Yoga Unveiled

Posted by skoons on October 14, 2010 

In recent years, it seems like yoga has become one of those things that are imported from another culture--like sushi and Salsa dancing--that become so widespread in the U.S. that they're no longer really exotic. While I don't practice yoga myself, I know a lot of people who do, and there are dozens of yoga studios in Centre County. But how many of those  devotees really understand the history and nuances of yoga, beyond the sun salutations and downward dogs?

Local residents will have a chance to learn the history and deeper meaning of yoga by attending a screening of "Yoga Unveiled," a documentary by Gita Desai, that will be held at 6:30 p.m. Sunday at Lila Yoga Studios, 103 E. Beaver Ave., State College. Harnessing the commentary of prominent yoga scholars, teachers and medical experts (including Drs. Mehmet Oz and Dean Ornish), the film reveals how yoga began, tells the story of yoga's passsage to the West, describes its numerous branches, recounts the biographies of the foremost yoga masters and explore's yoga's medical potential.

Desai, who will be introducing her film and taking questions after the screening, is an inspirational story of a novice who accomplished something extraordinary. Having lived in Connecticut for the past 30 years, she moved to Los Angeles in June. She has been a homemaker for most of her life, she said, but eight years ago, she decided to make a documentary about yoga, even though she had absolutely no experience or training in filmmaking, and couldn't even operate a computer. Over the next two years, she said, she read lots of books on yoga, bought a camera and tripod, hired a camera crew, made a lot of "cold calls," and filmed in India and the U.S. She also took advantage of connections she had in Hollywood and the "Bollywood" industry in India.

"Basically, it was a very homegrown project and homegrown endeavor which took on a life of its own," said Desai, who recently released her second documentary, "Rajah Unveiled," which explores the history and evolution of Indian classical music.

The film, which was released six years ago, has been screened at independent theaters, museums, yoga studios, yoga retreats and conferences and university departments. There were 10 screenings in February all over the Hawaiian islands, Desai said.

Desai, who practices Iyengar yoga, said she believes that "any person who steps on a yoga mat is an altered person." One of the most common misconceptions about yoga in Western culture, she said, is that it is primarily a physical exercise. She believes that the true purpose of yoga is spiritual awakening.

Despite her lack of filmmaking expertise, Desai said, "Yoga Unveiled" was completed with the aid of divine forces.

"This film was meant to be made," she said.

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