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The third annual Lead with Love conference is pivoting from a yoga-focused summit to one that zeroes in on workplace wellness. —Image courtesy of Lead with Love

How a Yoga Summit Turned Into a Workplace Wellness Conference

Gina Murdock, founder of Lead With Love, says this year's summit (happening later this month in Aspen) will focus on how to implement a holistic, heart-centered approach to wellness in the workplace.

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Gina Murdock is the kind of person who knows Deepak Chopra. No, scratch that—she’s the kind of person who, when Deepak Chopra visits Aspen for one of his many events in the celebrity-encrusted city, she invites him to stay at her house, and he does. At one point, he even looks out Murdock’s window at Aspen glittering below and remarks in his lyrical voice, “This is a city of well-being. This is Shangri-La” (referencing the utopian paradise that serves as the setting for James Hilton’s novel Lost Horizon). It’s the kind of scene that feels like it would probably happen in a movie—this great guru proclaiming his surroundings as the land of milk and honey and his youthful followers then falling in around him to prove that, once again, his innate wisdom rings true.

Except it didn’t this time. In fact, Murdock founded the Aspen Yoga Society, which morphed into Aspen City of Wellbeing, which then changed its name to Lead With Love, because she felt like Aspen wasn’t the Shangri-La she expected it to be. Instead of hiking in the Maroon Bells or swooping down Aspen Mountain every weekend, she’d been working three different resort jobs in order to pay her bills—and didn’t have the time or energy to engage in the glamorous wellness culture that surrounded her. As Murdock became more immersed in the yoga and meditation world, however, she felt she’d stumbled along what could be affordable tools to help combat stress levels and began working with Aspen businesses to incorporate these basic wellness practices into the workplace.

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The big breakthrough came in 2016, when Murdock held a public yoga summit called Lead with Love in honor of her 40th birthday. She invited well-known yogis who she’d worked with over the years, including Rod Stryker, to lead yoga classes and party with her and the community. “What happened there was remarkable,” Murdock says. “Sometimes you don’t know what you created.”

The reaction was so positive that Murdock decided to hold an even larger version of the event the following year, complete with several sessions led by Chopra and an e-track that featured executives and entrepreneurs discussing how health and wellness principles could intersect with sound business practices. It attracted hundreds of attendees.

Which brings us to present day, about a month out from Murdock’s third Lead with Love conference in Aspen. For this year’s summit, she’s decided to return to her roots and focus primarily on workplace wellness. “There’s a lot of curiosity around how to do business better and pairing business and well-being,” Murdock says. “It’s definitely struck a nerve as far as people being interested in this conversation.”

The yoga sessions aren’t going away; in fact, Lead with Love kicks off on the night of October 24 with full moon yoga, and a two-day kids’ yoga camp will be available for the first time. But Murdock has cut the yoga offerings in half to leave more time for talks by established business stars such as Whole Foods Market CEO John Mackey—who literally wrote the book on conscious capitalism—as well as local up-and-comers like Gina Stryker, who runs a soup company out of Carbondale and partners with FedEx to train drivers on spotting signs of human trafficking. “I’m the kind of person who can’t sit through a business conference, but a yoga festival’s not deep enough for me—it’s too much of a party,” Murdock says. “I’m dedicated to seeing if there’s a way to balance those two things.”

Ticket prices for the Lead with Love conference vary widely, but one-day passes start at $300. Murdock hopes that money will eventually pay for the original arm of her business, which involves teaching Roaring Fork Valley workers about movement, meditation, breathing, and nutrition plus offering on-site therapeutic services such as acupuncture. It’s not an economic driver yet, but it’s getting there; Lead with Love ran a retreat in Bali earlier this year and is heading to Costa Rica in December and France in 2019. As Murdock says, she doesn’t have the answers, but she knows the people who might.

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Lead With Love has a lineup of 60 presenters for its third conference, happening October 25 through October 28 in Aspen; find tickets here.

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