March 18, 2013

How Hell-Bent Unbent Me. ~ Amy Taylor

Why I’m glad I read Benjamin Lorr’s book and why you should too.

After years of being a judgmental yoga practitioner, teacher and human being, I’m tired. Life keeps throwing my assumptions in my face like scalding water.

The popular instructor, whose intense style mocked my more tender approach, opened a studio across the street and students flocked.

A practice that once promised truth only confused me. For everything I believed about yoga, there’s a counterpoint.

I’ve been in a surreal state, lately, a waking dream. None of it is real, I think. It’s all a projection.

So, I was scrubbed and ready to read Lorr’s assertion that yoga can be everything from religious to secular, non-physical to dangerous, heaven to hell and back again.

Lorr says things some may not be ready to hear. But I was and maybe you are, too.

Here’s me, before Lorr.

I hated Bikram without ever taking a class. I focused on the negative in mass-marketed yoga. I deemed adjustments universally bad and dangerous. I saw other teachers as money-grabbing charlatans, myself as angelic and pure.

I have been judge and jury of the yoga world but it didn’t make me happy.

I think Lorr has it right when he says (in his own eloquent way) that yoga’s broad enough to encompass all flavors. Each has strengths and limitations, depending on the individual’s needs which are always in flux.

Consider yoga an art or a craft, a church or a party. Yoga can be all things to all people. Why not?

The problem comes when we try to commodify it. According to Hell-Bent, Bikram taught for free until Shirley MacClaine suggested otherwise. Then he became a player in the yoga marketplace and a galvanizing figure.

Lorr gets it right in his observation and analysis of the man, I think. Not evil, not sainted, but a perfect foil for all that we struggle with but try to hide: our true ego-driven, fame-hungry, greedy natures.

The perceived need to make money, to compete, can pull us away from the more artistic side of yoga, the potential to change and enhance lives.

We can lose sight of the beauty, the pain, the mirror that yoga holds up to our bodies, minds and spirits.

I’m in danger of that. Lorr reminded me why I can’t let it happen.

I found his book a perfect projection of my experience in the yoga world, even though I’ve never done 60 backbends in a night or entered a yoga competition or met The Big B.

Still, I’ve been around the bend and back again with yoga, dragging my heart, mind and spirit on a wild ride, mostly within the confines of my own head.

Hell-Bent helped me begin to pull threads from the tangle and find a trail back to where I started. Back to that first juicy, electric zing.

My own succulent yoga.

May you find and savor yours.


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Ed: Brianna Bemel

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