It's a special kind of magic that happens when more than 6,000 fitness professionals come together to celebrate three decades of top-notch education in the industry they love. IDEA Health & Fitness Association is turning 30, and the 2012 World Fitness Convention in San Diego is a party that has flung its arms wide open to welcome attendees from every continent, every age group, every demographic. Here, these warm, passionate human beings--each following their unique path--blend and merge into the pulsing life of the crowd. What makes it so exciting? It's the beat, it's the smiles, it's the spiraling laughter; it's the crank, the pump, the sweat, the grit; it's the sheer delight as friends of 25 years glimpse each other across a hall and run to drink in a good long bottomless hug--so glad you're here (so glad!).
It's everything that attendees learn. Teachers they can trust to give them knowledge they can use. Sweet presenters like Lawrence (Tai Chi Master) Biscontini, who make it look easy and remember the poetry of it all ("In tai chi, we call this 'Carry the lantern of fireflies to illuminate the heart'"). Hard-driving workouts that leave fit, gleaming bodies spent in the best way. It's knowing that year after year, innovative minds have devised ingenious ways to challenge strength, balance, endurance, proprioception. For instance, it was fun this morning to see the new STOTT PILATES® Tower Trainer in action. (You know that it's really new when both Moira and Lindsay Merrithew drop in to see how the session is going!) Moira told me the "multipurpose, multiplanar" Tower offers you a crossover workout between traditional core fitness, athletic performance training and Pilates. It has a stability barre and you can also do suspension work on it. My favorite bits were the "warm fuzzies" (you'll need to find out for yourselves).
When I sat down to write this, I'd just come from the Opening Ceremonies, where Jane Fonda received the IDEA Jack LaLanne Award. "We're not just dealing with people's bodies," she reminded everyone. "We're dealing with their whole psyches." And science is really showing that now, isn't it? When we stay active, our brains work better, our spirits are lighter, we simply feel better in every way. And one thing is sure, if this convention is anything to go by: we know how to enjoy a great party!!
If you've never been to Inner IDEA, it will be hard for you to envisage how holistic the programming is, both as a whole and within discrete sessions. Imagine beginning your day outside with a series of sun salutations by the waterfall or inside with a seamless blend of tai chi, qigong and yoga, taught by a master. After breakfast you spend 2 hours becoming intimately aware of your psoas, or you discover how a transfusion of sound and light and visual beauty and even taste can turn your Pilates reformer classes into a feast for the senses. You catch up on the latest nutrition science or attend a fast-paced lecture on brain health, punctuated by mini cardiovascular workouts for immediate embodiment of the lesson. You watch intrigued as a presenter uses something you've never heard of, called Neuro-Emotional Technique (involving muscle testing, dialogue, meridians and chiropractic adjustments), to tease out old emotional wounds locked in the body.
And it's not even lunchtime.
On Thursday the conference began by sowing seeds of connection, community, intention, presence--and by now those seeds are producing tender green shoots. Friendships are forming, delegates are finding new strength of purpose, minds are settling down a bit. At lunch there is a chance to listen to each other's stories, exchange hugs and reflect quietly on gratitude: a welcome pause in the middle of a day brimming with stimulation and discovery.
A welcome pause, also, for bodies that have worked hard. Easy, perhaps, to think of Inner IDEA purely as a place of sanctuary--and of course it is that, with its peaceful meditation sessions, its chimes and candlelight. Make no mistake, though: this gathering is as much about energizing the body as it is about quieting the mind and honoring the spirit. When you're in your third or fourth yoga session of the day, and you're asked for one more downward-dog with your best form, you have to dig deep--and attendees do! As they vie to maintain equilibrium on the BOSU Balance Trainer after two Pilates workshops using new apparatus, they're honing their concentration but also waking up muscles they'd forgotten they had. And that's what this event is all about--waking up the whole being.
As delegates begin to head home, I imagine them filled with countless experiences. Overflowing with excitement as they consider all that they've learned--and eager to continue with this discipline or take up that one. That's wonderful. I feel the same way. I'll just remind myself that now the real work begins: as Mark Allen said, "What is it that I get to do thousands of times that puts me one step closer to what I want?" Not "have" to do, but "get" to do. I wish us all a happy marriage of discipline and aspiration.
"When our minds are quiet, that's when transformation can take place."
As I sit here in the cool tranquility of my casita at the 5th Annual Inner IDEA Conference, sights and sounds from the past 24 hours are bubbling up in my mind like a spring. When 450 mind-body fitness and wellness professionals come together with their collective aspiration to live more integrated, more open lives, exciting things happen.
In fact, as we learned last night, just two people coming together with that commitment can bring about big shifts. Shaman Brant Secunda and six-time Ironman winner Mark Allen are about as different as they could be in physique, personality and style, but what Mark learned from Brant about quieting the mind and drawing nourishment directly from nature empowered him to accomplish what until then had been out of his reach. Over and over, Mark was a runner-up--and he knew just what he was up against in his nemesis, Dave Scott: "If I was going to win the Ironman, I was going to need to beat a man who was willing to rinse his cottage cheese." Not something Mark was willing to do. Instead he learned from Brant how to change his attitude, to avoid being ensnared by sabotaging thoughts, to be inspired by Dave instead of in conflict with him--and to be less concerned with winning than with running his best race.
Here at La Quinta, addressing the Inner IDEA community, Brant drummed and sang, and said, "From the heart there is a doorway--that each of us has--that connects us with all of life. . . . With every step, feel the love of Mother Earth coming up from the earth. This empowers your body--it gives you physical strength (it's not just a metaphor). . . . Connect with the sunset, with the sunrise, with midnight, with the winged ones, with birds and flowers and plants, with Mother Earth." Afterward, as we spilled out into the warm desert night, the harvest moon--barely a day old--hung like a beacon in the evening sky, a symbol of wholeness, offering us all a chance for connection.
Today, I've been on the move, catching glimpses of many sessions, from Susanna Moore's lovely morning experience, "The Healing Power of Sound," with quartz crystal and Tibetan gongs, to Michael King's "Spirals," with its fun, expansive movements, to Mehrad Nazari's "Spirit of Hatha Yoga," in which this wise man reminded everyone how tricky the mind can be: how it will attempt to talk you out of your commitment to a path. "Stay in the center," he advised. Just knowing what the mind is capable of will help. And what about when you need inspiration or encouragement? "Don't do affirmations in front of a mirror. Go out and look at the stars. You are that."
Talking of inspiration, this year the Inner IDEA Inspiration Award recipient is Lawrence Biscontini, who has been delighting IDEA conference delegates for years with his creativity, humor, warmth and skill. Lawrence has so much heart. Accepting his award, he thanked a long list of staff members by name, bowed to his fellow presenters ("You all teach me how to conjugate the word love") and then shared a few pithy teachings of his own: "Cultivate your spirit. Think of words from gardening-- till, organize, make organic, fertilize. . . . Fear is nothing but frozen joy. . . . You can't see yourself reflected in running water, so cultivate stillness. . . . And learn TRUST: 'Tomorrow's results ultimately start today.'"