Author Benjamin Lorr wandered into a yoga studio—and fell down a rabbit hole
Hell-Bent explores a fascinating, often surreal world at the extremes of American yoga. Benjamin Lorr walked into his first yoga studio on a whim, overweight and curious, and quickly found the yoga reinventing his life. He was studying Bikram Yoga (or "hot yoga") when a run-in with a master and competitive yoga champion led him into an obsessive subculture—a group of yogis for whom eight hours of practice a day in 110- degree heat was just the beginning.
So begins a journey. Populated by athletic prodigies, wide-eyed celebrities, legitimate medical miracles, and predatory hucksters, it's a nation-spanning trip—from the jam-packed studios of New York to the athletic performance labs of the University of Oregon to the stage at the National Yoga Asana Championship, where Lorr competes for glory.
The culmination of two years of research, and featuring hundreds of interviews with yogis, scientists, doctors, and scholars, Hell-Bent is a wild exploration. A look at the science behind a controversial practice, a story of greed, narcissism, and corruption, and a mind-bending tale of personal transformation, it is a book that will not only challenge your conception of yoga, but will change the way you view the fragile, inspirational limits of the human body itself.
In this peripatetic work of literary journalism, Lorr recounts his indoctrination into a particularly grueling variety of yoga. After broken ribs turned Lorr into a couch potato, he stumbled onto Bikram yoga in hope of losing his man-boobs. Bikram quickly became an obsession, and as Lorr fell under its spell, he became fascinated by its effects on other practitioners and by the legend of its mercurial, monstrous founder, the charismatic Bikram Choudhury. Lorr's quest led him to the grueling Bikram teacher-training seminar which makes Parris Island seem like Disneyland and to compete in the National Yoga Asana Championship. Lorr writes about his odyssey in vibrant, entertaining prose. Although he is obviously enamored by the discipline that has transformed his life, he retains a critical distance that allows him to present his larger-than-life guru in ruthless clarity. Early on, the numerous sidelines into other stories and biographies rob the book of continuity while Lorr also withholds personal details, which tends to enervate the narrative. However, the book gradually gains coherence, giving a final portrait of Choudhury and his empire that is as thorough as it is devastating. The author provides a fascinating window on the suffering that educated, mostly white people will undergo in the name of self-improvement.
Such a great book, could not put it down. Please write another!
I enjoyed the book very much but I found myself continually on Google looking up definitions of very flowery words.
Worth Reading - Very Enjoyable
Well written, balanced (sic) and funny. I had a hard time NOT reading it, stayed up late, woke up early to read….