“Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be bent out of shape.” —Author Unknown

It sounded like a reasonable mission: Take an utter skeptic, submerse them in the world of yoga, introducing them to the plethora of forms and philosophies that exist until he or she finds the one that proves truly transformative. An avid yoga practitioner herself, filmmaker Kate Churchill began the project with relative surety that her thesis – yoga can stimulate a powerful metamorphosis in anyone – would prove true.

Churchill is an accomplished documentarian, having produced, written and directed numerous documentaries for National Geographic and Nova. That they were documentaries about science and history matters here: They tend to have a very set plot and outcome. Not so for this organic breed of documentary, so susceptible to the whims, quirks and struggles that are a part of human nature.

Enter Nick Rosen, a young journalist and natural-born skeptic. Rosen is everything that Churchill could want in a specimen: intelligent, open-minded enough to take on the challenge, even attractive.

“I really liked his skepticism. I thought he could potentially challenge yoga and investigate it, that he wouldn’t just speak to some teacher and agree with what they said,” Churchill says. “I thought that he could really explore yoga and open it up.”

At the beginning of the project, Churchill believed that Rosen’s skepticism would compliment her own enthusiasm for yoga. She didn’t imagine that their separate attitudes could clash, bringing an entirely different element to the film. This very conflict between filmmaker and subject became an integral part of the plot.

Over the course of six months Rosen twisted, stretched and meditated his way across the globe, through multiple forms of yoga. Despite meeting some of the world’s most renowned yoga gurus (and occasional comical quacks) along the way, he became an increasingly difficult sell on the idea of enlightenment. Meanwhile, the tension between Rosen and Churchill was simmering toward the boiling point.

“Here I was in a situation where my efforts and my expectations were just a big hazard. I needed to let Nick do what he wanted to do, not what I wanted him to,” says Churchill. “I never intended to be in this movie at all. So the process of putting myself in the movie made me look at my antagonist attitude toward Nick because I wanted something to happen that wasn’t happening.”

After pawing over her own journals as well as Rosen’s and scrutinizing some 300 hours of footage, she came to acknowledge that in reality there were three main characters in the film, Nick, Kate and Yoga. Indeed, Churchill’s greatest revelations came in the editing room, where after making three separate versions of the film, she eventually came to terms with letting go of her expectations and just allowing the project “to be.”

So what did Churchill learn about yoga over the course of her own journey?

“When I started this film I was determined that we were going to find one teacher who would just blow our minds away! Like instant enlightenment for the both of us. Two for one deal!” she laughs. “There’s not one teacher. Any one teacher could possible teach you something if you are a good student and you have a good connection.

“People never really define enlightenment. I think as long as you never really define it you can keep searching for it. The downside is that you could kind of be witnessing it every day without ever really noticing it. There isn’t just one yoga. It’s whatever yoga works for the person.”  

Enlighten Up! releases in select theaters April 17. Kate Churchill and Nick Rosen will be appearing at Q&A sessions after select screenings in the Los Angeles area.