Last fall, I was commissioned to write this piece for a mainstream women's mag website. I was paid in full for the story but it never ran, and now both commissioning editors no longer work at the media outlet, so I thought I'd publish it here.
Hed: How a 48-Hour Lululemon Immersion Made Me a Better Person, Sorta.
Over the course of this year, Lululemon has quietly launched a series of Immersions—invitation-only all-expenses-paid multi-day yoga and personal development workshops where the brand convenes a hand-picked group of influencers, athletes, corporate execs, and thought leaders in far flung locations spanning Austin, Texas; Java, Indonesia; and Moganshan National Park, located about 120 miles outside Shanghai. There hasn't been any real press on these retreats, so, to be honest, I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I RSVPed "yes" to October's Immersion in Whistler (seriously, no one would tell me anything about the trip ahead of time) but I had a gut feeling that this vague and mysterious retreat would be good—or at least really weird—and that I'd definitely have something to say about it in the end.
Besides being a casual shopper and just barely following the yoga pant scandal a few years back, I had very little a priori knowledge about Lululemon. One thing I am aware of is the company's reputation for having a very specific corporate culture—"Our core values are personal responsibility, entrepreneurship, honesty, courage, connection and fun, so we attract and recruit people who share those same values," Director of Global Community Christa Hull tells me. So yes, whatever stories and mythology you may have heard about the warm, fuzzy feelings and deep devotion Lululemon inspires in its employees and community at large, well, I'm here to tell you that they're all true—and it's by design.
"At Lululemon, we prioritize our employees feeling connected to themselves and the people around them," Director of Leadership Development Susan Karda says. "Part of what we try to do is create more meaningful human connection, self-awareness, and leadership within our employees. We receive such positive feedback around our immersive experiences and summits internally that we realize it’s something that’s extremely unique to the brand."
I'd heard a lot about Lululemon brand culture—and couldn't resist the opportunity to experience it for myself—so late last month I threw all the athleisure-wear I own into a suitcase and headed up to Whistler, where over the course of 48 hours, I'm pretty sure something good happened to my insides that I still can't quite explain.