Ashtanga, NY

Ashtanga, NY - A Yoga DocumentaryAs I perused netflix’s yoga offerings the other day, I noticed this little gem–Ashtanga, NY— available for streaming. If you love yoga and have 40 minutes I very much recommend it.

This short documentary was shot during Sri K Pattabhi Jois‘s visit to NYC in September 2001. (Also known as Guruji, Jois was a father of the modern yoga movement and popularized/founded the Ashtanga style of yoga.)

Every day that month, hundreds of NYC yogis woke up at dawn to practice yoga under instruction of Guruji and family. This is an Indian-style family affair, with Guruji’s daughter (Saraswati), grandson (Sharath), and various other family members serving as Guruji’s posse during his international trip.

The film includes interviews with the many dedicated practitioners, including celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow, Mike D of the Beastie Boys and Willem Dafoe. I found the air time dedicated to Ms. Paltrow excessive, but whatevs. The interviews with Guruji, daughter, and grandson were short but endearing. They come across as humble, happy, and dedicated to their students.

This isn’t an in-depth look at Ashtanga. The film feels like a love letter to the practice; the reverence the community feels for Ashtanga, its teachings and teacher fairly glows from the screen. This is driven home by the 9/11 attacks–the film doesn’t dwell on them but shows the community as shocked and devastated as the rest of the city, and approaching their yoga with renewed meaning. I was inordinately moved by the scenes of Guruji and family wearing FDNY polo shirts on their last day in NYC–the shirts are too large, brand new, and worn over regular Indian clothes in earnest tribute.

If you watch the crowd you can see faces of some prominent US yoga practioners, including Kino MacGregor (I think?), Ruth Lauer-Manenti, David Life, others. Inside baseball stuff.

Watch it. It’s short and interesting.

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