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07-nick-upsidedownThe yoga doc Enlighten Up! has been making the rounds through North America for the past 6 months and it’s *finally* opening in MontrΓ©al this weekend. I had the pleasure of talking to director Kate Churchill and writing about the film for the weekly paper, Hour. It was an interesting challenge to write about yoga for a non-yoga audience, and to do it that chirpy laidback alt-weekly style. Here’s the article (which is a “preview,” rather than a review):

What happens when you take a cynical journalist and self-described “godless guy from New York City,” subject him to a six-month global yoga immersion and try to force him to get enlightened?

With an estimated 18 million Americans practising a Baskin-Robbins selection of yoga styles that make up a multi-billion-dollar industry, a documentary like Enlighten Up!, about a yoga skeptic who immerses himself in the practice, was bound to emerge.

Director Kate Churchill sets out to prove that “yoga can transform anyone” – in the process, her doc presents yoga in its full range of expression, from the hyper-commercialization and dilution to pure devotion. Nick Rosen is her willing-yet-resistant guinea pig. His adventure starts off in the bustling New York City yoga scene, in modern classes with high-profile teachers, and moves on to L.A., where he practises with former pro-wrestler Diamond Dallas Page on the lawn of his mansion with scantily clad large-breasted women (we get to see why Page’s Yoga for Regular Guys eschews “namaste” for “T and A”).

“We’ve tried to create a view into the world of yoga and present the range of styles and approaches with a sense of humour,” says Churchill. “The given audience of the film is yoga practitioners, but we’ve realized that there is a significant audience of people who were dragged to the film by their friends or partners. They love it because there’s a skeptic. Non-yoga practitioners may relate to Nick [and] feel a kinship with him.” Read the rest of this entry »

Okay, there’s this yoga movie that has recently been released, Enlighten Up!, and it’s really quite good. Definitely recommended viewing for anyone interested in the bigger picture of what yoga is, and why we do it.

So the “star” of the film, Nick Rosen, just wrote an interesting piece for the Huffington Post, in which he discusses the yoga we practice in North America as a purely Western invention emphasizing physical prowess, rather than an ancient set of spiritual teachings. His conclusion:

The yoga we practice these days, although dressed in the trappings of ancient Hindu authenticity, was born about one hundred years ago, largely under the influence of western culture. While the yoga world routinely refers to yoga as a five thousand year old tradition, it is only a little older than Bollywood.

Perhaps this may be the case, but I don’t think this should justify North American yogis being ignorant of yoga philosophy and scripture. The meat of yoga, the depth and wisdom, is in these ancient teachings, and a lot of texts are available. They will continue to become more accessible as texts are unearthed and translated.

As Nick points out, the real yoga “was more like black magic: transforming one’s semen into magical nectar, flying around and taking over other peoples bodies, and the like. Yogis were like boogeymen and dark sorcerers.” Awesome.

Enlighten Up! is opening in theatres across America this month. Apparently, it’s not playing anywhere in Canada, which is too bad.

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