The coronavirus shutdown has us craving deep rest, stress relief, and much-needed moments of levity. From supernatural thrillers that call on the powers of crystals and pranayama to more serious documentaries on the fall of Bikram Choudhury and Osho, there's something here for everyone.
On Yoga: The Architecture of Peace
If you haven’t yet seen this 2017 documentary based on photographer Michael O’Neill’s book of the same name, it’s time. O’Neill’s decade-long photographic exploration into the practice styles of world-renowned yoga masters resulted in the 2015 tome, which contains 200 photographs of famed yogis such as B.K.S. Iyengar and designer Donna Karan. On Yoga: The Architecture of Peace depicts O’Neill’s behind-the-lens efforts to capture a diverse array of practitioners and features appearances from commentators Deepak Chopra and Elena Brower.
See also Light on Iyengar
The Goop Lab
If you’ve kept an eye on Gwyneth Paltrow’s oft-controversial modern “wellness” conglomerate over the past decade, the following should not come as a shock. Having tackled a multi-faceted editorial platform and podcast—plus a slew of branded products and curated pop-up shops—Goop is now bringing its signature stance on holistic health to Netflix with a new docuseries called The Goop Lab. Co-hosts Paltrow and Elise Loehnen (Goop chief content officer) dive deep into topics related to physical and spiritual wellness through interviews with doctors and researchers. Watch out, Dr. Oz.
Scandal fans know actor Tony Goldwyn as the charming leader of the free world. But with the release of Netflix’s Chambers, the formerly buttoned-up bossman has entered full-on crystal-toting territory. As mourning father Ben Lefevre, Goldwyn leans on Kundalini breathing practices and shirtless meditations to cope with the loss of his teenage daughter, Becky. The supernatural thriller unravels the mysterious circumstances behind Becky’s death and the paranormal visions that result when another girl receives her heart in an emergency transplant. Even if bone-chilling television isn’t your thing, you may still appreciate Lefevre’s commitment to sage burning.
See also What Kind of Crystal Do You Need?
I am Maris: Portrait of a Young Yogi
Few stories of struggling with mental health prove to be as uplifting as I am Maris: Portrait of a Young Yogi, a documentary that follows 17-year-old Maris Degener as she’s gripped by chronic anxiety and a near-fatal eating disorder. By the time she’d reached middle school, what had begun as generalized dread escalated to full-blown panic attacks, later mani-festing as cutting, purging, and other forms of self-harm. Rather than focus on the protagonist’s trauma, the film, which hit Netflix after a year on the festival circuit, thoughtfully explores Degener’s psychological, physical, and spiritual healing through yoga.
After becoming a licensed instructor at the age of 16, Degener began blogging about her journey and made national headlines for her outspoken blog posts and social media captions that aimed to destigmatize mental health issues. The doc offers an insightful peek into life in the midst of a psychological battle, and highlights the potential for beauty after pain. Bring tissues.
Q+A with Maris
Maris Degener was just 17 when she starred in I am Maris. Here, the 21-year-old vinyasa flow teacher dishes on inclusivity in the yoga community, representation in the media, and new frontiers in her post-film life.
YOGA JOURNAL: How does it feel to see the film’s message resonate with people all over the world?
Maris Degener: It felt risky to make a film about eating disorders that didn't romanticize this disease with dramatic weight-loss pictures or anything like that, and I am proud to have stood by my intentions. I believe in the film deeply, but I’m now more aware of the importance of representation than I was when the film was made. My positionality is complicated. On one hand, the film accurately paints a very privileged picture of my life: I grew up in an affluent community and I had full access to medical treatment. But it didn’t show all of me. It didn’t tell the story of my [mom's] family’s immigration from Mexico. It didn’t show me struggling with my sexuality.
YJ: How has this experience shaped your teaching?
MD: I came out as a queer person last year. Yoga is, in large part, based on satya, or living your truth. To teach this, I must be honest with myself and the world about who I am. The yoga community in the West is often very homogenous—or portrayed that way. If I can be open about who I am and how I’ve come to accept all of myself, that may help others feel safe and welcomed into the practice. It allows me to be a stronger voice for those often not represented in the community.
Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator
A deeply disturbing look into the rise and fall of Bikram Choudhury, this documentary chronicles the dark side of Bikram, the creator of Bikram Yoga—a 26-pose sequence in a room heated to 105°. Whether you already know about the scandal or are hearing about it for the first time, watching Birkam: Yogi, Guru, Predator will change your perspective on the Bikram Yoga and the man behind it.
The world is a stressful place, leading to burnout-induced illnesses, mental fatigue on top of chronic illnesses, and a slew of medications promising an escape from all the pain. Heal highlights harrowing stories of everyday people overcoming their diseases through mindfulness, meditation, and yoga practices, instead of using a never-ending pharmaceuticals list. Hear from acclaimed doctors, researchers, and spiritual authors, including Deepak Chopra and Bernie Siegel, about how believing in yourself can change your life.
Wild Wild Country
This is a binge-worthy series about the Indian Guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, commonly known as Osho, and the cult he formed. Osho and his followers relocated from India to Antelope, Oregon, starting a commune in rolling hills that later became a self-sufficient city called Rajneeshpuram. But while the community had values rooted in compassion and sharing, shady practices quickly made them a target of the federal government. What unravels in Wild Wild Country is a tale so crazy, you have to see it to believe it.
Walk With Me
Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be a Buddhist monk? Walk With Me takes you on a journey into a monastic community, and the experience feels like a meditation in and of itself. Zen Buddhist master Thich Nnat Hanh shares his wisdom with you while Benedict Cumberbatch narrates the inner thoughts of the monks in the community. It provides a potent boost of mindfulness for whatever headspace you’re currently in.
On Amazon Prime
Awake: The Life of Yogananda
Paramahansa Yogananda is a legendary figure in the history of modern yoga, introducing millions of people in the West to Kriya Yoga and meditation. Awake: The Life of Yogananda is about his own journey to enlightenment, and the trials and tribulations that he faced while spreading his message that anybody can attain a higher consciousness around the world. His Self-Realization Fellowship and book, Autobiography of a Yogi, are still bettering the lives of people to this day.
Eat, Pray, Love
A movie that needs no introduction, Eat, Pray, Love is a cult classic in the yoga community that energized thousands of people to make a pilgrimage over to India and Bali to deepen their practice and introspect.
Breath of the Gods: A Journey to the Origins of Modern Yoga
This documentary tells the story of how modern yoga gained its footing in the world. Legends like B.K.S. Iyengar, Pattabhi Jois, and T.K. Sribhashyam discuss their experiences with practicing and teaching yoga in the early days. Breath of the Gods' archival footage of T. Krishnamacharya and his school are shared to honor “the father of modern yoga.”
Women make up a large majority of yoga practitioners in the West, yet men often get the spotlight in terms of being gurus and famous teachers. This documentary tells the story of female empowerment in the yoga community and how women can come into their power through the practice. In Yogawoman, listen to inspiring words from teachers like Seane Corn, Elena Brower, and Sharon Gannon as they prove that yoga women can change the world.
This extensive three-hour documentary covers the history of yoga, from ancient times to the modern day. It describes the many different ways the practice has evolved, and highlights its therapeutic benefits. Yoga Unveiled is a resource that can be used during your yoga teacher training or if you simply want to learn more about yoga’s roots.
Updated by Kyle Houseworth.