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on January 23, 2013
I used to do a lot of Bikram but when I left that practice (i.e. stopped doing it), I left it feeling a good deal of animosity towards the method. I can't stand the way the teachers parrot the Bikram dialogue even when it MAKES NO SENSE. I also attended a class that was 120 degrees and the teacher physically barred the door when a new student tried to leave the room. This is not "yoga" to me. Anyway, I tell you this so you will know I'm predisposed NOT to like Bikram and therefore to enjoy any criticism of the method and the man. That said, this book explores both the good and the bad sides of the practice and the man and was very interesting. It explained a lot about why the practice is the way it is (for eg why the teachers mindlessly parrot the dialogue even though it was created by someone whose first language is not english and at times it makes no sense). A very entertaining and informative book.
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on January 15, 2013
I started practicing Bikram yoga in 2006. Within a year or two I was practicing 5-6 days a week and considered going to the teacher training. I went to see what it was like in 2009, in Las Vegas, I got to take a couple of classes (one with the man himself) and easily decided that this was not for me. I later trained with Jimmy Barkan, who is quoted a few times in this book. I still go to my local Bikram studio, but it is not the be all and end all. The author puts his finger on something I'd never quite articulated. Bikram doesn't churn out hundreds of good teachers at these trainings. He churns out people who can lead a good yoga sequence. There are good teachers out there, but they came to it by doing more than regurgitating the "dialogue." I enjoyed reading this, knowing what I do about Bikram, the yoga, and lots of yoga "die-hards" and it validates my decision to train elsewhere.
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on January 16, 2017
There was a lot of background info in this book about Bikram the man and the yoga practice that I was surprised about. The health benefits I knew about but the side effects-- hallucinations and seizures, I didn't know about. It showed the extreme side of yoga practice and competition (I didn't know there was a World Yoga Championship until I read this book) which was unnerving but I think everyone needs to remember: all things in moderation. It is when you get extreme, that issues arise.
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VINE VOICEon March 13, 2013
As a registered yoga teacher (RYT-200) who has practiced various forms of yoga for over a decade, I know a little about the yoga community. Unlike that other popular yoga memoir, "Poser", which I will freely admit that I did not enjoy and did not even finish, Lorr talks about the real reason why so many Westerners flock to yoga: Stuff the spirituality. Many-if not the majority of people I have encountered- see it as a form of exercise and are lured by the lithe bodies that so many of the instructors flaunt in class. Lorr's introduction to yoga, specifically Bikram yoga, is pretty typical of the numerous stories I have heard. At the age of 28, Lorr finds himself overweight and out-of-shape. Bikram yoga challenges him in a way no previous form of activity ever has, and he quickly drops the pudge. He also becomes hooked on the practice and after only a short time in the yoga community, he finds himself entering yoga competitions.

As a yogi, I find the concept of competitive yoga to be insane on the surface. However, as a devotee of Ashtanga, I would be lying if a small part of myself and other students I know weren't secretly in competition even if it is only very slight and even if that competition is mainly with one's self. Unless someone is extremely enlightened, it's going to be there.

Reading about the world of competitive yoga is nothing short of fascinating. Granted, I may be more interested than most given my background, but even someone who has never taken a yoga class would be shocked to learn the extremes that these competitors go to and put their bodies through. The stuff about the back-bends-up to 90 in an hour-had me groaning in empathy. Then there is the description of the 9-week teaching training that Lorr decides to enroll in taught by none other than the man himself, Bikram Choudhury.

For those who haven't heard of him, Bikram is l'enfant terrible of the yoga world. Those who think that gurus don't have egos should just read an interview or two with him and that will quickly take away that misconception. Now, I was never a fan of Bikram or his particular brand of yoga but interestingly, after reading "Hell-Bent" my respect for him grew somewhat. While he probably is as big of a hot-head as he is portrayed and a possibly suffering from NPD, there is still the impression he believes in yoga and wants to bring it to the masses. In the latter, he has been very successful. He may be making a ton of money, but he's not alone in liking and making money. Also, he makes no bones that he likes money. If people want to pay $11K to become a Bikram instructor and are willing to pay, then why not? Also, the snippets of him showing genuine compassion to various people was unexpected and made him seem a tad more human than he usually appears.

Over all, I enjoyed this memoir and highly recommend it.
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on May 18, 2014
Here is another hot yoga convert detailing his beginning, growth, and perhaps consuming indulgence to his practice. The material explores the profound benefits the practice creates for him and his newly-found, go-anywhere-to-backbend tribe, delving ever deeper into the inner-circle of practitioners who seemingly defy physical and mental boundaries. However, Lorr also offers perspective, perhaps only from hindsight, of the concerns surrounding some of Bikram's standard practices, like the value of the other-worldly heat in the teacher training that breaks people over and over.

Lorr attempts the same even-handedness to Bikram himself, recognizing the incredible value of this specific yoga series while decidedly emphasizing how his narcissism has led to countless acts of demeaning, insulting behavior and predatory acts. Bikram also has a wide-circle of sycophants, who massage him and pander to his eccentricities -- his infatuation with being a ganster, the Bollywood movies and foolish late-night diatribes that seem more the sign of a lonely man than an enlightened guru -- treating him as god-like and eventually because he has the power to destroy their names and futures in the field.

Lorr shouldn't be let off the hook here though. While immersed in this powerful culture, offering physical and spiritual benefits as well as repeated signs of morally abject behavior, Lorr sits back and does nothing. Forever the distant observer, not once in his accounting does he question the act as it occurs. He criticizes Bikram's character and how he superficially treats the blonde, beautiful, and emotionally-unbalanced women in his teacher trainings and how Bikram destroys careers and studios sometimes on sheer whim without remorse, and yet Lorr remains in the background. I guess Bikram's power is that overwhelming, that all manner of ethical regard and common sense are suspended in his realm.

In a different, more positive vein, Lorr's response might be this book, the beginnings of opening our minds to the complexity involved in understanding how meaningful the yoga can be with how desultory and disgusting Bikram is. Tony Sanchez is Lorr's model for a more enlightened view on yoga and life, as a fallen Bikram follower, another scorned cast-away by the man, and who has evolved to build his own style and business enterprises.
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on May 6, 2014
There are a myriad of reasons that I love this book. Firstly, the author speaks from a place of integrity and honoring others deeply, and how precious it is for me to read this from another! Furthermore, he seems to be scrupulously fair and forthright in his experiences in the Bikram Yoga world. I have plenty of experience in my life of the scandalous behavior that is so often behind a noble discipline or community, so none of this is shocking to me, even if it is disturbing and should be known. In spite of the warts on Bikram, this book prompted me to start doing this type of yoga, and it has profoundly impacted my life. No matter what Bikram's personal issues and harm he causes others, this yoga is powerful. And this book tries to put the practices of this yoga, and the less-than-descent leader's behavior into context in an authentic way. As both an emotional person, and a critical thinker, I continually question things and need to think things through in context of similar disciplines when I take on something new. I don't "drink coolade" from anyone who tells me they have found "The Way", and therefore putting Bikram's yoga into context makes this book much more compelling for me. The author has a style that I find completely engaging, and reading it feels like I'm listening to a good friend share his profound experiences. That is a great reason to read this book by itself!
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on April 1, 2013
I've kinda been on a "yoga journey" kick as far as reading goes. I'm not a hot yoga yogi, so I had no problem reading this tale of Bikram Choudhury's total lunacy. It was awesome. Hot yoga is also called Bikram yoga, and it's very popular. It was founded by Bikram Choudhury, who is a true Indian yogi. He had an interesting childhood, forced to practice yoga intensely from age 3 and then apprenticing with an abusive guru. He came to the U.S. and offered his yoga teaching for free, as was customary. Over time, he went from simplistic yogi to head of an empire, focused on materialism and power. This book chronicles his abuse, insane statements, cruelty and almost cult-like status among his yogi followers. It also tells the tales of individuals who found such promise for their life through the yoga. The story goes back and forth, but mainly it's the author's experiences in the yoga world, finding yoga as a way to reclaim his health, preparing for competitions through extreme "backbending club," fearing the safety of the hot rooms after an instructor's stroke and attending one of Bikram's $11,000, 9-week teacher training events, which is fascinating. I really enjoyed this book from start to finish.
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on September 8, 2013
Though a 12+ year practioner of Bikram Yoga, I've never given much thought to Bikram, the man. It's always been about the yoga for me. I was blessed from the start with several highly knowledgeable and evolved instructors who, rather than teach with strict adherence to the standard dialogue, infused their classes with deeper & more detailed teachings about the asanas and their benefits. Benjamin Lorr's treatise on Bikram—the man, the community, & the practice—felt like the literary version of my original, bad-ass yoga teachers. Informative, enlightening, entertaining, and, capable of ensuring even the truly painful parts felt so good I kept coming back for more. As deeply as he delves into the dark side, I never had a sense of bitterness, judgment, or inflamatory intention. Just truth. For which I am grateful. I was actually becoming somewhat disenchanted with the practice. Lorr's work helped me get to the other side of that by shining a light into the darkness and demonstrating that, regardless of the acoutraments and trappings and scandals galore, the yoga itself remains a true and real source of profound healing. Beyond all that, this dude can write! A spectacular read cover to cover, I would imagine even non yogis would find this book impossible to put down.
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on April 9, 2013
No matter what school of yoga you might practice, there are ego problems and abuses in power in all. I think the main problem is the hero worship that comes along with a practice that is often, at first, life transforming in mostly positive ways. That's great, but teachers are business people selling a service or product. If they were gurus, the students would be living in their homes and not paying for class. But yet, many students hold them to lesser standards in conduct and professionalism that they would just about any other person they do business with. What goes on in the yoga studios - the tranformative process - often makes vulnerable and needy people even MORE vulnerable, needy, and willing to overlook things they really shouldn't.
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on September 26, 2017
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and had a hard time putting it down. I've enjoyed Bikram yoga for several years now, but have also tired of the silly, fake-accent recitation of ridiculous sayings by teachers who have gone through Bikram teacher training. Most significantly, I've struggled with the damning charges against Bikram himself, all the while appreciating the physical and mental benefits I've received from Bikram classes. This book helped me understand the yin and yang of Bikram yoga a bit better (which I now resolve to simply call "hot yoga", in order to escape Bikram Chowdry's twisted cult of personality.
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