No pain, no gain, so the saying goes when it comes to exercise. But author Benjamin Lorr tests the limits of how much pain one's body can take in his new book Hell-Bent: Obsession, Pain and the Search for Something like Transcendence in Competitive Yoga.
According to The Telegraph, Lorr describes in the book how he becomes hooked on the popular Bikram yoga, which is practised in a heated room. It quickly transforms him from a slob with "conical man boobs and growing belly" to a yoga fanatic. From practising six to seven days a week, he loses 45 pounds (around 20 kilograms) in three months, and over a two-year period, he becomes increasingly fixated.
But as The Telegraph reports, all that yoga eventually begins to take a toll on Lorr, socially, financially and physically. He held three jobs to pay for a nine-week course, costing roughly $17,500. He began withdrawing from family and friends to participate in yoga competitions, and he encountered various physical complaints: pain, blackouts, hallucinations and even temporary paralysis in one of his shoulders. Meanwhile, fellow class members went to chiropractors regularly to have their ribs "popped back in."
If yoga had a warning label, he says, it would read: "Acne, weeping, aches and sores, sudden weight loss, occasional puking, seizure, hallucinations, irrational bouts of euphoria and/or horniness, diarrhea."
But is hot yoga really dangerous? Or are these merely the effects of too much of a good thing?
As The Globe's Dakshana Bascaramurty previously reported, some health professionals warn hot yoga can be risky. The extreme temperature (rooms are heated to roughly 40 C) and humidity can lead to nausea, dizziness, and blackouts, and may not be recommended for those with heart conditions or blood pressure issues. Possibly adding to the physical stress, some instructors encourage students to push through their dizziness or discomfort.
Last year, William Broad's book, The Science of Yoga: The Risks and Rewards, also examined some of the risks of injury, such as back pain, torn Achilles tendons and hip issues, from practising yoga. But according to The Telegraph, Lorr hasn't given up yoga completely. He now only occasionally does yoga in a hot studio, preferring a more moderate practice in his cool apartment.
Is yoga any riskier than other forms of exercise?