Top critical review
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A strange combination of themes and ideas
on March 27, 2014
Some people will buy this book for it's investigation of "competitive yoga", and to be fair that's one of it's listed themes. I wanted to read it for the scoop on Bikram. I've been practicing "non competitive" regular vinyasa yoga for years but also have got on Bikram kicks because I like the heat. However, I never cared for the dogmatic teaching and the idiotic phrasing that is on repeat in every class everywhere "Bengal Tiger Strength", "Japanese hand sandwich", et al. Nor am I enamored by the sequence itself as it is just a collection of Hatha Yoga postures that nobody 'owns'. So I was, frankly, already a bit of a bikram basher before I picked up the book so please keep that in mind here -- still, I was interested in getting behind the curtain at the training (and I am sure as hell never going to spend 15K and two months in a hotel for a teacher training of my own).
The sections that had to do with Bikram and teacher training were interesting. The problem was I had to wade through chapters of ancillary prose with author speculating on ideas and opinions I had no interest in. Yes, I know that cult leaders have above average charisma and are also childish - I don't need whole chapters on these ideas, especially when they read like obvious filler. I also was put off by Benjamin Lorrs writing style. I saw one quoted review comparing him to Hunter S. Thompson. Sorry, he's not even in the same universe. To me Lorr reads like someone trying way too hard to be clever and cute with his ideas and phrase-ology. Please just get the story down effectively before you try to go rogue with avant garde sentences. Please be clear and concise before you fall in love with your own writing style.
The real bummer is that the story of Bikram teacher training is really fascinating and Lorr had front row and yet spent only maybe 1/3 the book discussing it. No mention of the current charges against Bikram for sexual misconduct are discussed either. He did have some great quotes from his hilarious eastern bloc roommate (who I wish had more input, the guy absolutely killed it with his cameos). Lorr also does a good job examining the mentality of the many damaged people who sign up for Bikram training, and the addiction many seem to have to alternately being abused by and/or validated by "the guru". Bikrams incredibly offensive, sexually laden dialog during his teacher training is discussed in length, as is his awful treatment of his oldest disciples and many students. If you didn't like Bikram before, you aren't going to like him any more after, though Lorr does fairly intersperse some very compassionate images of Bikram as a younger teacher, and the story of his beginnings are interesting. However, the final conclusion is that Bikram has Narcissistic Personality Disorder and has no conscience, and indeed probably never had one. Won't be a real big surprise if you have been keeping up with current events but nonetheless it is a fascinating character study.