Imagine a 102° dry room. Then imagine practicing intense yoga in there for 60 to 75 minutes. Then repeat that for 150 days. Welcome to the last several months of my life.
The first time I went to class, I simply wanted check out the new Moksha Yoga London West studio in London, Ontario. The next day a friend wanted to check it out, so I went again. The next day, another friend. And then it was just me—and I figured, why not just keep going?
While I do realize that one is supposed to be thought-free while practicing yoga—moksha, after all, is Sanskrit for release—as a business owner and writer, I couldn't help but notice how my commitment to hot yoga impacted my day-to-day life and my business. Here are some of the parallels:
This wasn't the first time I'd tried to make a commitment to daily exercise, but it was the first time in five years I succeeded. Halfway through my first 30-day challenge, as I was rushing through traffic to make it to 5:30 class, (yes, there is irony in rushing to be peaceful at yoga), it dawned on me that not once had I questioned whether I was actually going to go to class. Instead, each day I looked at the schedule and planned my day to include the priority.
In business, we set goals and yet we don't always achieve them. When it comes to networking, I see a lot of frustration around this issue. People just can't—or don't—fit the required activities into their overloaded lives. Despite the best intentions to grow one's network, the to-do list takes priority while the volunteer activities and lunch meetings get pushed. Six months later they're no more connected than when the goal was set.
Once you've decided a goal is worth achieving don't question whether or not you should do it. Just make it happen.
Those who work out routinely may wonder, "What's the big deal?" 150 classes, heck, you may have done that twice a year, every year, for decades. While it may be no biggie for you, for me it's a huge accomplishment. While I'll spare you the details, I can assure you this personal challenge wasn't without its difficulties.
Once the decision was made to attend class daily, challenges arose and I had to recognize them, think through and find solutions, and then roll out implementation strategies.
In business, it's easy to perseverate on the obstacles or to ignore trouble that is brewing. Neither works. Tackle snags head on and overcome them.
For some, hot yoga may seem easy, but it is assuredly not easy if you do it properly. The goal is to find ease while exuding strength. A correctly executed posture requires exponentially more effort than just going through the motions. Yoga practice is different for everyone. There is no "perfect" way to do a posture and there is no final pinnacle to reach with your practice. It just keeps moving forward, much like business. There are, however, foundational elements that make a practice stronger. Spending time in an easier version of a posture in order to train your body to keep your hip down or core engaged may look boring, but by attending to those fundamentals, you'll be able to eventually—and then suddenly—pop into the "advanced" posture, just the way you wanted.
In business, the foundational pieces are what separate the masters from the people going out of business—especially in a tough economy. Creating strong foundations and processes for customer service, financial management, and overall business practice may take longer to develop but all of a sudden, you will pop into success.
Just as business ebbs and flows, so does a yoga practice. At about the four-month mark, I started to question my abilities and wondered why I wasn't further along in my skills development. Then it dawned on me: Back then I couldn't do one Chaturanga Dandasana, let alone several in a row; toppling tree was a posture reserved for the very strong; and the mere mention of "pigeon" was an excuse to roll over and have a break. Hot yoga is like anything that grows gradually: We don't recognize progress because we're living it every day.
A few years ago a mentor laughed at me. It was February. Typically December and January aren't hugely busy months for me in the speaking business, so cash flow was tight. I called him to complain about the injustice of big companies taking so long to pay small business owners and how disappointed I was with my company's progress. He had to remind me that the year before I had no accounts receivables, let alone the amount of money that was "in the mail." Since I was struggling in the short term, it was difficult to see the huge advancement from no business the year before to lots of clients that happened to be slow to pay.
There is no reason to watch anyone else's yoga practice aside from knowing which posture to do. As soon as you focus on what others are doing and how they are doing it, your mind wanders away from perfecting your own work to judging theirs. Positively or negatively, the mind contemplates thoughts that are not productive to your end goal. The same is true when people are doing things that annoy you, like talking loudly the moment class is over rather than respecting the quiet state of the studio. It used to drive me crazy—until I let it go, recognizing they may really need to speak after an hour of silence.
In business, the others around you are your competition. Business owners who fixate on what their competition is doing aren't doing enough for themselves. Instead of being jealous of others' success or rolling your eyes at your competition's latest boneheaded move, focus inwardly and be sure your business is in order. Sure you need to know who your competition is and any major moves they make, but beyond that, focusing on them will simply hold you back from growing your own business.
What have these 150 classes taught me? In yoga, and in business, positive outcomes happen thanks to consistent hard work and a little—make that a lot—of sweat rolling down the brow.
Allison Graham is the author of Business Cards to Business Relationships: Personal Branding & Profitable Networking Made Easy! and the force behind ElevateBiz.
For more from Allison, read Hate Small Talk? These 5 Questions Will Help You Work Any Room and Why Prescheduled Tweets Are The Most Horrible Thing In The World—Half The Time. You can also follow her @AllisonDGraham.
[Image: Flickr user Lululemon Athletica]