Breath of the Gods
Directed by Jan Schmidt-Garre, Breath of the Gods is an alluring documentary in search of the origins of modern yoga.
Categorically unsuitable for anyone looking for excitement and adrenaline-soaked fun, Breath of the Gods is a steady-paced journey into South India and tracks the birth of the spiritual and physical discipline right the way back to Lord Shiva himself.
According to Indian tradition, the modern yoga practised daily by millions of people goes as far back and as spiritually high as something that was used by the Hindu god, Lord Shiva. However, the modern yoga we know in the west, originated in the early 20th century and was created by T Krishnamacharya (1888-1989) – a story far less known, and the one told through this film.
With interwoven black and white footage of Krishnamacharya performing impressive contortion displays – demonstrations for his athletic sponsor, the Maharaja of Mysore – Breath of the Gods gives an extraordinary insight into extreme yoga practice with some fascinating interviews with Krishnamacharya’s children and other relevant people.
One of Schmidt-Garre’s interviews is with Pattabhi Jois, one of Krishnamacharya’s most important students, an elderly man well into his 90s, who sadly passed away during filming.
In between the black and white footage of Krishnamacharya, the interviews and other fascinating contextual clips of historical India, Jan Schmidt-Garre is filmed re-enacting famous yoga positions such as the “Sun Salutation” (taught by Pattabhi Jois), “King of Asanas” and a head-stand (taught by another of Krishnamacharya’s students, Iyengar).
It is very engaging to watch the director attempt the yoga positions, and it makes the film very touching to watch. It is intimate without being too overwhelming or try-hard.
Through the eyes of the German director, Jan Schmidt-Garre (whose other documentaries include Chopin at the Opera), the viewer explores yoga in a way that isn’t readily available anywhere else. From the alleged 8.4 million postures perfected by Lord Shiva according to Indian tradition, to the modern yoga schools (which the first was founded by Krishnamacharya), Breath of the Gods is guaranteed to teach even the most knowledgeable yogi something new!
In limited release from 22nd February 2012.
Watch the trailer for Breath of the Gods here