“Hell-Bent: Obsession, Pain, and the Search for Something Like Transcendence in Competitive Yoga” by Benjamin Lorr

Competitive yoga?? I had no idea… And plenty of other things turned up in this book about which I had no clue.

First of all, this book is funny. Lorr’s descriptions of yogis and their students are penetrating and often wry.

A major feature of this book is its critique of Bikram yoga, often known as “hot” yoga. Lorr practiced hot yoga and trained (to teach) with Bikram Choudhury, a yoga rock star who has gotten rich (and gotten sued) by franchising his style of yoga. Bikram, as he is called, is flamboyant, narcissistic and charismatic. His style of yoga, the repetition of 26 highly specific postures in a room heated to 110 degrees F, is popular with a sector of the American yoga community. Lorr’s discussion of Bikram’s history and personality is fascinating. How could a person be so crazy and so beloved simultaneously?

I recently learned that “hot yoga” is available near me. Will I try it? Hmm… I tried a sweat lodge once, out of curiosity. I was apprehensive. I cheated by putting as much skin as possible against the cool floor. I know that I became slightly dehydrated – I don’t like that headache-y sensation at all. Maybe I can find some “warm yoga”.

Lorr also discusses the physiology of yoga, with attention to its therapeutic value.

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