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Hell-Bent: Obsession, Pain, and the Search for Something Like Transcendence in Competitive Yoga Hardcover – Oct 30 2012

5.0 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; 1st edition (Oct. 30 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 031267290X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312672904
  • Product Dimensions: 15.8 x 2.8 x 24.4 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 621 g
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #261,257 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

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.

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am really enjoying reading this book ( not done yet..). It is enlightening and forced me to put aside my own prejudices and open my mind on the definition of yoga. It is vastly different form person to person and what may at first seem like the anti-thesis of yoga
(yoga competitions!) can actually be understood as one's personal journey into the strength, power, focus and flexibility that yoga teaches its practitioners. To take a direct quote form the book: to try to define yoga is to limit it". I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys yoga and life.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This was an excellent book, well written, well researched, humorous, and an easy read. The author definitely writes for the reader. I not only learned more about the world of "Bikram" but also about the brain, addiction,and passion. I highly recommend it!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Anyone who has ever practiced Bikram yoga will find this book shocking and absolutely fascinating. Lorr also reminisces about his days as an extreme backbender in glorious, gory detail (who knew backbending clubs were even a thing?). Couldn't put it down.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.6 out of 5 stars 183 reviews
43 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fair look at the science and emotion, the good and the bad of Bikram Yoga Nov. 3 2012
By BBB - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This is a very fair examination of Bikram yoga, the people who practice it, the people who teach it, and the man who popularized it.
Neither a hatchet job that shares every piece of dirt to be found, nor an obeisant recital of Bikram's hyperbole laden claims.
Just a smart, insightful, and grounded perspective on the yoga, the people who practice it, the people who teach it, and the man whose name it bears.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating and brave exposé, quick read Feb. 18 2013
By Amber - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
My fiancé bought this book for me (he loves yoga) and I blew through it in about a week -- loved it. It manages to cram a lot of substance and research into a very candid, page-turning narrative that I couldn't put down. The thing I think prospective readers should know right off the bat is that this is really not a yoga book... Yoga happens to be the activity the writer explores, but honestly if he'd become obsessed with amateur hockey or pole vaulting I would have been just as fascinated. Also, while getting the dirt on Bikram (the man) ad Bikram (the business) is interesting -- and at times cringe-inducing -- the best parts of the book in my opinion are where the author explores more provocative questions about psychology and physiology. For example, there is a whole chapter in which Lorr explores his nagging suspicion that at least part of the massive physical/emotional change he experiences from practicing yoga is the result of the strength of his belief, i.e. the placebo effect. And he spends several pages exploring the possibility (which seems to be exceedingly likely, after reading this book) that Bikram has narcissistic personality disorder. But in between these detours you'll find the author's gripping personal journey, told in a candid, funny and self-deprecating voice that I really appreciated (it would be so easy for this book to become preachy, angry, fluffy or trite, but somehow Lorr manages to avoid those pitfalls).

Overall I highly recommend this book. Just one disclaimer -- shortly after reading this book you may find yourself twisted up like a pretzel, dizzy and nauseous in a 105 degree room wondering why in god's name would anyone do this to themselves. And then the next day you might go back. It's true... that's what happened to me.
5.0 out of 5 stars Learned much about the extremes of yoga June 9 2016
By csb - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Saw this book referenced in another book. Sounded interesting, so I bought it. Wow! We had Bikram yoga studios in our area. I had no idea the story behind this form of yoga, or the man who "invented" it. Quite an eye opener. From the intimate descriptions of the excessive and expensive teacher training, to the descriptions of Bikram himself, I couldn't put it down, and spent every few minutes I had available reading it. Kudos to the yoga practitioners that have the commitment to not only teaching this yoga, but also who practice the extremes. Felt encouraged when reading the descriptions of those who have gotten past physical and mental issues through yoga.
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding. I am a budding yogini and found the ... June 26 2016
By Teri - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Outstanding. I am a budding yogini and found the underbelly of Bikram yoga fascinating. (this is the type I practice) Would I stop? Unlikely.
BC obviously has some mental issues but the sequence brings a lot of positivity into people's lives, including mine.
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars Oct. 5 2016
By Amazon Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I love Bikram yoga and reading of his real journey into changing his world.