Quebec (Film and Television Tax Credit - Gestion SODEC)
Telefilm Canada and the Rogers Group of Funds under the Theatrical Documentary Program
Canada Media Fund (CMF)
SODEC Soci?t? de d?veloppement des entreprises culturelles ? Qu?bec
Canada (Canadian Film or Video Production Tax Credit)
Bell Broadcast and New Media Fund
Jeffrey Armstrong (Kavindra Rishi), Vancouver
Called "Sveta" (white Hindu) by his Inidan friends, he translates the Bhagavad Gita, making accessible the complexities of spiritual culture in the new millennium. Jeffrey Armstrong has been passionate about yoga for 40 years. Tall, thin with blonde hair, he has the spirit of a poet but comes from a world of business. He represents a new aspect of corporate communication that is primarily concerned with sustainable development. He considers himself “an astronaut of inner space” and believes that an instinctual need for balance is what has led to the popularity of yoga.
Dr. Bali, Montréal
Dr. Bali is one of the most sought after yoga teachers in the Montreal area; at 87 years old he portrays a shining example to the benefits of yoga. He has been teaching Yoga in Montreal since 1969. Founder and Director of Yoga Bliss, Dr. Madan Bali was born in India and has dedicated his life to the research, study and practice of yoga and yoga therapy. He introduced yoga to major hospitals, community centers, corporations, as an accredited course in cegeps, and over 30 schools.
Sri Venu (Stéphane Boisjoly), Vancouver
Sri Venu (Stéphane Boisjoly), a disciple of Swami Vishnu Devananda, singer and yoga instructor for over 40 years, he is a true yogi. At 16 years old, Stéphane discovered yoga. Meditation then became his tool of choice in changing the world. In 1976, while yoga continued to occupy a prominent place in his life, he began a professional career in radio and television. It hasn’t been long since he quit his career to found and direct the Sivananda Yoga Centre in Vancouver. An urban monk who is very active in his community, Stéphane Boisjoly does yoga and meditates everyday of his life.
Kerry Lawson, Halifax
Kerry Lawson is a yoga nomad. With her yoga mat under her arm, she travels between Nova Scotia, Nunavut and India. Kerry was introduced to yoga at a young age by her mother who, now at 71 years old, continues to practice. She’s dedicated her life to yoga and shares her knowledge with children, pregnant women and seniors. Kerry has developed an innovative social program for Nunavut schools called Building Resiliency for Youth through Yoga. Kerry and her friends practice yoga wherever they go, be it an isolated and tranquil atmosphere of retreat, far from telephones and computers…
Paul McQuillan, Toronto
Paul McQuillan lives yoga the way only a North-American could: casually, with a sense of humour, and no delusions. Paul is a yoga instructor in Toronto, but also an actor, musician and singer in musical theatre. Irony and humour make him a refreshing character. In his courses, Paul tries to be tough while gentle all at once.
Richelle Donigan, Oakland, California
Her neighbourhood is her playground, her community: her strength. Richelle, a young black lesbian, is a yoga instructor in the most violent city in the United States. She is kind, committed and solid – and covered in tattoos. With her friend Keeta, she established a yoga studio. They’ve found they’re calling through introducing yoga to those left behind in society. Richelle and Keeta remind us that, even the yoga movement at times can succumb to racial differences and differences of social class. At times during the classes, tensions run high, however we sense in everyone a desire to overcome their differences in order to excel.
Ysé Tardan-Masquelier, Paris
Ysé Tardan Masquelier is a historian of religions who specializes in Hinduism, and a true fan of yoga. All at once a researcher, teacher and director of the first French yoga school, as well as a professor of Eastern Spirituality, from the dawn of Indian civilisation to the Western world of today, Ysé knows the history and benefits of her art. Both erudite and funny, she is also one of the most enlightened yogis of our time. She vividly tells the big story behind yoga: how it evolved from its metaphysical origins to a modern practice which places primacy on the body as a way to cultivating the inner life.
Swami Amritarupananda (Susan) and Swami Atmaswarupananda (Bill), Rishikesh
Back in Vancouver Bill was a business man. Drawn to the spiritual life, he waited for his kids to grow up before he became a monk. It’s been 40 years since Bill came to the Sivananda Ashram in Rishikesh to become a monk and dedicate his life to yoga. 27 years ago his daughter Susan visited him for a planned seven weeks and hasn’t left since. Bill and Susan are emblematic of many westerners who come to India in search of meaning that eludes them in the heart of modernity, and never turn back. With the help of her father, who is still a proficient business man, Susan created Clean Himalaya, a small company dedicated to cleaning the river Ganges.
A pioneer in North America: Swami Vishnu Devananda (1927 – 1993)
If there is someone behind the incredible expansion of yoga in the West, it would be Swami Vishnu Devananda. He quickly understood the need to break the Indian academic format of master to disciple in training yoga instructors. His huge success is a testimony to the value of his intuition. In 1945, as a young soldier, he came across a publication about yoga written by Swami Sivananda of Rishikesh, whom he was only vaguely aware of. After twelve years of arduous training that completely transformed his body and spirit, his mentor entrusted in him the mission to spread the teachings of yoga in the West. In 1959, Devananda founded the first yoga school in the west of Montreal. It was in this way, the Swami Vishnu became the driving force behind the development of Yoga in North America. His schools have trained more than 25,000 yoga teachers.
“The practice of yoga spreads like a good virus. Is it an answer to the rat race? A reaction to the overload created by what we call progress? 50 million North Americans can’t be wrong. But what is it exactly that makes yoga so attractive?”
Of all the disciplines involving mind and body practiced during the 70s, it was Yoga that experienced the widest geographic dispersal that continues to exist today. In a survey published in 2004 by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Yoga had become the fifth most common alternative therapy used in France. While its followers spend more than $3 billion annually on courses and products, Yoga has found itself at the centre of a lucrative business. Europe has seen less of a following; however the numbers have still been impressive.
In the last fifty years, yoga has moved from a “counter-culture” curiosity to a mainstream phenomenon, becoming a part of millions of lives in the west to the point that it is today more dynamic in the occident than in India. In the past two years, the number of people participating in yoga reached 10% of the population in North America. It is a number that has caught the attention of sociologists, yoga instructors and marketing experts… Yoga is now “professionalized”; to be a yoga instructor is a “real” career, with its own initial and continued training and philosophy.
From the Beatles to Alanis Morissette to Madonna, a major source of influence which has complemented yoga well has came from the arts and music. The current popularity and commercialisation of yoga owes much of itself to this cultural appropriation. Today, yoga continues to be reinterpreted through a wide range of European and North American locations and social environments.
In the end, what is yoga? Is it a discipline? A philosophie? A wisdom? Is it a response to an ever increasing need? All of the above are valid in the eyes of our different characters. However, among all of them we find a common goal: a search for peace and harmony during troubled times. Through various encounters, from Montreal to San Francisco, Canada’s Far North to Vancouver, over to France and down into India, the film offers an unusual prism of our society and reveals the ways in which oriental culture has enmeshed with Western culture.
Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF) 2011
Festival du nouveau cin?ma Montr?al 2011
Tofino Film Festival 2011
Rendez-vous du cin?ma qu?b?cois (RVCQ) 2012
Rendez-vous du cin?ma qu?b?cois et francophone de Vancouver 2012
The drive for consumption leaves us incomplete, and we Westerners, as Lacan would say, live with a sense of longing that we attempt to address by adopting disciplines such as yoga.
What is fascinating about yoga is that it is indicative to modern society. On one hand it draws us inward by placing great emphases on the individual ‐ the me, myslef and I ‐ while at the same time calling us out into the world, showing us the problems that exist and encouraging us to seek a solution. This tension is present in the film, the pace of which is that of a simple meditation: breathe in, that which is best for the individual, breath out, that which is best for life on this planet.
I must also admit that, I am not attracted to monastic life or worship of the Ashram. My interest leans towards the exploration of believe rather than discussion surrounding alleged plots designed to lock people into a system of though or ‘‘sects’’. The 60s shaped me and so I am interested in trance, travel, encountering the Other, and admittedly, the exotic.
Yoga itself means ‘‘union or joining’’, that which occurs when the East and the West converge is always exciting. The Beatles, as modern design composed of concepts emerging from India and the West, show proof of this. Our culture and our knowledge are the result of an amalgamation in constant evolution. The Hindus appreciate the energy of Westerners and certainly, their ability to achieve their goals. Capitalism’s undeniable ability to absorb all that can serve it’s purpose, even that which apposes it, gives us occasion to explore with humour and imagination the contradictions and energy that are a result of the missing links that exist between the East and the West.
This voyage to the heart of yoga is a story told with a smile, a reflection of the joyful spirit that we find in India. It’s a ambitious endeavour. Indeed, it is much easier to address in a serious tone the things we consider to be severe rather than in a light a joyful manner. The subject however, requires this approach. No ceremonies and no paternal speech. That is to say, when traveling into the unknown, is a voyage of discovery. The film moves us towards a profound examination of our existence. In the end, the viewer finds himself in a yoga position seemingly simple, but difficult to solve: What is the purpose of life? What is its meaning?
PLANET YOGA takes us on a journey from East to West through the universe of Yoga. We meet passionate people who shed light on this Eastern discipline, now adapted and integrated into our western culture, revealing the desire for meaning that characterizes the new millennium.
How did words like nirvana, karma, guru, reincarnation, meditation, and “Om” come to be part of everyday language in the West? The answer lies in yoga, the fastest‐growing spiritual practice around the world.
PLANET YOGA tells the fascinating story of the encounter between the ancient eastern discipline of yoga and a western population. This convergence has given birth to the most popular mind‐body movement on the planet. Featuring a colorful cast of characters, a compelling musical score, and unexpected locations on three continents, the film explore yoga’s social uses and its powerful attraction for a Western world in search of meaning. Behind the joyful energy of Planet Yoga is the collective admission that materialism has hit the wall, and it is now time to look inwards for meaning and peace.