For a number of years I practiced various types of yoga, from Kundalini to Hatha to Vinyasa. I have practiced on mountaintops around the globe, on beaches at each coast, ashrams, temples, monasteries, and multiple pop-up yoga studios. I remain a disciplined seeker of the joyous outcomes via yogic movement, breath, and pause. All along I thought the only reasons I practiced yoga were for physical, emotional, and spiritual motives. I’ve come to learn that the practice sharpens my business acumen as well.
The evolution of my practice brought me to Bikram Yoga, which is a system of yoga that Bikram Choudhury synthesized from traditional Hatha yoga techniques. Bikram yoga classes run for 90 minutes and consist of the same series of 26 postures, including two breathing exercises. Bikram is practiced in a room heated to 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit), with a humidity of 40 percent. All official Bikram classes are taught by Bikram-certified teachers who have completed nine weeks of training endorsed by Bikram. Bikram-certified teachers are taught a standardized dialogue to run the class. One day in the idle of my practice it hit me that this regiment, repetition, and process “is making me a better business person.”
Five great life and business lessons and reminders of long-held values come out of the Bikram studio and contribute to business and personal improvement:
Repetition: Repetition confirms and intensifies. Time and production equal credibility with oneself and in the marketplace. For me this mantra is reinforced by my Bikram practice, as it increases my self-awareness and physical and mental strength and brings me to a new level of determination and stamina. The structure and consistency is undeniably important to maintain your routine, and Bikram’s class is definitely a precise repetitious sequence. We always follow the same 26 postures and two breathing exercises, which allow me to focus and deepen my practice and understand the how and why of each posture and where I am at and how it impacts me.
Predictability and Innovation: Taking stock of core competencies and building off of them is a key recipe for success. When we enter the studio and follow the teacher, we are collaborating and inviting various Yogis in the room to enter into our practice and we to theirs. In each class we remain open to change in order to be innovative. The old, strong poses continually gain poise while we make room for improving other poses. Oftentimes I can take very complicated business and personal problems to the practice, and by the end of the 90 minutes they have resolved themselves or I have been given specific insights. The surrender to the yoga practice allows me to let go of obstacles in daily life. Then, the intuitive solutions come.
Preparation and Listening: A great lesson for all in our work and missions is to be accountable to the past as it is. While reviewing the past, in parallel, we move forward. Over time it has become one of the greatest gifts to be able to take honest stake of where we stand. Just like a business-taking inventory. Be who you are and where you are at. What is your value proposition? What is the gap between whom you wish to be and where you stand currently in truth as a business? Where do you need improvement? Where can you give more?
In Bikram we use mirrors to not only watch ourselves but to occasionally watch others for direction. We watch, listen, apply, and, in community, we improve and learn. We are not alone, and yet we are all alone. We try new techniques or tweaks and sometimes we literally fall over as a result. We too can rise up after a fall and our companies and institutions can take seeming tragedies and turn them into triumphs. We get better. We bridge the gap of who we think we are and where we are at and improve in our execution.
Recalibrate and Reinvent: It is important in business to recognize that over time we build equity in our various relationships. We will build and carry on as a result of this equity. What we do in the whole body of our work matters. Mistakes are part of the plan and process, and what we do as a result of them is critical and will be guiding lights for the future. Hater’s will see you walk on water and say it’s because you can’t swim. Throw us to the wolves and we Yogis will come back leading the pack. Let our haters (even our own false and untrained selves) be our elevators and resolve that, no matter what, we will work and persevere and be made better and stronger. It comes from staying in the room for the full 90 minutes no matter what. Continuous improvement is our lot – it is our collective DNA as Bikram Yogis. We begin again each class and therefore each day a new, each year and every era and project no matter what. We are reinforcing that each time we enter and make it through the class, we put “blinders” on to the outside world and we come alive in the austere conditions of the four walls of the studio and recalibrate our cognitive capacities.
Outcomes Measured: “To thine own self be true” is an important axiom in life and business. Bikram Yoga helps to reinforce a terrific work ethic and improve both body and the internal force capable of reeducating itself. The energy we share and build in the yoga studio has potential. It is so promising and positive, that often I have consciously decided to formalize my commitment to move initiatives forward outside of the rooms as a result of success in the practice and the mindset and confidence that it creates within.
The “dead body” pose, Savasana, is where I rest and find the energy and willingness to execute. Like actual revenue and outcomes in business quantified and reviewed, we measure how far we have come and where we have yet to go. The full range of motion and the deeper we enter into our practice and the longer we can hold poses demonstrates progress or the lack thereof. Sometime quickly and sometimes slowly the consistency of Bikram provides us a lifelong benchmark to be true to ourselves and allows us the ability to carry this practice in all we do.
The practice and discipline of Bikram yoga provides us a secret weapon to sharpen our focus, get smarter, faster, and deeper and become the Yogi that day to day we are intended to be. Come meet me in the room and share in my secret weapon and leave with English Bulldog Determination and Bengal Tiger Strength not to mention nicer skin, better range of motion and flexibility, reduced stress, improved synapses and cognitive abilities, kinder disposition, deeper focus and clarity, muscle repair, balance, and an overall improved health and quality of life.
Kevin Goodman is the managing director, partner with BlueBridge Networks, a downtown Cleveland-based data-center business. Goodman is a regular Yogi at Bikram Cleveland and counts The Bikram Studios in Columbus, Ohio, and Boston as “home away from home” favorite studios when traveling for work. BlueBridge Networks delivers best-in-class datacenter services, including virtualization, cloud computing, disaster recovery, and managed storage. In the past 12 months, BlueBridge and Goodman have earned “Smart Business” magazine’s Smart 50 award, “Inside Business” magazine’s Cool Tech award, Medical Mutual’s Kent Clapp CEO Leadership award, and a NEOSA Best of Tech finalist award. Goodman can be reached at (216) 367-7580, [email protected] or www.bluebridgenetworks.com