• Hell-Bent

  • Obsession, Pain, and the Search for Something Like Transcendence in Competitive Yoga
  • By: Benjamin Lorr
  • Narrated by: Ben Lorr
  • Length: 9 hrs and 42 mins
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars (214 ratings)

1 title per month from Audible’s entire catalog of best sellers, and new releases.
Access a growing selection of included Audible Originals, audiobooks and podcasts.
You will get an email reminder before your trial ends.
Your Premium Plus plan is $14.95 a month after 30 day trial. Cancel anytime.
Hell-Bent  By  cover art

Hell-Bent

By: Benjamin Lorr
Narrated by: Ben Lorr
Try for $0.00

$14.95/month after 30 days. Cancel anytime.

Buy for $19.95

Buy for $19.95

Pay using card ending in
By confirming your purchase, you agree to Audible's Conditions of Use and Amazon's Privacy Notice. Taxes where applicable.

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.

More from the same

What listeners say about Hell-Bent

Average Customer Ratings
Overall
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    144
  • 4 Stars
    48
  • 3 Stars
    13
  • 2 Stars
    4
  • 1 Stars
    5
Performance
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    130
  • 4 Stars
    41
  • 3 Stars
    14
  • 2 Stars
    3
  • 1 Stars
    3
Story
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    131
  • 4 Stars
    43
  • 3 Stars
    10
  • 2 Stars
    5
  • 1 Stars
    2

Reviews - Please select the tabs below to change the source of reviews.

Sort by:
Filter by:
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

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.

32 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

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.

8 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

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.

4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

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.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Mr Lorr....

If you’re going to read your own work, at least have the decency to how to pronounce words like “asana” and names like “Patanjali.” It’s painful to listen to...

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Fantastic Story of Hot Yoga

This book is fantastic. The information, biographies, personal experience and stories of this book make it come alive. This is one of those audiobooks that go so quickly it was hard to “put down”. Benjamin Lorr is an awesome writer and a good audiobook producer.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Thank you!

Thanks for the detailed account, from a personal and community perspective. I practiced Bikram for 10 yrs and taught for 5. I stopped altogether in 2015 after some health issues. Having this book is an amazing resource that I will likely revisit every few years as a reminder of how special this yoga is, all of the amazing people who made up the community, personal stories of people that are reminders of how much this yoga changed my life, and the detailed account of the inner conflict. Absolutely priceless. Thanks for doing what you do - documenting and writing this book!

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Fascinating read/listen

Absolutely loved this book. It opened my eyes to a world I had no idea existed. It delved into the sanity, insanity, facts, and fictions of extreme yoga. It meshed new age thought, ridiculous beliefs, psychology, and science. It was such a well-balanced piece of journalism that I came away with respect and insight into this fascinating world and its cast of characters.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Yoga

I enjoyed this book. Learned about yoga by reading it. But also enjoyed the story and the fascinating biographical aspect of the book. Narration was good.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

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.