I remember my first pair of Lululemon Athletica yoga pants. They were hand-me-downs from my husband. I brought them on a yoga and meditation retreat at an ashram in the Bahamas that I attended in 2015 because everything in my life felt out of control and I needed to make sense of it all. (Truth is, I also wanted a tan.)
I went deep into Zen mode for six days and found a stillness inside myself I’d never known before. By day 3, the thought crossed my mind that maybe I was being called to live here. By day 5, the idea of living in a tent on the beach at an ashram and waking up at 4:30 to meditate and chant for an hour followed by two hours of yoga felt unsustainable. I wanted the clarity and serenity I felt in the long periods of silence and yoga flow, but I wanted to be able to access it at home in New York City drinking coffee among the cranky city dwellers.
It’s four years later, and everything has changed since that trip. I abandoned the greatest city in the world for the Twin Cities after my husband got a new job. I’ve made meditation and yoga top priorities in my life. I’ve attended many workshops and lectures to broaden my understanding of mindfulness and to deepen my personal faith. I started writing more about self-care and giving motivational speeches about mindfulness. I now teach workshops to groups and businesses on how to get centered in less than a minute. I cracked the code on how to have some serenity in any moment, not just on a yoga mat in the Bahamas.
Last year, a friend of mine who works for Lululemon asked me if I’d like to test out a new jacket and feature it on my Instagram. I still have the hand-me-down yoga pants, so I know that the brand’s apparel is made to last forever. After I found the jacket that would be mine, I looked in the mirror and wondered where to take a pic to represent the essence of the brand. Then the salesperson asked me if I’d seen the meditation space. She guided me to this area with comfy chairs and iPads with headphones. It was so refreshing and unexpected. This is where I wanted to be.
She explained that it’s a respite for weary shoppers, but in reality, it’s kids who are drawn to the iPads. Young children put on the headphones, tap on the screen and are tricked into meditation — and they love it. So much so that I saw a 7-year-old drag his dad to the iPad saying, “Dad, you have to try this.” It’s equivalent to point-of-purchase sales by the register because people are drawn to something they didn’t think they needed.
I sat there, participated in a meditation and had my friend take a picture of me doing it. This was so my speed. Sure, I wanted to write about the jacket, but I really wanted to tell the story of Lululemon and celebrate the fact that a retail store has an active meditation space. I came for the clothes, I stayed for the meditation.
At the time, I had just begun teaching my own mindset and meditation workshops, and I was so intrigued by Lululemon’s philosophy. There was something about my time in that store that resonated with me, and I walked out thinking, I want to teach workshops here one day.
Exactly one year later, I got word that Lululemon was opening a new shop in Mall of America. It’s a 19,700-square-foot experiential store and the company’s second biggest space after the Chicago location. I find it both exciting and impressive that the Twin Cities gets to host such an amazing hub for the community in one of the world’s largest malls. I asked Maureen Erickson, Lululemon’s vice president of experiential retail, why they chose to launch their second experiential store in the world here. “We’ve been in the Twin Cities for 10 years and have grown from a small store to one of our biggest stores in our entire fleet at Mall of America,” she told me. “It really has come full circle.”
When I asked how the company vets a city for a store this size, she explained it’s not just throwing a dart on a map: “We are an experiential brand. We solicit a ton of feedback from our local ambassadors, asking them what they would look for in our spaces, what their yoga/strength/HIIT clients look for and how we can merge all those worlds. We’ve tested our experiential concept in larger and smaller formats in New York City, Chicago and Toronto, and learned that our guests want a space where they can sweat, grow and connect. This creates new opportunities for Lululemon to connect with guests, through studios, meditation spaces, and food and beverage fuel spaces, and really create a communal hub. It’s an exciting lens into the future of retail.”
I do believe it’s the future of retail, because it’s active, not passive. I went to check out the new store, and I’m happy to report that the gear options are endless. Plus Lululemon offers a gear trial program so you can put a product through its paces before you buy or if you forget workout clothes, you can still work out. The fuel bar has treats like sweet potato muffins, which you can wash down with fresh kale smoothies. There’s the sweat space where multiple daily classes are led by local ambassadors as well as a grow room that’s open to the public for people to just chill in. Both of these spaces will also be used for workshops, seminars and community-enrichment events that aim to bring people together.
I’m pleased to say that one year after I said I wanted to teach workshops at Lululemon, I’m on the roster to teach my Merry Mindset Workshop on Tuesday, December 17, and that it happened very organically. My friend Liz Krueger was interviewing for the job of Lululemon’s experiential curator, and I taught her my favorite visualization meditation to add some high-vibe energy to her interview. She said it was the most amazing interview she’s ever had, and she got the job. I’m not discounting that she’s perfect for the job she landed, but with the meditation, she said she felt confident throughout the entire meeting. I asked the person who hired her if she felt good energy during the interview, and she confirmed it.
I asked Erickson if she felt the large-scale mall would be a barrier to entry for guests, and it turns out the attraction point is much stronger than the crowds one might have to overcome. “The magic is our people,” she told me. “We have a network of 32 ambassadors at Mall of America who are local doers and community leaders, and they challenge us to sweat daily, to connect with more meaning and to grow without fearing failure.”
I believe my journey to this opportunity began on that yoga mat in the Bahamas in those Lululemon yoga pants. I wanted to find a way to tap into a sense of Zen even in the middle of chaos, and that’s exactly what I teach in my workshops. Lululemon is a destination to feel good about yourself and a brand that cares about the human, not the consumer. We don’t all have time to go on a retreat, but we can go to a place that is a retreat from the rest of the world. The new Lululemon experiential store at Mall of America is exactly that.