Hell-Bent, by Benjamin Lorr

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The Independent Culture

Yoga in the Olympics? It's coming, if USA Yoga have their way. But before the International Olympic Committee make a decision, they might like to read this account of the life and times of one Bikram Choudhury, founder of a severely strenuous and painful form of the discipline and husband of Rajashree, USA Yoga's leading light.

Benjamin Lorr remains a devotee, and a qualified teacher, of Bikram Yoga, but it hasn't stopped him dishing the dirt on Bikram himself, characterising him inter alia as cruel, narcissistic, money-obsessed – in true guru style he owns about 40 Rolls-Royces – and more than a bit bonkers. Yet the likes of Andy Murray, David Beckham and the NBA's all-time leading scorer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar claim Bikram benefited them, and Lorr instances seemingly magical recoveries from life-threatening ailments.

Lorr's writing style can be infuriatingly fancy and self-conscious – his introduction is entitled "A Short Note on Folk Singing and the Space Between Solutions" – but among the archness is an interesting debate about the interplay of the mental and physical in life – and sport – and how learning to use mind with body, rather than mind over body, can achieve startling results.

But is yoga a sport? Having sanctioned synchronised swimming, and facing claims for the inclusion of pole dancing and sheep shearing, it's a question the IOC may have to answer sooner than later.

Published in trade paperback by Bloomsbury, £12.99