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:
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?