OVERRIDE

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

Benjamin Lorr

St. Martin's Press

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.

BOOK EXCERPTS

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PART I
It Never Gets Any Easier (If You Are Doing It Right)
 
 
This story expresses, I think, most completely his philosophy of life.… He thought of civilized and morally tolerable human life as a dangerous walk on a thin crust of barely cooled lava which at any moment might break and let the unwary sink into fiery depths. He was very conscious of the various forms of passionate madness to which men are prone, and it was this that gave him such a profound belief in the importance of discipline.
—BERTRAND RUSSELL WRITING ABOUT JOSEPH CONRAD
It Never Gets
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REVIEWS

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

Hell-Bent is witty and wise. If you don’t practice yoga, read it anyway – you may learn something about the impulse for self-transcendence. And if you do practice yoga, you will laugh and cry with recognition.” —Stefanie, Syman, New York Times Book Review

 

“In all honesty, Hell-Bent may be the best book I’ve read all year… Imagine if you can the lovechild of a sober Hunter S. Thompson and Elizabeth Gilbert and you’ll get an idea of the prose.” —Kayt Sukel, The Big Think

 

“An addictive read.” —People Magazine (3.5 out of 4 stars)

 

“This extraordinarily thoughtful book stretches and reaches and bends in several seemingly impossible directions at the same time. It is at once a searching act of self-examination, a fascinating scientific investigation, a brave spiritual endeavor, and a fair minded look at one of yoga’s most controversial icons. All in all, reading Hell-Bent makes for a wonderful, inspiring, maddening, complicated, edifying journey – and one that I was very happy to take.” —Elizabeth Gilbert, New York Times bestselling author of Eat, Pray, Love

 

“A fast paced narrative about how one struggling, overweight undisciplined New Yorker discovers a guru who takes him on an incredible journey of personal transformation… Lorr makes you grimace but also ponder the broader consequences of searching for self.” —USA Today

 

“Meticulously researched, suspenseful and engrossing.” —Kirkus Review (starred review)

 

“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.” —Publishers Weekly

 

“Who knew self-purification could be suspenseful? This tale of an unlikely America yogi and this maniacal outlandish guru is more than memoir. It’s a spiritual thriller.” —Walter Kirn, New York Times Bestselling author of Up In the Air

 

“A vividly researched, beautifully written insider’s account of the yoga world’s most inscrutable, profitable, and misunderstood subculture.” —Neal Pollack, bestselling author of Stretch

 

“One need not be familiar with the strange and fascinating world of hot yoga to fall head-over-heels for this book. Insightful, compassionate, and laugh-out-loud funny, Lorr delves deep into the for and motivations behind our human obsession with god-like perfection, introducing a cast of unforgettable characters and exposing a world of faith and devotion, pain and promises, myths and miracles. I could not put this book down.” —Aryn Kyle, New York Times bestselling author of The God of Animals.

 

“A fascinating, riotous, and hilarious insight into the world of hardcore competitive postural yoga practice.” —Mark Singleton, author of Yoga Body: The Origins of Modern Posture Practice

 

Hell-Bent is a compassionate, insightful exploration of the emotional and intellectual tug-of-war many of us have experience in our yoga practice, revealing how we can fear and resent our most charismatic teachers – yet still be willing to follow them to the ends of the earth.” —Suzanne Morrison, bestselling author of Yoga Bitch

 

You’ll be inspired to strip down to your intimates for hot yoga after devouring this read.” —Marie Claire

 

“If, in addition to good health, yoga offers insight, then this might be the most thorough and honest book on the topic. Hell-Bent is a personal romp through a bizarre world, a clear-eyed exploration of the science of contorted bodies, and an unflinching expose of a guru that finally leaves you asking: How do you judge the salesman when the snakeoil might actually work?” —Stefan Fatsis, New York Times Bestselling author of Word Freak and A Few Seconds of Panic.

In the Press

'Hell Bent' by Benjamin Lorr is a vivid adventure in extreme yoga: Book review - latimes.com
In 'Hell Bent,' Benjamin Lorr engagingly relates his experience in competitive yoga and with Bikram Choudhury.
- Los Angeles Times
'Hell-Bent,' by Benjamin Lorr - NYTimes.com
A case study of physical transformation through competitive Bikram yoga.
- The New York Times

Reviews from Goodreads

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  • Benjamin Lorr

  • BENJAMIN LORR graduated from Columbia University with a degree in environmental biology and creative writing. He lives in New York City and is currently at work on his second book.
  • Benjamin Lorr Victoria Loustalot
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Hell-Bent: Obsession, Pain, and the Search for Something Like Transcendence in Competitive Yoga

Benjamin Lorr

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FROM THE PUBLISHER

St. Martin's Press

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