Enlighten Up! Premiere in Maui
by Elise Espat
Ashtanga pioneers turn out for premiere of "Enlighten Up!" at the Maui International Film Festival
It was a night of Ashtanga yoga stars as Norman Allen, David Williams and Nancy Gilgoff attended the premiere of “Enlighten Up!” at the Maui International Film Festival [see previous interview with filmmaker Kate Churchill]. The last time these three yoga pioneers had been together was when Sri K. Pattabhi Jois had visited Maui in 2000 and before that it had been India in the 1970’s.
“Enlighten Up!” is a feature documentary film that tells the story of Nick Rosen, a skeptic, on a worldwide journey into yoga. One of the many stops along Nick’s journey is to study with Norman Allen on the Big Island. Norman has an unconventional style and turns much of what Nick Rosen has learned upside down. He has an unusual way of opening up the practice to Nick.
On Nick's experience, Nancy Gilgoff noted, "I was reminded of my own journey into yoga. Nick visits a saint. The saint tells him to remember what is important in this life. He explains it in a very simple yet profound way. I was reminded of something that I seemed to have been forgetting about myself and I was deeply touched by his words".
In many ways, American Ashtanga yogis have Norman Allen, David Williams and Nancy Gilgoff to thank for helping bring Ashtanga Yoga to the West. It all started back in India in the 70’s when Norman Allen and David Williams met in 1972 at Swami Gitananda’s Ashram in Pondicherry. Through a series of events, including seeing Manju Jois perform a yoga demonstration, the two ended up in Mysore, India requesting to study with Pattabhi Jois in 1973. David Williams’ visa expired and he had to return to the United States while Norman Allen stayed and was accepted as the first American to practice with Pattbahi Jois.
About four months later, David Williams returned with Nancy Gilgoff and began studying with Pattabhi Jois, making Nancy the first American women to study with Jois. The three students spent a number of years studying in Mysore and returned as needed to the United States. In 1975, David Williams and Nancy Gilgoff facilitated bringing Pattabhi Jois and Manju Jois to Encinitas, California for the first Ashtanga yoga workshop on U.S. Soil. Norman Allen stayed in Mysore to keep the shala open while Pattabhi Jois was in California. David had a yoga studio in Encinitas, and organized the workshop there for about 20 students, this studio would later be known as “the birthplace of Ashtanga yoga in America.”
When asked about what he thought about the movie Norman Allen with a big grin explained, “The movie gets rids of the cultism of yoga, the message is: come on and do it and see what happens, there is not one way—everyone has a consensus that there is one goal, everybody agrees on that, but there is not one way.”
Filmmaker Kate Churchill returned to Boston after a whirlwind trip and noted, “one of the best moments in Maui was seeing these yoga pioneers, David, Nancy and Norman, smiling and laughing as they discussed the movie after the show. “
Next on Churchill’s plate, is to get “Enlighten Up!” released nationally. The film is slated to open at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts September 12, 2008 and Churchill is working with a team to release it in a number of cities throughout the country. She plans to spend her summer promoting the film, including posting outtakes on her website. We will keep checking the site and keep you abreast of any new developments. If you haven’t had a chance to check out the trailer, follow the link below.
"Enlighten Up! is a welcome addition to the movies about yoga. Finally something "different" has been made. A wonderful film! I highly recommend it." -Nancy Gilgoff
For more information about “Enlighten Up!” visit the film’s website: www.enlightenupthefilm.com .
Elise is packing her bags for her next trip to India.