Archive for March, 2013

Breath Of The Gods- The Origins of Yoga

On Friday I went to see a film about the origins of yoga called Breath of the Gods at the ICA in London. Besides the fact that the cinema subjected us to a tsunami of ads before the film started, the screening was quite interesting. It was good to see some of the places where the yoga teacher Krishnamacharya worked and lived, to see his brother-in-law Iyengar teaching and talking, and to have Desikachar (Krishnamacharya’s son) act as the filmmaker’s guide. However the film left out so much about the history of yoga, and even of Krishnamacharya’s own story. It would have been good to see the cave (if it still exists) at Mt. Kailasha where K. learned yoga from his guru, and it would also have been interesting to see the ruins of Mohenjo Daro, the ancient Indus Valley civilization where the seals of Shiva sitting in a yoga pose were discovered.

Seeing the actual places where K taught and lived gave a reality to his life, especially with the extensive use of old b/w footage of the yoga that was taught at the Maharaja of Mysore’s palace. These sequences were quite evocative, and I could have watched them all night long.

The film inspired me to re-read Desikachar’s book, Health Healing and Beyond, which was about his father’s life and teaching. The book reveals that K was quite short even though in pictures you get the impression of a tall and powerful man. I think it was his own power and steely determination that gives the impression that he was tall. I had forgotten that Desikachar was Krishnamurti’s yoga teacher, after Krishnamurti approached Krishnamacharya for lessons. Father passed the sage to the care of his son.

Krishnamacharya was as much a healer as he was a yoga teacher, and his influence in helping yoga to be a therapy in the west is not widely know. He was also a great Sanskrit scholar.

The film has given me impetus to doing something similar about Taoism, something that I have been thinking about for a number of years.

March 3, 2013 at 5:10 pm 1 comment

When Did You First Learn about the Holocaust?

A friend of mine read the manuscript of my new book, I Survived A Nazi Extermination Camp, and said that three things struck him most forcefully. One was the sheer grimness of Rudolf Reder’s first hand account of the death factory that was Belzec. He couldn’t understand why the Nazis felt it necessary to so degrade and dehumanise the people that they were about to kill. They planned to kill them, they knew the victims would be dead in a couple of hours, and yet they had the need to make these last hours as unpleasant and gruesome as possible. The level of cruelty really shocked him. Secondly, he hadn’t realised that the Nazis knew that their action in killing the Jews was a totally criminal activity, and that they had made so many efforts to hide and obliterate the evidence of these atrocities. He thought that they would cover this with ideology, but in fact it was clear they knew themselves to be practising criminality on a grand scale, a crime against humanity. Finally, the book reminded him about when he had first heard about the Holocaust, and the first book he read about it. He recognised one of the photos in my book, one of women prisoners running naked through a concentration camp, watched by uniformed SS guards. I’m sure many people must have a strong memory of when and where they first learned about this atrocity. I was quite young, maybe 5 or 6, when I became aware that ‘Hitler killed 6 million Jews’. How he killed them I did not know at the time, and the word Holocaust was not then in common use, although I was aware that there had been concentrations camp where Jews were gassed to death.

March 1, 2013 at 12:29 pm 2 comments

The Blog That Fell From The Sky

Reflections on an age of anxiety.