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Hell-Bent Audiobook

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

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Publisher's Summary

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.

©2012 Benjamin Lorr (P)2014 Audible Inc.

What Members Say

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Performance


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  • xebian
    11/02/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "love this book"

    I really enjoyed this book. This book is about yoga and I'm a fat truck driver. This would not be a book truck drivers would like. It's a really good story and it's really interesting. I learned lots of things from hell bent that I didn't know and would never learn. Please understand this was an entirely arbitrary and random choice. The title appealed to me and I had no idea it was about yoga. I was surprised to say the least. As you would have it, I'm now very interested in hatha yoga. I'm gonna go bend. Maybe I'll stop being fat.

    20 of 20 people found this review helpful
  • SuZieCoyote
    14/05/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Great Book On Many Levels"
    Where does Hell-Bent rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    One of the best! Very well done.


    What did you like best about this story?

    The thoughtfulness and reflective approach to telling the story. He was immersed in the the story, but at the same time, a witness to the story.


    What about Ben Lorr’s performance did you like?

    His enthusiasm and obvious joy in yoga.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    There was a story about the young woman who came in second place in the yoga championships and was initially disappointed she couldn't use the winning tour to raise money for childhood cancer. Then, she decided to go on tour as if she *had* won. She invested herself and her own resources to achieve her goal. She learned she didn't have to win the championship to fulfill her goal. This was a very powerful lesson and Lorr's admiration of this young woman was evident.


    Any additional comments?

    The information on Bikram was about what I expected and had gleaned from other sources, but the story was wonderfully told and transmitted the excitement, fear, disappoints and joy of the Bikram yoga experience. The description of the teacher training class was new to me and quite appalling and basically showcased cult indoctrination. Anyone on the outside could see Bikram was frankly abusing and mistreating his students. Lorr shows, through highlighting other successful yogis (such as Tony Sanchez) that cruelty and bullying were not necessary for the yoga to be effective. I tried Bikram yoga a few times, but instinctively knew it wasn't my kind of yoga. Now I know why. At the same time, I respect the good it has done many people. I think this is both because of, and in spite of Bikram, the guru. The ambivalence of this is theme of the book and the central mystery of Bikram yoga.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • Steve M
    1/08/16
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Bikram Goes Bananas"

    This book is less a story of competitive yoga than an exploration of the wacky, overheated world of Bikram Yoga. Benjamin Lorr doesn't spare the gory details (sexual exploitation of women by the guru; the OCD practitioners happily popping ribs; people vomiting and pooping their pants in rooms heated well over 105-degrees) but he's surprisingly convincing about the benefits of the practice and the miracle transformations, too. When I came to the end, I was simultaneously glad I had extricated myself from the cult of Bikram years ago and itching to start taking classes again.

    This is basically a memoir of Lorr's own experience getting into and (partly) out of the Bikram universe. He's a vivid and wildly entertaining writer and his descriptions have enough vitality and humor to make this accessible to all readers. Although it will almost certainly be most interesting to those who've practiced in a Bikram studio.

    The book is well researched and contains fascinating chapters on the uses of heat, charismatic leaders, pain, the placebo effect, and narcissism--among other things. (The chapters on narcissism and the cult surrounding narcissists could be describing Donald Trump exactly. Chilling.)

    He's a good reader with an appealing voice that's neither too bland nor too dramatic. He slurs every once in a while, but I found this kind of appealing.

    I was very glad I listened to this and recommend it highly.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Jay
    Tennessee Colony, TX, United States
    8/02/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "A Descent into Hell-(Bent)"
    Any additional comments?

    In ancient mythology, a common theme is a dying and resurrecting Godman, who often descends into Hell to save the souls trapped there, before emerging from the bowels of the earth stronger than ever.

    In modern times, a person pays eleven-thousand dollars to descend into Hell. This is the route that Benjamin Lorr took, and descend into Hell he did. It was inhumanely hot and crowded, where the poor trapped souls vomit and defecate on themselves, where seeing a woman shove ice cubes down her bikini bottoms seemed nothing out of the ordinary. And true to mythology, Lorr redeemed many people while there. From Ms. Boobs, to a whole host of lost souls who by all rights, really shouldn't have been there.

    Franciscan priest Richard Rohr says that before you can fall up, you must fall down. To use the word transform here seems trite and clichéd. I have studied various healing methods for many years, from Christian prayer to Reiki, from alternative medicine to placebos. The healings in Hell-Bent are some of the most gritty, personal, believable healings and transformations that I have ever come across.

    In fact, while the universe doesn't work on fairness or unfairness, it struck me as unfair that people can get healed with the laying on of hands or taking sugar pills, when these people had to work through their pain on a level that most Americans will never know. No, if there is one thing in America don't do well, it's pain. There is a pill for that, after all.

    And Bikram, where does he fit in? I'm not sure it would be right to place him in the role of a very charismatic Devil. I don't know. Maybe we should ask the women he molested along the way? To be fair, Bikram helped thousands of people in his role of teacher and guru. From the lowly peasant, to sports and movie stars, it seems it made no difference to him. A true equal opportunity helper. Perhaps he helped hundreds of thousands or even millions of people. How do we balance the remarkable things he has accomplished with his dark side? My cognitive dissonance whispers, "maybe those women really did know what they were doing when they went into his room." Who is to say they didn't?

    The modern concept of creating your own reality actually emerged from ancient yoga. I think Hell-Bent embodies this meme. There is Bikram, who should be a poster child for creating his own reality. Indeed, he just makes it up as he goes along. There are the yogis, who created a western fiction called yoga that is really pretty much a fantasy compared to ancient yoga. If anyone doubts that they play a large part in creating their reality, they should read this book. Here are people that believed something very strongly that really had little factual basis in reality or truth, yet they were able to transform and heal themselves using this fiction in their heads. Truly remarkable.

    I think my favorite line in the book was when Bikram collapsed on the floor and someone leaned over and told the master to "just breathe." To me, that is yoga reduced to two words: just breathe.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Steven Earth Metz
    USA
    17/09/17
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Wow what a great book about the spectacle Bikram"

    I found this to be one of the best written books on the subject of Yoga. His ability to be objective amidst the world of Bikram Yoga is amazing. I'm sure this was a tough journey. Well done.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Rachel Rodenborg
    12/06/17
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Interesting story"

    Enjoyed the look inside the world of Bikram and competitive yoga. Was disappointed by the narration. Lots of mispronounced words and sometimes you couldn't understand the ends of sentences very well. I think it would be beneficial to have a professional voice talent read this story.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Amelia
    7/04/17
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Total gem"

    Funny, engrossing, and very well researched. I went for this book for its flashy title, but the quality of the storytelling was a total surprise. Mixed with legitimate research in psychology and athletics, it's unstoppable. I would find myself not able to turn it off for hours at a time.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Daniel
    25/03/17
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Like Yoga Even More"
    Would you listen to Hell-Bent again? Why?

    Yes, I would listing to this book again. Benjamin Lorr's optimism and passion for yoga is contagious.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Hell-Bent?

    Going to Bikram Choudhury yoga guru boot camp. I've heard stories about Bikram, but the way he describes it sounds way worse than I could imagine.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    Again, the large portion of the book dedicate to the Bikram retreat. It's like going into the dark underworld of yoga. The near cult side of yoga.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    One of Benjamin Lorr's teachers had a stroke. Doctors said it wasn't caused by yoga, but he fully recovered. May be yoga helped speed up the process.


    Any additional comments?

    I really enjoyed this book. Well written and he's a good narrator. I'd say it's less about competitive yoga and more about yoga in general and Bikram.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Krista Mundt
    15/03/17
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "SOOOOOOO GOOD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"
    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Ben


    Have you listened to any of Ben Lorr’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    No


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


    Any additional comments?

    I've been a Bikram yogi for 10ish years and this was an amazing explanation of Bikram, the yoga and healing!!!!!!!!!!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Russell Breckenridge
    12/01/17
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "When you think you've heard it all..."

    A must read for any yogi. Lor's ability to discuss mundane things concerning yoga in different and interesting ways is seemingly endless. His knowledge and perspective together rival almost anyone in the yoga world.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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