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DVD Review: Enlighten Up!

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Yoga is fascinating. An explosion in popularity has caused this unique workout to become a mainstay of the cultural zeitgeist in America today. Kate Churchill has been making documentaries for nine years, and she has been practicing yoga for seven years. For her latest project she decided to combine these two fixtures of her life, and the result is the documentary Enlighten Up!.

Churchill is determined to prove that yoga can transform anyone. Her test subject for this experiment is Nick Rosen, a New York journalist and yoga neophyte who is very skeptical about the spiritual benefits yoga offers. For six months Rosen embarks on a Super Size Me-esque immersion into the world of yoga. Churchill is convinced that Rosen will undergo some type of drastic change, while Rosen is just as sure that he is set in his skeptical ways.

The journey to delve deep into the world of yoga takes the pair all over the world. Along the way they encounter some incredibly interesting characters. Norman Allen, Sharon Gannon, David Life, and Rodney Yee are among the stars of the yoga world who make appearances in the film. Even professional wrestler Diamond Dallas Page makes a surprising appearance as a yogi.

The special features include over 50 minutes of bonus material. Additional segments with the charismatic and eccentric Norman Allen are entertaining. Deleted scenes and photo galleries are also included. Extended interviews with Indian yoga luminaries B.K.S. Iyengar (who shares a shocking resemblance to the village leader in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom) and the fantastically named Gurusharanananda offer a Yoda-esque insight into both the physical and spiritual sides of yoga.

This documentary does a good job of balancing the exploration of some of the deeper philosophical issues of enlightenment and the personal dramas that flare up between Rosen (the skeptic) and Churchill (the believer). On their quest for enlightenment, the two find answers even though what they find isn’t necessarily what they were seeking. The final product is an intriguing documentary that entertains and raises questions for the most die-hard yogis in addition to people who know nothing about yoga (like me).

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