Details: 84 mins, Australia, English
Synopsis: A documentary about the beneficial effects of yoga on women throughout the world. Narrated by Annette Bening.
An upbeat documentary for devotees.
aimed entirely at the converted
With the soothing vocals of narrator Annette Bening intoning the message of united womanhood, Yogawoman guides the viewer through what is essentially an infomercial for the benefits that the ancient meditative exercise holds for women of all ages.
Co-directed by Saraswati Clere and Kate McIntyre, Yogawoman canvasses opinions across nine countries, examining the practices that have become intrinsic to the health and well-being of women from numerous cultures. It’s unapologetically one-sided and aimed entirely at the converted; if you don’t know your half-tortoise from your full-locust then Yogawoman is probably not for you.
What may appeal to others (some of who will eventually stumble across it during its cable run where the HDV production values will be far more at home) are the humanistic endeavours of those energised by their dedication to yoga. After having wrestled the practice away from its mens-only origins to the extent that 80 percent of today’s yoga devotees are women, what emerges is how the self-defining properties and inner-health benefits infuse every aspect of daily life.
Of course, you can read similar sentiments in any pamphlet you pick up at a health food store, but the film provides particular insight into how advanced practitioners have used yoga to treat illness, fight depression, aid pregnancy, improve libido and sexual performance and generally build confidence overall. An African sojourn where dynamic alpha-woman Seane Corn leads her disciples, unites a village through joyous yoga then builds a mud hut is a rousing testament to the physical and spiritual potency a life of yoga can impart; the story of a young prison inmate who finds peace and positivity in her yoga is also similarly moving.
There is no downside to yoga apart from sore muscles and occasionally free-willed flatulence so the producers of Yogawoman can’t really be blamed for the relentlessly upbeat tone of the film. The experience may have been enhanced by a greater focus on yoga’s emergence and subsequent role in the strengthening of gender perception in modern society. The first half seems to set up a major exploration of such a theme but it never completely transpires, instead settling into a second half filled with personal experiences and expert testimonies.
The episodic structure of the film suggests the project may expand and become as a health-and-lifestyle TV series, which wouldn’t be a bad idea. In its current 83-minute form, Yogawoman feels overstretched (no pun intended). The documentary is at its best when it captures the impact of an individual’s decision to improve their body and mind.
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