Hell-Bent : Obsession, Pain, and the Search for Something Like Transcendence in Competitive Yoga
In the spirit ofBorn to RunandWord Freak,an eye-opening look at the world of extreme yoga and a tale of personal transformation Yoga is practiced by 20 million Americans and has grown into a $6 billion industry. Tales abound of the benefits that come from stretching your limbsand your sense of selfto the limit. Author Benjamin Lorr began as a casual yogi, but he quickly witnessed a transformation of body, mood, and energy. He was studying Bikram Yoga (or hot yoga), when a run-in with a master and competitive yoga champion led him into an obsessive subculturea group of yogis for whom eight hours of practice a day in 110 degree heat were just the start.So begins a journey into the strange, amazing world of competitive yoga. Populated by athletic prodigies, wide-eyed celebrities, and predatory hucksters, it's a nation-spanning tripfrom 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.
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.
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St. Martin's Press
October 30, 2012
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