Some like it hot: Dynamic member experiences inspired by hot yoga

If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter with any regularity, you know I practice yoga just about five days a week. The Funky Buddha Yoga Hothouse in Grand Rapids, Mich. offers Baptiste-style power Vinyasa – and this is where I practice. It is a challenging, flowing workout that produces extraordinary results while remaining accessible to all skill levels and abilities.

Power yoga isn’t about bending you into a pretzel or forcing you to chant. It’s about challenging you to reach your fullest potential. But that’s not all. The studio is hot. Like 95 degrees hot. Like Norwegian sauna hot. Essentially, the space is regulated to maintain July temperatures all year long. The rationale is simple: Heat purifies, improves flexibility, protects from injury and torches calories.

Now, by no means am I the most athletic, the most physically fit or the most flexible person to practice yoga. I never even considered yoga until passing the studio several consecutive days last summer. Each day (weather permitting), a chalkboard easel was placed just outside the studio’s front entrance donning a short, witty phrase (today, for example, the message board read: “spring into yoga”).

After about a week, I noted the studio’s website and decided to check it out. What I found was a very welcoming community. To this day, the landing page reads: “We love beginners. You take the first step. We’ll help you take the rest.” And so I did. I’ve been practicing now—on and off—for about nine months. In that time, a number of important themes have surfaced from my practice:

  1. Acceptance. From the very first time I stepped foot into the studio, I have not only been welcomed (feeling genuinely at home and among friends), I have experienced acceptance for who I am, what I bring to my mat, what I have the ability to do (or not do) and what I have to share with my fellow yogis (a label I quietly resist given my current experience level).
  2. Growth. Each class provides a new opportunity to grow—both physically and emotionally. When I consider my progress from moment to moment, the growth is small (sometimes too small to notice). However, when I pull back and examine my growth from week to week or even from month to month, the changes in my body, my abilities and my mind are staggering.
  3. Clarity. Both on and off the mat, I find improved clarity in my thoughts. And not through chanting or meditation. The determination and discipline required each day to tune out the world for a solid 75 minutes while I focus on me, my breathing and my practice results in clearer thoughts outside of the studio relative to my life, my relationships and my work.
  4. Refinement. Type A. Enough said, right? I’m a perfectionist and I like to do things “right.” The same is true on my mat, as well. Unfortunately, forcing your body into a pose is a sure-fire way to prevent its fullest possible expression (and can even result in injury). In fact, it’s only when you settle into a pose, embrace the discomfort and focus on tiny micro movements can you recognize and deliver true refinement.
  5. Destiny. Not to sound melodramatic, but you only get out of yoga what you put into it. Sure, we have instructors and assistants to support our practice and to co-create our poses; however, a majority of the practice is left up to us—to challenge ourselves to our edge (and, sometimes, beyond); to take care of ourselves; and to apply these lessons to life outside the studio, as well.

The same is true for our members. And, no, I’m not advocating you offer early morning yoga sessions at your next conference (though I think the option is always welcome for those of us who practice or for those who are interested in taking the first step). Rather, the key takeaway here is that each and every time we develop a new program or event we create new opportunities to foster community, inspire learning, instill clarity, encourage refinement and point to what’s possible.

So, my question to you is this: How seriously do you take this responsibility? Is your organization delivering dynamic, meaningful and compelling education and networking experiences that inspire learning, engagement and community (or is it more about the bottom line)? If the latter, what small changes could you implement throughout the planning process to ensure a better and more deliberate outcome for your members?

2 Responses to “Some like it hot: Dynamic member experiences inspired by hot yoga”

  1. March 19, 2012 at 7:35 pm

    Loooooove this post. Yes, of course I love it because you’ve beautifully captured the benefits of yoga. But I really love it because you’ve made that connection between two potentially transformational experiences — yoga and association membership. Thanks for sharing your experience with us!

  2. March 20, 2012 at 10:18 am

    Glad you liked the post, Deirdre! I realized during practice this week that we often look externally to find our cheerleader, our coach, our teacher and our assistant. The fact of the matter is that on the mat – like in life – we already have what we need (within) to achieve our fullest potential. We must take responsibility for pushing ourselves (but not too much), for noting our progress, for setting our own goals and for knowing when to rest. The same is true for the programs and events we develop for our members. Sure, each of them has a responsibility to come to the table ready to learn and eager to engage; however, their success is ultimately dependent on us (meeting and professional development staff) to create a solid, meaningful education or networking experience. And those don’t just happen by chance. They require buy-in from key leaders and stakeholders, deliberate training and coaching of program facilitators and content leaders, and adequate time for planning, organization and logistics management. The transformation will not happen overnight, but little by little I think associations could implement small changes throughout the planning process that – over the long run – could have a profound impact on our members, their experience and, subsequently, their growth as leaders, professionals and practitioners.

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meet aaron

Association learning strategist & meetings coach. Founder & president of Event Garde. Passionate about cooking, running, blogging, old homes, unclehood & pet parenting (thanks to Lillie the pup).

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Writer, editor, public relations professional. Digital content manager. Proud mom of three. Total word geek. Spartan for life.

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