Yoga takes up a huge chunk of Japan’s fitness market. Some IT companies in the Tokyo area have even incorporated yoga and meditation into their daily schedules, just to show how much they care about their employees’ health and mental state. But some employees need no prompts. According to healthcare site bikenmaster.jp, the yoga population in Japan has reached 3.5 million.
It’s no surprise then that yoga movies are also gaining popularity, with “Breath of the Gods” (Japan title: “Seinaru Kokyu: Yoga no Rutsu ni Deau Tabi”) opening this weekend at the Ebisu Garden Cinema. Directed by German documentarian Jan Schmidt-Garre, this is a de-glammed “Eat, Love Pray” for the first-world traveler longing for true relaxation from a fast-paced life. Of course, the idea isn’t new. George Harrison and his fellow Beatles went to India partly for the yoga, while Madonna is a renowned yogini. But it’s becoming universal — even my aunt loves it. And now, Schmidt-Garre takes his camera crew to the southern regions of India, where the practice is said to have originated.
In “Breath of the Gods,” Schmidt-Garre steps up to the yoga mat in one of the world’s poorest countries to and talks with yoga masters and pupils of all ages as he tries to unlock the mysteries behind this ancient religious ritual. An eye-opener, it may have you running out to buy a yoga mat, or at least trying to breathe deeply through your nose for two minutes. Most of the narration is in English, and the rest has Japanese subtitles.