More than 18 million Americans are practicing yoga, and it is a multimillion dollar business. There are books available on every style and even more teachers, many of whom have their own approaches to this practice which creates physical and mental changes. Kate Churchill, a yoga enthusiast, came up with a project that she felt would be both fascinating and challenging: select an ordinary person and see if over a six-month period that person could undergo a transformation on the basis of yoga. She choose Nick, a 29-year-old journalist from New York City who was interested in the quest but made it clear from the outset that he was a pragmatist interested in hard facts and resistant to both religion and spirituality.
Nick begins by attending yoga classes in New York City. He sees the physical benefits of exercise and tuning his mind. He listens as various teachers explain their approach and as their students effuse over the positive benefits of yoga. One enthusiastic woman tells Nick that it is better than sex. Kate gives him a copy of Paul Brunton's In Search of India, a journalist's account of his spiritual adventures in the land of religious ecstasy. She then takes him to Hawaii for a visit with her guru, Norman Allen, who encourages Nick in his quest.
Later, the filmmaker and Nick travel to India to meet Allen's guru who talks about yoga and its impact on our outer and inner selves. In northern India, the novice learns a lot about bhakti yoga which is centered around a zealous devotion to God. But this approach of seeing the Divine everywhere does not impress Nick whose rationalism is thoroughly entrenched. Kate grows impatient with him and his vehement rejection of the spiritual dimensions of yoga.
Enlighten Up! A Skeptic's Journey into the World of Yoga is a thought-provoking treatment of one of the most widespread and remarkable spiritual developments of our time. Among the many teachers, mystics, and gurus appearing in the documentary are B.K.S. Iyengar of Iyengar Yoga, Pattabhi Jois of the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute, Sharo Gannon and David Life of Jivamukti Yoga, Rodney Yee the star yogi in Living Arts videos, Alan Finger of Yogaworks, and Beryl Bender Birch of Hard and Soft Yoga. Nick also spends time with two eccentric teachers: Diamond Dallas Page, a former pro wrestler turned yoga teacher, and Dr. Madan Kataria of Laughing Yoga.
Many spiritual teachers will tell you that there is no need to seek enlightenment: it will find you often where you least expect it. Kate learns that, like the river, it cannot be pushed. And Nick discovers a connection to his mother, a shamanic healer, that he had not realized before. He also taps into a fresh appreciation of a path to happiness that involves rock climbing. Making the documentary turns out to be a meaningful journey for both of them and a realization that there are many different ways of being spiritual.
Special features on the DVD include extended interviews with Yoga luminaries B.K.S. Iyengar, Gurusharanananda, and Norman Allen; deleted scenes; a photo montage of Northern India; and a biography of the filmmaker.