yoga Unveiled) considers yoga to be the oldest spiritual tradition in the world. So, where does it originate?
According to the documentary there are four eras in early Indian history during which yoga was developed: the Vedic period, the pre-Classical period, the Epic period, and the Classical period of the sutras. The fundamentals of yoga are found, variously, in the classic yoga postures depicted on terra cotta seals from the ancient Indus Valley Civilization, in references to yoga in the Upanishads, revealed texts of wisdom and understanding, and in the Bhagavad-Gita; and finally, they are brought together in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra around 200 AD.
The film traces the evolution of yogic philosophy and knowledge dealing with how to still the restless mind, to focus on an inward journey in search of Self, to follow the path of selfless action and devotion, and to free oneself from ego-bound rigidity. Clearly, yoga’s origins demonstrate that yoga is much more than a physical practice.
Branches of Yoga
This second segment of the first DVD begins with an overview of the different branches of yoga, while emphasizing that the goal for every one of these systems is the realization of the innermost Self. Included are bhakti yoga, karma yoga, jnana yoga, raja yoga, tantra yoga, hatha yoga, kundalini yoga and mantra yoga.
Then, the ashtanga (eight-limbed) yoga of Patanjali is elaborated. We are again reminded that yoga goes beyond the practice of physical postures. Edwin Bryant, Assistant Professor of Hinduism, Rutgers University, tells viewers, “For Patanjali, the goal of yoga is not asana. Asana is simply a stepping-stone to something far more important, that is, realization of the innermost Self.”
In this segment, there are also explanations about the body as an energetic system, the five elements of nature, the doshas, the koshas, the chakras, and the nadis. Their descriptions are supported by animation and other visual images that elucidate the understanding of these complex aspects of the human condition.
Yoga Passage from East to West and Modern Yoga
These two segments constituted my favourite part of the documentary. To watch and listen to teachers and scholars speak about those who have paved the path for us was inspiring!
One man in particular was greatly influential in first bringing yoga to the West. Swami Vivekananda came to speak at the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago on September 11, 1893. His purpose was to spread the message of non-dualism, that all life forms evolve from one life-force. There is a wonderful quote about harmonious balance and religion by Swami Vivekananda that you need to hear. It is beautiful.
The yoga that the West has embraced can be traced back to the teachings of the Brahman yogi, T.K.V. Krishnamacharya (1888-1989). His son, T.K.V. Desikachar, quotes his father: “One hundred years from now people will acknowledge yoga as the greatest gift from India.”
A wonderful part of the DVD is hearing praise of Krishnamacharya from his many students: Indra Devi (1899-2002), B.K.S. Iyengar (1913- ), K. Pattabhi Jois (1915- ), and T.K.V. Desikachar (1938- ). Each of these individuals had a different reason for beginning their practice of yoga, yet they have gone on to share unselfishly their knowledge and experience of yoga with the Western world. Mr. Iyengar’s assertion, “I started for health and then it became a dedicated service to humanity,” reflects the dedication of all those yogis and yoginis who have committed their lives to a yogic path.
In the Modern Yoga segment there is also a very clear depiction of other branches of the yoga tree, showing not only the lineage of Krishnamacharya, but also other yoga traditions and associated movements: the Himalayan Institute, Kripalu Yoga, Transcendental Meditation, Integral Yoga, Kundalini Yoga, the Ramakrishna Vedanta Society, Sivananda Yoga, Siddha Yoga, Self-Realization, Theosophy, and Tibetan Yoga.
Yoga, as therapy, is explained in the second DVD. It is affirming in that it explains what so many yoga practitioners already know.
Doctors, scholars, and teachers including Herbert Benson, MD; Bernard Clark, MD; Jagdish Hiremath, MD; S.V. Karandikaar, MD; Timothy McCall, MD; Dean Ornish, MD; Mehmet Oz, MD; Father Joe Pereira; and Martina Ziska, MD, share their experiences and knowledge concerning the study and practice of yoga and its positive effects on human health. Their explanations take us back to the beginning of the documentary, to the various yoga practitioners, scholars, and teachers sharing their understanding of yoga as unity. Dr. Ziska, Director of Ayurveda Health Partners, says, “It is our misconception of ourselves as separate from the rest of nature, the rest of the universe, that makes us behave and choose things that are not suitable for [or] supportive of us that then cause physical malfunctioning, and then diseases.”
Yoga Unveiled is full of lively portraits of yoga in music, colourful images of the past and present, and insightful commentary. I have only touched upon a few of the many ideas presented, but I hope that the choices I have made give you a sense of the depth, breadth, and beauty of this timely, informative documentary. While watching it, yogis may appreciate the magnificence of the practice they enjoy today and (as yet) non-yogis may appreciate why yoga practitioners are so dedicated to their practice.