The Feminine Unfolding with Angela Farmer
Transit Media; 22-D Hollywood Ave., Hohokus, NJ 07423; 800-343-5540; 48 min.; $30
Not a formal instruction video, The Feminine Unfolding is Angela Farmer's remarkable spiritual autobiography. The story itself unfolds in a series of short talks, interspersed with scenes from her public classes and beautifully choreographed asana performances (by Farmer and several of her students). She begins by describing her discontent with her years of traditional yoga trainingits reliance on external authority, what she calls its "one-pointed striving," and its relatively static, cookie-cutter postures. Suspecting that such an approach, which she characterizes as predominantly "masculine," is in essence incomplete, she sets out to discover what's lacking. She finds it one day, when she wanders into an Indian temple and is suddenly surrounded by the carved figures of voluptuous Hindu goddesses. She realizes that these female icons, brimming with divine potency,
represent yogis too, and their supple, flowing contours embody the natural counterpoint to the "fixed positions" of body-mind.
Farmer returns to her practice inspired by this epiphany, determined to express her own feminine identity, and committed to translating the goddesses' example into a new approach to practice. She "unfolds" the familiar still-as-a-statue shapes of the asanas in a spontaneous sensual "dance" with the feminine power (shakti) that lives and breathes in each of us, and so affirms and validates, much as the Indian Tantrikas did 1,500 years ago, the inherent intelligence of the human body-mind. This frees us from external instructions and manipulations (verbal and otherwise).
Farmer acknowledges that there is a form to the asanas; but within those limits, she gives students more or less free rein to experiment, to find their own relationship to a pose, to settle into a rendition of a pose that is most expressive of who the individual student is. In doing
so, she challenges the time-honored relationship of a teacher (guru) and her student (shishya). After all, if each of us
is a locus of ultimate knowledge (jnana), then no external "authority" can possibly take final precedence over the prompting of our own inner "voice" (which Patanjali aptly named the "Lord," ishvara). The teacher then becomes simply a partner
in our practice, one who helps us learn
to trust and love ourselves; and the responsibility for our salvation is shifted squarely onto our own shoulders, where it should be.
Farmer is a great joy to watch. She's that rare personality (T.K.V. Desikachar and Lilias Folan are others who come to mind) who can reach right through the TV screen and touch your soul. I don't usually get too excited over the videos I review, but this one is special, and it gets my highest recommendation.