Yoga Culture Reviews, September 15, 2012

Leaf, Brian. Misadventures of a Garden State Yogi: My Humble Quest To Heal My Colitis, Calm My ADD, and Find the Key to Happiness. New World Library, dist. by PGW. Oct. 2012. c.265p. ISBN 9781608681365. pap. $14.95. HEALTH

In 1989, not many people—especially men—did yoga, but Leaf (McGraw-Hill’s Top 50 Skills for a Top Score) didn’t let that stop him from taking a yoga class as an elective in his freshman year of college. Almost immediately, he became a yoga zealot. After a lifetime of stress, anxiety, and colitis, the deep relaxation that yoga provides was a welcome relief. This memoir follows Leaf as he explores yoga and various related practices including Ayurveda, meditation, energy healing, and more. The numerous pop culture references (e.g., a comparison of his first yoga teacher’s beard to Zach Galifianakis’s in The Hangover; a cathartic shouting scene referencing Cameron in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off) set his story firmly in the 1990s through the present. He focuses on the humor of his experiences, often revealing embarrassing details, but he also offers advice at the end of most chapters. Several appendixes explain the basics of yoga and meditation. VERDICT Anyone with an interest in transformational memoirs and open to New Age ideas will gravitate to this story.—Mindy Rhiger, Mackin Educational Resources, Minneapolis

Lorr, Benjamin. Hell-Bent: Obsession, Pain, and the Search for Something Like Transcendence in Competitive Yoga. St. Martin’s. Nov. 2012. c.320p. photogs. ISBN 9780312672904. $25.99. HEALTH

In a work that is part memoir and part exposé, yoga instructor Lorr takes readers on a journey through the intense world of Bikram yoga. He begins by recounting his own entry into the obsessive subculture of competitive yoga, practicing hours per day in a room heated to more than 100 degrees. As he trains for and competes in national and international competitions, Lorr seeks to understand more about Bikram yoga and its creator, Bikram Choudhury. He talks to people saved by Bikram yoga, people emotionally destroyed by Choudhury, and people who have continued to practice while distancing themselves from the subculture’s charasmatic leader. At a time when some yoga communities are experiencing scandal and turmoil over fallen gurus, this book is a call to arms to save Bikram yoga. Lorr advises readers that when their heroes fail them, they should show compassion. VERDICT At its heart, this is a love story about Bikram yoga and a tenderhearted yet critical look at the life and work of its very human guru. A riveting read, especially for those with an interest in modern yoga culture, gurus, and leaders.—Julia A. Watson, Marywood Univ. Lib., Scranton, PA