Hell-Bent – Benjamin Lorr
What the Cover Says: Benjamin Lorr walks into his first yoga studio on a whim, overweight and curious. A run-in with a competitive yoga champion means his simple desire to tone up soon transforms into obsessive training for a national championship. But this is Bikram Yoga, distinguished from more ‘conventional’ forms by extreme heat, an overt, almost masochistic focus on pain, and the rabid materialism of its founder, the enigmatic Bikram Choudhury. Hell-Bent is a look at the science behind a controversial practice, a story of greed and corruption, and a mind-bending tale of personal transformation that will change the way you view both yoga and the inspirational potential of the human body.
Why I Picked it Up: One of my yoga teachers recommended it and I wanted to know more about this controversial approach to yoga.
What I Thought: Let me be straight with you, I have never been to a Bikram yoga class but that doesn’t stop me disagreeing the approach. So I found this behind-the-scenes look at the Bikram practice and community, as well as the man himself, fascinating. I still wouldn’t go to a Bikram class – I believe that practising in the extreme heat increases the risk of injury – but at least I feel more informed about it. Oh, and a lot less judgemental – Lorr calls out all those ‘pure’ yogis, reminding us that there is no such thing as “yoga’, simply a range of interpretations. Lorr writes in a personable and open manner, taking the reader to the heart of the world of Bikram. He is honest and straightforward about the good, the bad and the ugly (he discusses but doesn’t dwell on the numerous allegations of sexual assault by Bikram on students) in a compelling read into a yoga that is a world away from what I am studying on my teacher training.
What the Cover Says: Having announced her plans to quit her job and backpack around South America, humourist and gonzo journalist Amy Baker found herself on the receiving end of a whole bunch of over-the-top and seemingly unnecessary advice. Amy shrugged it all off of course… that is, until she ran into trouble. After falling into a crevasse, swimming in crocodile-infested waters, dodging cocaine con artists and encountering handsome soothsayers, Amy soon starts to wonder if her Mum, boss and Carol from reception really were onto something. Weighing up their advice against that of known ‘Clever People’ like Tina Fey, Salvador Dalí and Mother Teresa, Amy finally establishes once and for all who it might actually pay to listen to.
Why I Picked It Up: This was August’s Rebel Book Club read, from one of our very own!
What I Thought: I’ve read a few autobiographical tales by adventurous traveller types in my time; this was not my favourite. I’m glad Amy learnt about herself and life on her travels around South America, and it was nice to read about countries I haven’t been to (yet!), but I never really got into this. Baker recounts her travels one country at a time, ending each chapter with her reflections on the life advice she got directly from people back home as well as from some public figures. I appreciate the attempt to draw out some deeper meaning from her travels but I can’t say it particularly spoke to me.
Why We Fell for Clean Eating – Bee Wilson in The Guardian
I care about what I eat…most of the time. I buy into the principles of clean eating and a plan-based diet. I also worry that a lot of the proponents of this way of eating are young, photogenic women with no training in nutritional or dietary science, advocating a diet that cuts out entire food groups. This article in The Guardian (also available on their Long Read podcast) is a fascinating examination of where ‘clean eating’ came from and some of the evidence for and against it. A must read for anyone who cares about their health, diet and sanity!
As recommended by my friend and fellow multi-potentialite wonder woman, Steph Slack. This is a two-part documentary based on a class of seven-year old school children. The programme is a great look at gender stereotypes in the classroom and it’s shocking to see how entrenched these beliefs are at such a young age. These are clearly affecting the children’s behaviour with girls describing themselves using words like ugly and lipstick, and boys having a much more limited vocabulary to express any emotion apart from anger. Dr Javid Abelmoneim conducts several interventions with the children, their teacher and their parents, looking at everything from how they are addressed by their teacher to the toys they have at home. After eight-weeks, it’s heartening and remarkable to see a shift in the children’s beliefs and attitudes. The girls have clearly grown in confidence whilst the boys’ behaviour in class has improved.
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