ENLIGHTEN UP! A Yogi Goes to the Movies….

7 09 2009


4:15 pm, Cumberland Theatre Toronto, Canada.  Lights out, film reels roll. 

Can YOGA TRANSFORM anyone?  everyone? And how do we go about achieving this?

 The film attempts to answer these nagging queries, that  most people who first come to yoga struggle with. 

I know when I first began to practice , I questioned how far such a practice could take someone and could it  transform or change them beyond the physical?   Here are some other questions I contended with, and sometimes still do:

Is ASANA ( physical poses) the catalyst to transformation? 

 Must it start on the mat? 

Do we have to practice YOGA to ENLIGHTEN UP?  Or can we merely be satisfied with finding some sense of  relaxation, better health and tranquility the practice grants us? 

ENLIGHTEN UP, enlightened me on this and so much more.

Nick Rozen is choosen as the Yogi “guinea pig” by Katie Churchill the director, filmaker and avid yoga practitioner.    Quite the cute guinea pig may I add, but thats expected in hollywood where attracting all audiences is a bonus.

“Godless” is how Nick describes his own spirituality.  He believes in no religion nor does he practice any form of spirituality.  A blank slate so to speak, and Katie believes she can mold this young sponge into a Yoga transformation extrodinaire. 

It doesn’t quite pan out so easily.

Nick is an intellectually skeptical journalist, who really comes out appreciating the physical benefits of yoga.  To him its mainly a superb workout to strengthen the body, and does admit to also experiencing the relaxing benefits.  But its contentious to say Yoga will bring him enlightment, well it remains as such at this point.

Screen shots of  jounral entries typed on a white mac lap top humour us with funny insights, comments and journey tales throughout the whole film.  Can we ever escape product placement?

Nick begins his Yoga “transformation” right in New York city, attending different styles of yoga classes,  and meets the gamet of personalities of the yoga community.  He huffs and puffs through ashtanga, chants it up with the Kundalini gurus, and even spends a whole weekend with David Little (Jivamukti founder) at his retreat center contemplating the meaning of Yoga and what is the true practice of Yoga.  Little confirms that Yoga is connecting to the divine within.  Nick remains perplexed and confused.


So off he trails to hawaii, yes Hawaii not yet India. In Hawaii he meets the first man to bring ashtanga yoga to the west. Mr. Norman Allan, a rather eccentric fellow, with a long white beard, balding scalp and quite the baked potato skin look.  Norman’s take is that we let our MINDS overtake us. 

So Nick asks what every Yogi first thinks when they are stuck in a twist that feels like every internal organ is gonna explode ” What does being twisted like  a pretzel have to do with ENLIGHTENMENT?” 

A few snikers in the theatre, and then Allan responds “NOTHING” and laughs hysterically , and the theatre follows suit.  He continues by saying ” Be yourself, be your true self,(the HIGHER SELF) not the small self, and that can be your RELIGION. 

Hmmmm Nick, still perplexed and shoots another concern.  “Well I’ve been doing yoga now for months, I get hungry, I get horny, I get sleepy so what about all these human desires?”

  Allan answers with that look of so what?  “Well then go fuck yourself”!  And again the theatre bursts out into laughter.  It seems here we see the resistance Nick is finding trying to figure what yoga and yogis “need” to do to be Yogis.  He misses the point and doesn’t get what all of this means.

The director’s own frustration echoes in the background as she keeps grilling him for not practicing enough.

Katie is grating on his nerves with her constant questioning and apparent badgering. “Nick your not practicing enough? What are you feeling? How is this changing you?” she repeatedly questions on nauseaum.  She imposes her own agenda, which ironically is so far off from what the original purpose of the yoga experiment was. 


The film develops progressively as we move from the west to the east. Much more is discovered in India.  The home land of Yoga and its origins.  Its debateable which century Yoga did start, and it seems every “guru” has an opinion. 

There is Laughter Yoga, Bkhati Yoga, Pranayama, Kundalini, Ashtanga and on and on and on.

And then the Gurus appear…

He meets Pattabhi Jois, the well known ashtanga guru who recently passed away and caused much grief amongst ashtanga fanatics the world over.  Again we hear ” the mind must not control you, YOU control the mind”.  He continues ” The internal is yoga practice, the physical follows.  PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE that is the secret of yoga”.

B.K.S Iyengar lights up the screen next with his shiny silvery white hair, and his trademark red ink stripe down his forehead.  He is animated, fiery and direct.  He appears to be the  no nonsense type of guru. Ask me a question and the answer is simply already here. 

Love him! 

“Yoga is raising the consciousness, once you do this you become aware of God, thats all.”  He emphasized how the physical practice is merely a channel to that awareness we so often hear over and over again.  The real yoga is WITHIN, its internally experienced and that is also God.

hmmmm now I’m scratching my head, wondering what is the true and real Yoga? 

Is Nick really changing on any level?  Can we even know that?  Can he even know that?  Ironically I struggle with the “MIND” traps. 

 By the end the LIGHT does shine, and we are ENLIGHTENED to the conclusion that Yoga is not a simple thing to define. AND defining it any ONE way really limits its beauty, its potentiality, its MAGNITUDE. 

 How do we measure LOVE?

 How do we measure the infinite intelligence? 

No method.  To do so would be to limit this unconforming dynamic entity we call Yoga. 

The final guru sums it up in one sentence “Its more important the “WHY” you are doing Yoga, than the “WHAT”. 

So again, INTENTION prevails on every level.  Our intentions are so powerful we don’t even realize the massive effects it has on everything in our lives. 

How you prepare your meal, how you treat strangers, what intention do you have when you approach your finances, how do you invite or repel people in your life?  What is your attitude at work? at play? How do you rise from your bed in the morning? How do you retire to sleep? 

If we hold a joyful and positive energy we find we attract just the same.

Its all INTENTION.  How you approach your daily life really determines the “yoga” in your life. 

I think I’ll  ENLIGHTEN UP tonight by forgoing the yoga class and  curling up with a great book. I’ll munch on some pretzels instead 😉

Travelling Yogi


Personal Note:  Most lines are not verbatum, and put into my own words. I use quotations to denote the character’s dialogue. 





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