How Hell-Bent Unbent Me. ~ Amy Taylor

Via Amy Taylor
on Mar 18, 2013
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hell bent

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


About Amy Taylor

Amy Taylor writes about parenting, yoga and other journeys for, GaiamTV, elephant journal and others. Find her biweekly columns here. She completed 200-hour YTT at CITYOGA in Indianapolis in 2008 and teaches classes for all ages at  Community Yoga. When she's not writing or practicing yoga, Amy loves to read, research and have adventures with her husband and twin sons. Follow her on Twitter.


5 Responses to “How Hell-Bent Unbent Me. ~ Amy Taylor”

  1. Robyn says:

    I just started this book yesterday. I sat down during my son's nap and was engrossed. Then I couldn't decide whether I should put down the book and do another yoga practice (because it got me in the mood) or if I should keep reading, because it was great. The whole time I knew I should really be working. All night at work tonight I've been waiting impatiently for dinner break so I can read. I hope the whole thing stays this interesting for me.

  2. Amy says:

    It's very well-written and compelling and will make you want to wall-walk obsessively! I would have appreciated a little more introspection on the author's part but I believe he strives to be honest and balanced. I look forward to reading more. Enjoy!

  3. Joe Sparks says:

    Didn't read the book, but does yoga have to hurt? Instead of creating torture chambers why don't we focus more on being tender towards ourselves? The most healing type of yoga I have taken is YogAlign. If you are hurting yourself, what is that saying about your state of mind?

  4. Carlos says:

    You have clearly never taken a class from a master yoga teacher from India. I have had the fortune of taking classes from Pathabi Jois, Bikram and some senior teachers in the US – Manuso, Emmy Cleaves, David Swenson. They all tend to have very little compassion for what we in the West call pain, which 99% of the time is just discomfort. A we LOVE our comfort zone right Joe?

  5. Amy says:

    I used to have the same concerns (and maybe I still do a little bit). But pain is part of life and can lead to transformation. This kind of yoga isn't for everyone, true, but it fits in the spectrum. Read the book and see what you think; it's an entertaining read. You may feel affirmed in your opinion and concerns. Or you may find your curiosity piqued.