Few movies have evoked the spirit of yoga more than the insanely intense tale about space exploration, Gravity. Throughout the movie’s 90 minutes of white-knuckle suspense, Sandra Bullock and George Clooney (likely unwittingly) transcend the scientific dilemmas at hand to deliver a veritable homage to yoga.
“Eat, Pray, Love” may have served a fast-food takeaway on yoga, but “Gravity” doles out a sumptuous meal from start to finish subtly replete with the tastes and textures we seek on our yoga path. Bullock plays Dr. Ryan Stone, a medical engineer on her first shuttle mission, and Clooney is his perennial charming self as the veteran commander Matt Kowalski. A routine spacewalk gone horribly wrong catapults them into a perilous situation and, in the process, an exploration of the fundamentals of yoga.
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Without spoiling the film (and it’s a must-see!), Stone finds herself in what I have to imagine ranks high among most terrifying human fears: She loses her security tether and spirals out of control alone into the eternal blackness of space. For that we can forgive her for losing her scientific cool. In the course of the film, you learn that Stone has weathered a pretty traumatic experience. But in this journey to safety, she faces the profound fear of drifting into her demise utterly alone, never again to hear the sound of a child’s voice, the bark of a dog, the pelting rain. Brilliant filmmaking allows us to suspend the fact that the film was virtually generated by computer graphics. For 90 minutes we are treated to glimpses of the silence and vastness that is our outer and inner world, and we believe.
What we take for granted, on and off the mat, the ability to fill our lungs with air, Stone rations with calculated urgency – each breath bringing her closer to her mortality. Watch the film and check to see if, in its course, you don’t fill your lungs up completely. Perhaps Stone’s greatest fear, though, is the possibility that she may never again stand – feeling her feet and the weight of her body on solid ground.
Stone’s tenacity and determination to find her way home reminds the viewer of how intricately connected we are to gravity. She yearns for that pull under her feet much like a desert castaway craves water. She is not whole without gravity. As Vanda Scaravelli wrote in her brilliant book, “Awakening the Spine,” gravity may pull us to the earth, but in that force, we find the antiforce – the upward expansion of the spine. It is among the first lessons we learn in our yoga journey: to root down to the earth – surrendering to gravity – to find our upwards expansion, our lightness of being.
Early on, in a frantic attempt to cling to Kowalski (and the illusion of safety), Stone has to heed his advice about how to get out of the dangerous situation: “You have to learn to let go,” he tells her.
Stone does. (Bullock even treats us to a lovely ustrasana, her toned, not ripped, body floating lightly in space). Stone is engulfed in chaos. Everything that can go wrong does. Everything around her is literally exploding. But she lets go of her fears and focuses on the task at hand, present, rooted to the moment. She knows that’s the only way she’ll find her way home. That’s a wise yogi.
Have you seen the film, “Gravity”? Did you notice the inadvertent yoga references?