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Why You Should ‘Enlighten Up!’ The YogaDork Review

in MUST READS, YD News, Yoga On Film

Hey New Yorkers, have you made it out to the theatrical premiere of Enlighten Up! yet? (sorry rest of the country, we get first dibs, neener neener).


For the cave dwellers unaware, this documentary has garnered lots of hoopla among the yoga community in its telling of a skeptic on a heart of darkness journey to find the meaning of yoga. His meaning. Kate Churchill, filmmaker and queen egger-onner leads the subject, Nick Rosen, to her own favorite gurus and then on to true yoga masters in India. The movie starts out with a brief touch on the commerciality and basic definition of yoga in the West, or the lack thereof  (Cyndi Lee, Rodney Yee, Natasha Rizopoulos, Baron Baptiste, etc. all come off sounding like nitwits). Also, we see how Churchill came to the arduous casting decision – like picking the handsome, Disney hero prototype was difficult.

nickrosenSo we have cutie Nick Rosen, a journalist, whose father is a stern lawyer and his mother a new agey shamanic healer, thrust into yoga-nopoly non-stop for 6 months. Not only is he a yoga novice, he is adverse to any such mind-jerking philosophies aiming to alter his life and “dominate my psyche” as he puts it. As much as we Westerners like to detach yoga from religion, Nick is bombarded by “God” throughout, especially in India where we learn Bhakti yoga is the “real yoga” to Indians. Devotion is not a light word you can toss around to a non-religious person and expect them not to balk at the thought. We should know. And yes, the word cult does come up.

Many reviews seem to point out how distracting Churchill’s grating personality is, and her frustration with Nick’s failure to reach orgasmic heights of epiphany. And yes, she even admits it was she who was looking to transform. But Nick does find transformation and we see it most evident in his facial expressions as the 6 months ramble on. Really, it’s hard not to stare, you won’t miss it.

Nick’s conclusions? *possible spoilers* Bikram’s exhausting, Kundalini is “kundalooney”, BKS Iyengar is cool, he is still not a religious person, but has perhaps found what yoga means to him, even if it’s not in practice. And that’s basically the lesson learned: yoga itself has transformed, and comes to mean very different things to different people.

All in all, we enjoyed it and totally recommend you see the film. It is indeed enlightening and will have you asking yourself loads of questions, not the least of which will probably be, what is yoga? and what is yoga to me?

normanallenNorman Allen, the jolly white-bearded Pattabhi Jois protégé happened to be at our showing and told us, “I had to tell him that.”  When you see the movie, you’ll know what he means!

Watch the Trailer (it’s basically the whole movie, but go see it anyway)

Further reading:

Joelle Hann has a great review and interview with Kate Churchill over at Yoga Nation.

YD pal yogadeals alerted us that many of the NY screenings are co-presented, like you can get a free t-shirt from YogaCity tonight at the 6:30 showing. See the rest of the co-presenters.

Also! Kate and Nick will be there in person to answer questions Fri-Sat at 6:25 and 8:25pm, Sun at 4:30 and 6:25pm. (IFCCenter.com)

See the full release schedule

And…don’t forget to read Elephant Journal’s review from a special VIP preview back in the fall (w/ tamari popcorn and beer? where did we go wrong?). Thanks Waylon! (ps. are you really friends with Nick? *blush*)

11 comments… add one
  • but, but, what about linking to our nearly six month old review? Nick’s the man! I love this film—so wonderfully a true spiritual journey in that it’s tough, it’s surprising, it enlightens she who is looking to enlighten (lovely Kate)…I give it to updogs. http://www.elephantjournal.com/2009/03/nick-rosen-elephant-journal-buddy-star-of-enlighten-up-tries-yoga-w-cyndi-lee-of-om-yoga/

  • Nick and I are tight, have been for years. He’s just as smart, cynical, active (career-wise and climbing-wise) fun, centered…and, for the ladies, hot…as he appears in the film. If you go to elephantjournal.com and search Nick Rosen you’ll find some of his films etc.

    Adding Yogadork to our top 10 sites on our home page, and every page!

  • Looks cool… hope the film makes its way to Australia 🙂

  • Glad I finally read your great review of a fun film – I have to agree BKS Iyengar is cool (I just posted a clip of Nick interviewing him on my site), so is Norman Allen…and YogaDork.

  • I thought the article was interesting. As a Yoga Teacher I use yoga as a healing modality for people who live with pain.
    It can be a way to prevent back pain, shoulder pain etc.
    I have seen it over and over again, where people who have lived with these aches and pains for years and then do the yoga moves and no more pain!
    Forget about the spirtiual stuff and the enlightenment (not that there is anything wrong or bad about that) .
    As I understand it the asanas( poses) are just a small part of the overall yogic life style. The poses were developed for the yogis so they could sit for hours and meditate in pain free bodies.
    So just take what you need. For me it is to take the brillance of the poses to help people live in pain free bodies!!

    Use it for whatever works for you

  • Viviane

    How can I watch it (Enlighten up!) here in Brazil???

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