The World of Competitive Yoga

Monday, December 03, 2012

Benjamin Lorr explores the world of competitive yoga and how he got sucked into an obsessive subculture. Hell-Bent: Obsession, Pain, and the Search for Something Like Transcendence in Competitive Yoga is about the athletic prodigies, wide-eyed celebrities, legitimate medical miracles, and predatory hucksters involved in competitive yoga.


Benjamin Lorr

Comments [12]

Rebecca from San Francisco

I've done yoga my whole life, and have no love for Bikram yoga. The book doesn't proselytize the Bikram sequence, and is more circumspect than captured by this interview. Although I don't plan to go to a Bikram class any time soon, I enjoyed the book's intimate yet critical immersion into the yoga subculture.

Dec. 03 2012 02:40 PM

Leonard didn't do this book or its author justice in his interview! For everyone else who left comments, read the book. The author addresses competitive yoga as well as Bikram the man and the yoga from a well-researched and balanced perspective.

Dec. 03 2012 01:41 PM
Nadya from New York

I read this book. It is amazing! Even-minded and funny as hell. Great Christmas/Chanukah gift.

Dec. 03 2012 01:28 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

There should be NO PAIN in yoga! if you do have it, you're doing it wrong, and listening too the wrong people, of whom there are legions, like this guy talking here!

Dec. 03 2012 12:58 PM
Kate from Washington Heights

I have no problem with competitive yoga. If you don't want to compete, don't - but I see no reason to stop those who want to from doing so.

Dec. 03 2012 12:55 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

"Competitive Yoga" is an oxymoron. And you don't have to 'study" it. I've been doing some yoga for 40 years, and learned the little I need from watching Richard Hittleman's late night TV show.

Yoga is ONE tool that should be in a bag of a number exercise tools, which should include some light weights, some aerobics, some isometics, and certainly eating the proper foods, drinking a lot of water, and not abusing the body with tobacco, alcohol or drugs.

Yoga is no panacea. I do only a few "postures" for a few minutes every few days. The main thing is to never overdo anything, and to "learn" what is good for YOUR body and nobody else's.

It's a great tool with great benefits, but it should not be exaggerated. It's like a lite tuneup for your body every other day, IF YOU KNOW WHAT YOUR DOING! If not, you can hurt yourself. Most of those yoga studios are just businesses to take your money and nothing more. Be wary of from whom you get involved with. Read Richard Hittleman's old books for reference.

Dec. 03 2012 12:55 PM
Kate from Washington Heights

I'm a devotee of Bikram yoga, but have my issues with it. It has changed muy body and my life. But it has its issues. One small thing: they make some claims about sweat in the dialogue that I'd love you to talk about. Like, does wiping sweat make you hotter?

Dec. 03 2012 12:54 PM
Aisha T. from Williamsburg

What spiritual side could there be to "competitive" yoga? Yoga is supposed to be about dissociating onself from worldly distractions and crass desires. Wearing designer stretch pants and trying to "beat" other yogis in grueling competition is so hilariously American.

Dec. 03 2012 12:49 PM
john from office

Hugh, GREAT MINDS ________ ALIKE.

Dec. 03 2012 11:39 AM

Shoot. I thought I'd be first to get the "competitive meditation" comparison.

Dec. 03 2012 11:02 AM
john from office

James, you hit the nail right on the head. This concept is odd. Like competative meditation, ?!NOT.

Dec. 03 2012 08:30 AM

I am writing on 12/1, before the program on Monday. I'm certainly looking forward to it. When I first heard about this 'sport' (?) I was shocked. To anyone with a basic understanding of Yoga the notion is bound to seem absurd. Asana is but a small part of yoga philosophy and practice. A central tenet of yoga is that comparing oneself to others - a chronic problem in Western culture - is unhealthy and counter-productive.
From simply this it follows that asana competitions have little to do with Yoga. When it was first imported to the U.S. Yoga was seen as a welcome antidote to our obsession with competition; now, perhaps predictably, we have selfishly co-opted and distorted it for our own purposes. And, I might add, without taking much time to understand it.

Dec. 01 2012 03:02 PM

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