This time of year, I love curling up with a good book. I'll light a candle, find a cozy spot, and let myself dive head-first into the story.
This week I started Benjamin Lorr's Hell-Bent: Obsession, Pain, and the Search for Something Like Transcendence in Competitive Yoga. I couldn't put it down. I sped through half the book in a single night, transfixed by his humorous, inspiring storytelling and the way the book immerses you in the weird and wild world of competitive Bikram yoga.
Lorr holds nothing back.
As he says in the opening:
"Those who frequent the mystical section of bookstores are familiar with a concept called karma yoga. It is the yoga of the Bhagavad Gita, the yoga of action. To practice your karma yoga is to practice what you were put on this planet to do.
There is no doubt in my mind that Bikram Choudhury's karma yoga is teaching yoga. He has such joy when spreading it. My karma yoga is the practice of writing; just like Bikram, I'm pretty sure I'm going to end up hurting people when I practice."
Photo via Benjamin Lorr.
"Backbending is the antithesis of those glossy lavender-scented Yoga Journal retreats," Lorr writes. "We eat; we do yoga. There are no catered meals, no spacious rooms, no hammock time, no sandy beaches. No refined sugar, no alcohol, no processed foods. No coherent schedule, no personal space, no sarcasm, and no coffee..."
Photo via Amber's Bikram Yoga Diary.
"Never come out of a backbend like that again," he tells Lorr at one point, correcting his form. "Make a commitment to yourself. Never do it again. From this moment forward."
I know this: reading the book has given me new insights into the wild world of yoga and the way it changes people. Yoga makes us stronger, and Ben's story is certainly a testament to that truth.
I highly recommend you check out this book, whether you're a Bikram yogi, or simply interested in learning more about the science of yoga and the controversies, greed and narcissism behind the man and brand called Bikram.
If there's one yoga book you read this year, it should be this one.
Stay tuned for a giveaway post where you can win a copy!