Hell-Bent: Obsession, Pain, and the Search for Something Like Transcendence in Competitive Yoga (By Benjamin Lorr) By Betsy Goldin Becker 2am backbending sessions with the Jedi Fight Club. Yoga competitions in hotel ballrooms and suburban shopping malls. All-night movie marathons with the fedora-wearing founder of Bikram Yoga. 8 hour practice days in 110 degree heated… [Continue Reading]
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Book Review of Hell-Bent: Obsession, Pain, and the Search for Something Like Transcendence in Competitive Yoga (By Benjamin Lorr)
2am backbending sessions with the Jedi Fight Club. Yoga competitions in hotel ballrooms and suburban shopping malls. All-night movie marathons with the fedora-wearing founder of Bikram Yoga. 8 hour practice days in 110 degree heated rooms. Extreme hydration and dehydration. Energy highs and lows. Pain and transformation…these are all part of Benjamin Lorr’s page-turning journey into a surreal world of competitive yoga and Bikram Teacher Training.
Like many of us, myself included, Benjamin started off as a yoga skeptic who gradually discovered that the more he practiced yoga, the better he felt. His original objective was to get back into shape after recovering from a rib injury caused by an “ill-advised drinking moment that I used to specialize in.” Benjamin walked into his neighborhood Bikram yoga studio, overweight and unprepared for a 90- minute practice in 110 degree heat. Somehow he survived this first class, and quickly found that yoga was a tool not only for shedding pounds and getting fit, but also for transforming his life. Hell-Bent really centers on the themes of physical, mental and emotional transformation, as Benjamin evolves from an average Joe Yoga to a certified Bikram yoga teacher and national yoga competitor.
As someone who has never practiced these extreme forms of yoga, I found this book to be a fascinating and fair portrayal of a lesser-known yoga subculture. Featuring interviews from doctors, scientists, academics and long-time yoga instructors, as well as citations from ancient yogic texts, Hell-Bent explores the science behind yoga’s purported physical and mental effects, the human body’s capacity for pain, extreme heat, injury and healing. Of particular emphasis was the idea of how the body perceives pain when pushing through its physical limitations. Although many yoga classes emphasize comfort over pain, moderation was not the mantra in Benjamin’s yogic world. He found himself practicing 14 hours per week, while holding down three jobs, and convincing himself that he could “take my spinal cord and bend it so severely that I could touch my forehead to my [rear end].”
For me, the most intriguing part of the book was its character portrayals of the people that Benjamin encountered, particularly those he met at the $11,000-per-person Bikram Yoga teacher training. There was the graceful, octogenarian instructor in peak physical condition, the recovered drug addict turned national yoga competitor and the paunchy, Eastern European businessman, seeking to cash in on Bikram Yoga’s growing popularity. Among this colorful cast of characters, the most extreme was Bikram Choudhury himself, the legendary, polarizing, and charismatic founder of Bikram Yoga. Personal accounts of Bikram ranged from compassionate guru to misogynistic narcissist, but in the end, the book was less about Bikram the man and more about the power of his yoga to transform lives, for better or worse.
Overall, this book was an easy, intriguing summer read. If you’ve read this book, we’d love to hear your feedback on Facebook or Twitter. For more insights on competitive yoga, check out Brooke’s article “Let’s Talk Competitive Yoga.”
Yoga for Runners, Athletes….and Saints Fans!
I’ve had a love-hate relationship with running for nearly two decades. While I love the opportunity to get fresh air, clear my head and enjoy an efficient, heart-pumping workout, I don’t particularly enjoy the shin-splints, lower-back pain, sore hips and hamstrings that come with the territory. Enter yoga to the rescue. Since adding specific yoga poses to my post-run stretching routine, I have found that my endurance has increased while my aches and pains have decreased.
Key Benefits of Yoga for Runners
In her book, Yoga for Runners, certified yoga instructor Christine Felstead lists numerous benefits of yoga for all runners, whether casual, avid or competitive. In addition to improving strength, flexibility, body awareness and stress relief, yoga can also provide runners with:
- Improved breathing and lung capacity
- Increased range of motion
- More comfort and endurance due to the lengthening of muscles
- Healing existing injuries and avoiding future injuries through improved symmetry, alignment and balance
- Faster post-race recovery
- More relaxed state in the mind and body while running.
Former Saints Player Turned Yoga Instructor
I’m not the only one who has found the benefits of adding yoga to my fitness routine. An increasing number of runners, athletes and other fit-minded folk are turning to yoga to improve their performance, reduce injury and enhance their focus. One such athlete is former Saints player Keith Mitchell. In this NFL video, Keith shares his story of how yoga helped him recover from a very serious football injury. The healing benefits he received from yoga led him to become a certified yoga teacher.
Exclusive Yoga Sequences for YL Readers
Many runners and other athletes suffer injuries from repetitive use of certain muscles in one plane of movement, according to Emily Kulakowski, a registered Yoga Sports Science Coach at Revolution Fitness. “Athletes often use the same muscles over and over again. The muscles that are used all of the time become tight while the ones that aren’t used become weak, ” says Emily. “Instead, use yoga to work outside of your typical plane of movement. If runners spend just 10-15 minutes doing a tailored post-run yoga sequence, they will see marked improvements.”
As a Yoga Lagniappe exclusive, Emily designed this short yoga sequence geared towards runners. Hold each pose for at least 3 to 5 breaths – feel free to hold longer! Also, think about using your breath to settle into your pose: use inhales to lengthen and exhales to work deeper into the pose. Use your breath not only within your poses, but also for transitions, inhale out of a pose and exhale into the next.
On the days that you only have time for a few poses, try these 3 poses to prevent injury. Happy trails to you!
Saints & Pelicans Fans – Yoga Bonus
Join Yoga Lagniappe and fellow yoga (& Saints) enthusiasts Sunday, September 14th from 10-11am for a unique, all-levels power yoga class on the New Orleans Saints Indoor Practice Field. Participate as an individual or get a group together from your favorite yoga studio. Your package includes entry to the Saints practice field, an awesome power yoga class, plus 2 tickets to a Pelicans home game. $35 per person. Check out our calendar for more details. Use this Form to Register.
By Betsy Goldin Becker I’ve had a love-hate relationship with running for nearly two decades. While I love the opportunity to get fresh air, clear my head and enjoy an efficient, heart-pumping workout, I don’t particularly enjoy the shin-splints, lower-back pain, sore hips and hamstrings that come with the territory. Enter yoga to the rescue…. [Continue Reading]
By Nikki Carter I had my first and only Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy session with Amy Archinal back in 2011, when I was going through an emotionally chaotic and trying time. I was searching for answers about my career path and what to do about a personal relationship. I happened to see a flyer at… [Continue Reading]
By Nikki Carter Laughter yoga is a form of exercise or therapy that involves elements of voluntary laughter and playfulness. Although the concept may seem strange or awkward if you’ve never heard of it before, think about how often you’ve heard the saying, “laughter is contagious!” I know when I am around someone who can’t… [Continue Reading]
From Mamas to Babies, Tots & Teens: Yoga for All Ages and Stages By Betsy Goldin Becker Unlike other physical activities, yoga has no limits. People of nearly all ages and abilities – from pregnant moms to tots to teens – can reap the benefits of a yoga practice… with proper instruction, of course. Here… [Continue Reading]
In 2004, Dan Harris experienced a life-changing event that I’m all too acquainted with myself: he had a panic attack. Working in a highly demanding position as a television anchor, Harris was live on-air for Good Morning America at the time and had no idea what had just happened to him. This experience sent… [Continue Reading]
Ayurveda is a system of holistic healing that began in India over 5,000 years ago. There are many components of Ayurveda, but I became interested in having a consultation a couple of years ago because I wanted to know what dietary changes I could make to improve my well-being. I chose Jessica Blanchard, a New… [Continue Reading]
Acupuncture is a practice in which specific points of the body are stimulated, most often with thin needles. I tried acupuncture myself for the first time last year, with good results for the management of anxiety and muscle tension. If you’re interested in trying it for yourself or looking for a practitioner, I highly recommend… [Continue Reading]
By S. Brooke Bailey Sally Kempton’s most recent book, Awakening Shakti: The Transformative Power of the Goddesses of Yoga, explores feminine energy from the tantric perspective. My yoga book club has been reading the book for several months now, usually discussing one goddess at a time. I must admit that I wasn’t drawn to knowing… [Continue Reading]
You may have seen celebrities with the trademark circular bruising that is caused by cupping and wondered what in the world had happened to them. I talked with Valerie Viosca, a New Orleans licensed acupuncturist and massage therapist who is certified to perform cupping therapy, to gain more insight on the practice. Valerie says, “In… [Continue Reading]
By Sheena Mannina of Raw Republic It’s generally simple to advise on internal cleansing as our bodies naturally begin to detox in the absence of the inflammatory items we consume regularly, namely processed foods, caffeine, sugar, soda, meat, dairy and medications. For this reason, we cleanse when we sleep. Though you would benefit significantly by… [Continue Reading]