Documentary seeks to “Awaken” your soul

MOVIE REVIEW-  A glimpse into Paramahansa Yogananda’s life and how he spread love and inspired many to follow his teachings. 

By Amanda Cavarretta, Copy Editor 

“Awake: The Life of Yogananda” is a documentary about Paramahansa Yogananda, a swami who brought his Vedic knowledge from India to the West in the 1920s.

Just like in Yogananda’s book, “Autobiography of a Yogi,” this film, directed by Paola di Florio and Lisa Leeman, features Yogananda’s life and teachings. 

After claiming he received a vivid message from God, Yogananda set out for the United States. His mission: to teach mediation and yoga. Setting foot on American soil, freshly shaved, wearing a turban and an orange robe, he encouraged Americans to connect with their own divinity.

After spending time on the east coast, Yogananda traveled to Los Angeles, “the land of the seekers.” The swami was accepted with open arms. In other states, however, his message was not so readily received due to the color of his skin. The film shows the hardships and controversy Yogananda faced while spreading love and light.

The cinematography is beautiful. With a dream-like sense, the movie was shot in calming colors, with breathtaking  imagery. Feelings of connection with Yogananda were achieved through archival footage, recordings, and photos. The soundtrack by Michael R. Mollura is brilliant, each song inspirational and filled with passionate and soul-touching sounds.

Devotees such as Beatle guitarist George Harrison, self-made millionaire James Lynn, and hip-hop entrepreneur Russell Simmons also speak on behalf of the swami and the impact this spiritual master had on their personal lives. 

If you consider yourself a yogi and are familiar with his book, this film puts his teachings into a fresh new light. For those not familiar with meditation or yoga, it will enlighten and inform the curious. The film includes scientific evidence found on the effects of meditation on the brain. Gurus including Yogananda believe yoga is a scientific practice. Fun fact: throughout Yogananda’s teaching, he explains neuroplasticity years before scientists began to study it. 

As the guru said, “Live quietly in the moment and see the beauty of all before you. The future will take care of itself…”

4 stars (out of 5)

“Awake: The Life of Yogananda” currently has minimal distribution. The next screenings will be held February 7th & 8th at the Laemmle Playhouse 7 in Pasadena. Visit the website for more locations. 

Rated PG for thematic elements, some violent images and brief smoking

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