Thursday, June 11, 2009


Last Thursday there was a free yoga teacher preview of the documentary Enlighten Up!, about a filmmaker named Kate Churchill who chooses a candidate - a charming but skeptical journalist Nick Rosen who's never done yoga - to take classes with a variety of yoga teachers until he becomes enlightened....or not.

They start with New York City teachers, including Cyndi Lee, Sharon Gannon and David Life, Alan Finger and of course Dharma Mittra - who says "God is everywhere," is incredibly attentive, and teaches him headstand.

Next they go to LA for Regular Guy Yoga, where the dristi (gaze) is on the "T&A" in the class.

After that they go to Hawaii to see Norman Allen, the first American to practice with Pattabhi Jois in Mysore back in the 1970s. Allen stayed for months, living with Guruji and his family, and got to know the practice inside and out. He's been teaching yoga in a remote area of Hawaii for eons, and doesn't tour or spend time promoting himself. He's there if you look for him, and comes across as the real thing. He also has the most subversive line in the film, telling young Nick to "Go f*ck yourself," which alone is worth the price of admission; I think it is his way of telling him to "Go within." (Read Guy Donahaye's riveting 1999 interview with Allen about the olden days in Mysore here).

Finally it's off to India, where they go to Mysore and see Pattabhi Jois, who talks about the four external limbs and four internal limbs of yoga, as well as practice, practice practice. Seeing him brought tears to the eyes. I still can't believe he has left his body.

Then they go north to Pune to see Mr. Iyengar, who said he did postures for over two decades before finding the spirituality in the practice. Finally they interview bhakti yogi Guru Saran Ananda in Brindavan.

As Cody writes in his wonderful review, "Nick’s conversation with the Guru is - pardon the pun – enlightening. The emotional and spiritual center of the movie is revealed in one simple quote:

"'It’s not what you do, it’s why you do.'

"Talk about killing the Buddha! A dedicated yoga practitioner goes out to make a film that proves that yoga works and instead she discovers that yoga doesn’t really matter at all! True enlightenment (or perhaps, true contentment) can be found merely by living selflessly – by rooting individual actions in pure intentions. Sure, yoga techniques can be wonderful tools for gaining self awareness and stripping away the dross that obscures our true selves, but yoga is certainly not the only path to enlightenment. For some people, it actually might not be a path to enlightenment at all."

Highly recommended for anyone interested in yoga and/or spirituality.

It opens Friday, June 12 at the Landmark Century cinema. Filmmaker Kate Churchill - who used to be with Chicago's Lookingglass Theatre - will appear at screenings on Friday and Saturday nights. Details here.

* * *

After the weekend from Hell, SportMarty and I went to the airportplex cinema on Western to see Up! in 3-D.

It was just the thing to cure the troubled psyche.

The story was wonderful.

The 3-D was subtle, not distracting and in-your-face.

The best moment came when the curmudgeon-y old man stopped clinging to the past and gave up all of his worldly possessions in order to help someone else.

Suddenly, the whole world opened up to him.


In some ways, it was more about yoga than the other film.

Highly, highly recommended - especially for those whose hearts or minds need a little healing.

* * *

An added bonus: We parked on Logan Boulevard, and on the walk to the theater saw a wonderful sight; there's now a skateboard park under the expressway. It's an amazing use of a dead space, and it was hoppin.'


  1. Anonymous10:50 PM

    That Norman Allen interview was *fascinating*

    Thank you!

  2. yes, thx for that interview. where has HE been all my life? oh yeah, hiding in hawaii...