The Yogini from Manila

Hell-Bent by Benjamin Lorr: a personal take on Bikram Yoga and a book giveaway


Several friends I know take Bikram Yoga. And they love it. For many of them, it was a way to lose weight. With the room heated up to about 38 degrees and kept at about 60% humidity, it is believed that Bikram yoga –

– protects the muscles for deeper stretches

– detoxifies the body

– increases the heart rate, providing the cardiovascular stimulus

– thins the blood and allows it to freely circulate around the body

– reorganizes the lipids (fat) in the muscles

– strengthens the body’s muscles

When Benjamin Lorr stumbled upon Bikram yoga and began his first class, he was overweight and in need of losing pounds and inches. From overweight, he is now a Bikram practitioner who has trained for the national yoga championship. Not everything was sweet. His favorite yoga teacher suffered a stroke, making Ben start research on hot yoga and Bikram Choudhury. Ben recounts his two-year sweaty, sometimes painful journey in his book, Hell-Bent: Obsession, Pain and the Search for Something Like Transcendence in Bikram Yoga.

Not being a Bikram yoga practitioner, I was surprised and delighted that Ben had stumbled upon my blog, contacted me, and eventually sent me a copy of the book (which is NOT YET AVAILABLE in our local bookstores). So you, my dear readers and Bikram Yoga lovers, have a chance to own and read this book before anyone else!

 Here’s a brief description of Lorr’s book:

It “explores the fascinating, often surreal world of Bikram or ‘Hot’ Yoga, a style taught to millions by very living guru, Bikram Choudhury. Bikram Yoga is distinguished by the extreme heat it is practiced in (105 – 110 degrees), an overt focus on pain, and the materialism of its founder. Lorr walked into his first yoga studio on a whim, overweight and curious, and quickly found the yoga reinventing his life. He had slimmed down and toned up, when a run-in with a master and competitive yoga champion convinced him to take his practice to the next level: to train for the national championship. So begins a journey. Populated by athletic prodigies, wide-eyed celebrities, legitimate medical miracles, and predatory hucksters – Hell-Bent follows Lorr as he grapples with his obsession, researching the history and health claims, pushing his body to its limits, and ultimately bringing him to the feet of maniacal guru, Bikram Choudhury. A guru who – aside from being charismatic, hilarious, and occasionally profound – also turns out to be a raging and rage-filled narcissist. The culmination of two years of research, featuring hundreds of interviews with yogis, scientists, doctors, and scholars, it is a nation-spanning trip. A look at the science behind a controversial practice, a story of greed and corruption, and a mind-bending tale of personal transformation, Hell-Bent will first challenge your conception of yoga, then change the way you view the fragile, inspirational limits of the human body itself.”

Whew! That is quite a controversial description. And I am sure over here in the Philippines where Bikram yoga is loved by its practitioners and is popular as a weight-loss option, you can either agree or disagree totally or in part with Lorr’s yoga experiences, research findings, or descriptions of Choudhury. And despite what he may have said for or against the practice, what is notable is that he still practices Bikram yoga.

Benjamin Lorr (from his website

Some notable celebrities wrote about the Hell-Bent book, among them Elizabeth Gilbert, the best-selling author of Eat, Pray, Love. Elizabeth Gilbert writes: “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.”

Benjamin Lorr talks a bit about his book as well as about Bikram Yoga in this video.

Hell-Bent is available on Amazon. Click link below to order.

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


Excited now to be the first one to read Hell-Bent? Here’s how…

Book Giveaway

I would have wanted to sit down and read this book first but I think those of you who practice Bikram Yoga or are exploring it as a practice, will want to get your hands on this one right away.

First of all, while I know I have international blog readers and social media contacts, I can only accept participants who reside within the Philippines (or can designate a representative with a local address) as I will only do local shipping. I’m using Rafflecopter to make the mechanics as fair and simple as possible.

Just answer the question: “What was the best thing that yoga did for you?”. You can increase your chances in the raffle if you also do all the optional stuff I put in (following me on Twitter, liking my Facebook page, and tweeting about the giveaway). You can tweet about my giveaway EVERY DAY till the close of the giveaway period (through Rafflecopter) and earn an extra entry each time. The complete mechanics are in Rafflecopter below. Remember, this book giveaway period is only 2 weeks.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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  1. yoga has helped me immensely. It has helped me quit smoking, I became a vegetarian, and I became more positive in life.,
    I also do meditation aside from the physical hatha yoga so yoga for me is now a part of my lifestyle.

  2. For the longest time, I usually beat myself up and dwell on what I can’t do, because I tend to focus on my weaknesses and what I’m incapable of doing. Having that kind of mindset, led me to a world of negativity and self-cynicism, trying so hard to be a perfectionist. It was only through yoga that I found that there’s no point in dealing with all of these negative things. Through a daily practice, I come to find a much more deeper appreciation of myself. It’s simply a matter of being present in the moment, not beating yourself up when you don’t get through the poses, and embracing your strengths and weaknesses, on and off the mat.

  3. yoga has made me more tolerant of the craziness surrounding me (including the traffic in manila when i visit!), it has made me more mindful of how i treat my body and how my body responds to everything i do. in short, it has made me calmer, more accepting, and definitely happier!

  4. Aside from being able to finally reach my toes, I feel like I’ve been ushered into a world full of exciting possibilities. I realized that I am much, much more blessed than I thought I was, ergo, I am happier than ever. And I’ve learned to ignore some things. I realized that peace and happiness are so important to me that I have to choose the stuff I should take notice of, get involved in and delve into.
    I have yet to get my down dog right, but I could go on and on, you know! Haha!

Thanks for reading! I'd love to know what you think.

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