I watched the film Breath of the Gods: A journey to the origins of modern yoga yesterday in the event Yoga i Bawb teachers (including me!) had organised. There were over 50 people in the Aberystwyth Arts Centre cinema – a great turn out!
This screening was organised following receipt of a donation from a local yoga group (Yoga Club) that has ceased. As it was a free open event we decided to leave a charity box for donations. We chose the Africa Yoga Project whose work is similar, (but also very different!) to Yoga i Bawb. Operating mainly in Kenya they have trained over 200 yoga teachers, most of whom are East Africans aged 18-35, and they also employ over 70 yoga teachers in Kenya, helping them to support their families. Over 350 free yoga classes are run each week, reaching over 6000 people every week. They particularly target vulnerable populations in schools, jails and orphanages, including special needs groups and those living below the poverty line. Educate, empower, elevate is their motto. We raised £57.60 – thank you everyone who gave. We will keep the charity box open until end of October 2014 so if you want to donate you can give your donation to one of the Yoga i Bawb teachers who will pass it on (e.g. Lesley Wheatley, Sue Jones Davies, me Alyson Tyler, Mair Jones).
The film is a (slightly meandering) journey via different yoga students of T. Krishnamacharya (1888-1989), the yogi who is seen as being the ‘father’ or ‘creator’ of modern yoga. Interviews with both Pattabhi Jois (Krishnamacharya’s student in 1927) and BKS Iyengar (student from 1934), have added poignancy as they have both now died, Iyengar only last month.
Iyengar recounts that previously people practising yoga were seen as mentally unstable, or “cracked”, but through the teachings by Krishnamacharya (and himself), this changed completely to the point where it’s now become a whole lifestyle movement in the West.
The film features archive footage, discussion, interviews with some of Krishnamacharya’s children, and some demonstrations of yoga practices including modern-day re-enactments. More information and a trailer available on the Breath of the Gods website. Or, if you want to read a very detailed overview of it, read this blog post. The summary is that Krishnamacharya’s own teaching changed much over the course of of his life, leading to his students becoming teachers of different approaches. And, although yoga traces its roots back 5000 years, and modern yoga to about 100 years ago, if there is no focus, concentration and coordination of breath and movement there is no yoga.