Hello World. I'm Ankita.

Technology, Innovation, Impact. Humor on the side.

Business Lessons From Bikram Yoga

Take regular hatha yoga, crank up the heat to 105°F with 40% humidity and you essentially get the basis for Bikram Yoga. While I had never been much of one for yoga, when I stumbled upon the 10-day challenge offered by a local studio I decided to give it a shot. Nay, I full-on committed to myself that I would go. 10 consecutive days, 90-minute classes, 26 postures – how bad could it be?  As it turns out… very bad. But I disregarded all that (after all, if I was going to do a challenge I wanted it to be the most challenging version of it possible).

The first day I nearly passed out from the heat halfway through class. The second day, I came better hydrated and fully expected to buckle-up and live through the misery. I began to improve day after day, which I suppose was to be expected. However, what I hadn’t expected was leaving the 10th and final day of the challenge realizing that my experience in yoga could also translate to a few key business lessons.

#1 – Forget the Don’t focus on the competition.

I quickly learned that I had a focus problem. My eyes kept wandering and looking at the people in the studio alongside me who were somehow transforming themselves into human pretzels so naturally (positions I couldn’t get my body to contort to as gracefully). I later realized that if I were to actually focus on my positioning in the mirror I could stretch/contort more, and whenever my mind wandered I wobbled more.

Too often during my time in consulting (and also newly in startup-land), I’ve noticed people getting fixated with one-upping the competition. While there’s something to be said about market research and understanding the competitive landscape, is it really worth the excessive time and efforts spent in continuously evaluating what competitors are doing? In the end, the only thing you have control over is your own territory, your own strategy, your own products. Be fantastic at what you do/sell and you’ll be able to differentiate from your competition naturally. 

#2 – Set goals, but bounce back from setbacks to unrealistic goals. 

Before I ever stepped into the studio Day 1 of the challenge, I had made-up my mind I was going to complete the full 10 days. During the first class, I could barely perform half the positions – and none particularly well. I was hugely embarrassed during the class and greatly disappointed in myself and my abilities. Later in the locker room, I overheard one of the seemingly star students mention how she’d struggled to even stay in the room her entire first month of classes. Hearing that was strangely comforting. It made me realize that I was perhaps jumping the gun. Perfection takes time!

I’ve met a few startup founders who (I believe) had great ideas but suffered from commitment and/or failure issues. The fact of the matter is that most small businesses do fail. While I wholeheartedly believe in failing fast, and learning from those failures – the decision whether or not to shut-down a project – needs to be a well thought-out one…not just that another idea or another direction comes to mind. 

#3 – Adapt to the environment.

Yoga is hard. Bikram Yoga is even harder. There you are, doing standard yoga positions, but you’re stuck in Inferno-like conditions with absolutely no control of the physical environment around you. The environment — as you get drenched in your own sweat several minutes in — is far from comfortable. You can complain about it, but that won’t change the Inferno. Your only choice is to walk-out (into the cool, refreshing A/C but forgoing the workout) or stay in the room.

You can’t control the customer, the market, the legislation, etc. And, while being able to manipulate the environment and to make key business choices with 20/20 foresight and hindsight, your only choice is whether you want to stay in the game or close shop. So, make your move. Instead of spending loads of money trying to change the circumstances – try to adapt to the environment you can’t control. 

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This entry was posted on May 28, 2014 by in Business, Health and tagged , , , , , , .
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