When Patricia Walden initiated her lifelong commitment to yoga, she remembers, it was 1974, and all the instructors were men. But still, she felt a “need for the female voice,” and so she embarked on her own path, integrating that voice into the educational and spiritual structures already in place. Her story is one of many assembled in Yogawoman, opening this month in New York and several cities in California. Yoga has boomed recently, becoming a multibillion dollar industry worldwide, with 20 million people practicing in the US alone. Some 85% of these are women, and the film tells their stories as episodes, with subjects testifying to their individual experiences of improved health and education, as well as their sense of connectedness, their appreciation of new energies found in traditional rituals.
The themes are broad and varied: yoga encourages healthy attitudes and diets, helps women find “time for themselves”, provides for workouts in schools, prisons, and spas, serves as a means to appreciate and fully feel connected with “nature” (including menstrual cycles), and helps bring women together to do other work: Seane Corn organizes a group of yoga teachers and students to help women in Ugandan village build a birthing center. Yoga “brings out the very best in me,” asserts Terri Cooper, “I can support and nurture other people.” The film makes this case repeatedly, in a variety of images, settings, and communities, a variety that is at once heartening and apparently unstoppable.