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Hell-Bent; Obsession, Pain, and the Search for Something Like Transcendence in Competitive Yoga

Hell-Bent; Obsession, Pain, and the Search for Something Like Transcendence in Competitive Yoga

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Author Benjamin Lorr wandered into a yoga studio—and fell down a rabbit holeHell-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.
Author Benjamin Lorr wandered into a yoga studio—and fell down a rabbit holeHell-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.

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Publish date: Oct 30, 2012
Added to Scribd: Oct 03, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercialISBN:9780312672904

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01/08/2015

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9780312672904

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PART I
It Never Gets Any Easier (If You Are Doing It Right)
Karla, age 12, preparing for the 2011 Yoga Asana Championship

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jenhartling reviewed this
I knew nearly nothing about yoga before reading this book. While I was reading I swayed between thinking "Oh my word I NEED to try this!" to "Not in a million years!"

This was a fascinating look at the world of yoga, and of Bikram Yoga in particular. Benjamin Lorr takes us on a memoir-esque exploration into the intense realm of competitive yoga.

I was at turns enthralled and repelled. Bikram Choudhury, the driving force behind his own brand of yoga, is a very interesting man. Genius? Guru? Spoiled man-child? He came to America with his incredible skills and changed the face of the practice of yoga.

The things that these people can do to and with their bodies is amazing. I found my mouth hanging open while reading about the poses, the heat, the extreme measures. It becomes a way of life for some practitioners and you can understand why.

Hell-Bent is an interesting book that I would recommend to anyone who wants to learn more about an all-consuming sport.
bobbieharv reviewed this
I didn't expect to like this book as much as I did. It's much more than a story about a guy and his drive to compete - it's an exploration of the roots of yoga, of the development of both Bikram yoga and of Bikram himself, who grew into a cruel, demanding ego-driven narcissist.
Publishers Weekly reviewed this
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. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

2012-09-24, Publishers Weekly
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