A very interesting, thought-provoking, intelligent and unbiased documentary called ‘Who Owns Yoga?’ has recently been released by Al Jazeera English and is available to watch online.
It’s only 50 minutes long yet manages to address thorny issues such as the modern commercialisation of yoga (especially in the west), the trend for new ‘types’ of yoga such as rave yoga and boxing yoga and whether yoga is secular or ‘belongs’ to a particular religion, country, culture etc. The film also tries to address whether yoga is a spiritual practice or if it can be a purely physical practice too.
The Swedish-born Indian journalist and yoga teacher Bhanu Bhatnagar takes the viewer on the journey with him as he explores these themes in America and England. He admits that whilst he would like yoga to be secular, he also believes it is connected to its Hindu philosophical heritage, and that it is a deeply personal practice. He tackles some American yoga organisations for their attempts to copyright yoga, and also travels to India to explore how yoga teachers there view the commercial Western approaches to yoga.
You can also read an in-depth interview with Bhanu Bhatnagar on the Yoga Magazine website. This interview confirms my views that I could see he had closer affinity to some of the yoga teachers he interviewed than others, but despite this, he sees value in everyone he meets, recognising that the more people experiencing yoga, the greater the benefits.
If you have 50 minutes and a connection to the Internet, it’s definitely worth watching. Watch it on YouTube, or on the Al Jazeera website (where there’s also more background and some pictures from the film) or via DoYouYoga. Or follow the Facebook community group for the film.