Baron Baptiste Power Vinyasa Yoga

by admin on July 30, 2013

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Baron Baptiste Power Vinyasa Yoga


Roiling just beneath its incense-laden surface, there is a revolution unfolding in the world of hatha yoga. It is a quintessential battle between yoga traditionalists and the popular new hybrids that are redefining the yogic landscape. At the vanguard of this new order stands Baron Baptiste, developer of the Baptiste Power Vinyasa Yoga—a style adapted from the Bikram and Ashtanga traditions, classifying it as both “hot” (performed at 90 degrees Fahrenheit or more) and rigorous.

Trained by some of yoga’s elite since childhood, Baptiste is the 40-year-old progeny of two of the US’s first yoga teachers. His unique contribution has been to make yoga accessible to a wide cross-section of American culture, having even trained players of the NFL. Ironically, it is also what has put him squarely at the center of this controversy — a place he embraces.

In this interview with me for Enlightened Practice, Baron Baptiste spoke frankly about his yoga, the ongoing controversy, and his journey as a yoga teacher.


SMS: You started out by practicing some traditional forms of yoga. What did you observe in your own practice that helped you develop Baptiste Power Vinyasa Yoga?

BB: I think that as yoga becomes more alive and authentic to a person, it takes on a creative form. That form is very often subject to the principle of that application, where you begin to adapt to your needs and also go beyond needs to what is—energetically.

The body is a lot like the mind in that it has moods. In learning to adapt to the different moods of the body, and the different energies of the body, and certainly the emotional and the spiritual energy that comes through, it takes on a creative quality, so you naturally evolve the practice.

I use the word naturally very purposefully, because it is natural when one begins to tap an authentic practice. It becomes more enlightened, if you like—it evolves; it changes form. That’s essentially how I’ve developed and evolved my Vinyasa style of power yoga.


SMS: Baptiste Power Vinyasa Yoga is very successful now, but did you get much criticism from the yoga establishment when you broke with tradition and developed your own style?

BB: Yeah. Definitely. It’s funny to me because now I see a lot of the people who, say even 10 years ago, were rolling their eyes at me, or essentially pouring salt on my name or my work because it was breaking away from tradition, and making yoga mainstream. Back in the late 80s and early 90s, I was basically saying the same things that I’m saying now—and that’s to adapt yoga to America’s lifestyle. Now, you see a lot of those same people on the bandwagon, talking about mainstreaming yoga, and making it more accessible.

There’s definitely a tug of war going on between the traditionalists and those who have stepped out of that. A lot of people want to keep a foot through both doors—they want to keep one foot in tradition and one foot in trying to be adapted. I think there’s a lot of confusion around now because of this. I don’t have any confusion because I fully own that I don’t want to be a part of tradition, never have. There’s no confusion with me, but I see it in the yoga industry, because there are a lot of people trying to play both fields.

baron baptiste power vinyasa yoga

SMS: The themes of your books focus on personal transformation. How does Baptiste Power Vinyasa Yoga accomplish this, and how is it different from other yoga disciplines?

BB: I think yoga, when practiced in a pure form, meaning that it’s adapted to the person and also challenges the status quo of the person, has a transformational quality. So it doesn’t have to be my style of yoga per se. It’s not that I have something that no one else has—I don’t claim that. But I do say that yoga needs to challenge the status quo, and I think it has to go beyond just stress management. It needs to be part of a process of inquiry. I feel that inquiry takes place within one’s practice—on your yoga mat, on your meditation cushion, and in your everyday interactions, behavior, and way of being.

You’re essentially in a process of inquiry, when you’re just not okay with the way things are. As a yogi, you come to a path of discomfort, but you make peace with the discomfort. You always look to being more authentic and less fearful, less angry, less stressed, less greedy, less jealous—all of these things—and come to an alignment of more truth and peace. The form is not so important as it is to come to a path that is challenging to the status quo of life.


SMS: There is a strong focus on athleticism in Baptiste Power Yoga. What role does meditation play?

BB: In my book, I put meditation at the epicenter. I guess “power yoga” is a tricky term because it’s like the word karate or something. It has so many different meanings and variations, and it’s different things to different people. There is a strong focus on athleticism. But I think I have kind of a unique program—different than anyone else calling it “power yoga.” That’s why I put Baptiste in front of it—and it’s not just power yoga, it’s power Vinyasa.

The athleticism, if you read 40 Days to Personal Revolution, is the way to cleanse your body and keep your body strong. As Socrates said, “A strong body obeys, and a weak body commands.” We soak up the pressures and tensions of life, and we hold them in our bodies. It’s very important that we learn how to move energy through our system, learn how to detoxify, and shine light into the darker corners of our bodies and minds. An athletic, heat-based, yoga practice is very detoxifying, very cleansing, and it’s also very strengthening. It is fitness, there’s no question. But it’s a very developed, thought out, purposeful form of fitness. But even if you were to do all the yoga poses, I don’t think it’s enough. That’s where meditation comes in, but meditation by itself isn’t enough either.

Meditation and asanas are tools for transformation—as kind of a way to the way. There must be a philosophical foundation. When we practice from a philosophical foundation and the right intention, then meditation takes on meaning. There are a zillion forms of meditation as well, and all very different—like diets. There’s the Atkins diet, the Beverly Hills diet, the Zone diet; so many diets that contradict themselves. In the world of meditation, so many meditations contradict themselves. One has to get clear about “what is the underlying intention here for me personally, so I’m not just spitting in the wind?” There has to be a philosophical foundation that is clear. A lot of times we jump into yoga practice or meditation, and it’s great—we feel so much better. But at a certain point, it can stop working if there’s not an underlying, clear foundation, intention, and philosophy.


SMS: Can you talk about your Boot Camps and what are the dietary parameters?

BB: My first book, Journey Into Power is based on the Boot Camp experience. The Boot Camps last 7 or 8 days and there is a dietary component. You’re essentially put on an eating program that is cleaner. We start by taking out dairy, meat, and cigarettes. We take out caffeine, white flour, white sugar. Processed foods are removed from the diet in general. Then, we wean people into a plan, which, initially, is fruit based. It depends. There’s also avocado, tomatoes, miso, and broths that are mineral based. So, it’s kind of mineral and fruit based – just for 3 days. The whole idea is to give the system a rest. Sometimes there are special dietary issues around eating fruit, or whatever. We will work with that.

There’s such a breakthrough from a dietary level for most people. Usually, the psychological and emotional breakthroughs that people have around food at our Boot Camps are very significant. They really start to see that the mental belief systems around how they eat are pretty extreme. On a mental level they realize they don’t need as much as they think. We don’t need to be hypercritical about what we eat, but there are certain guidelines and principles that, if followed, work really well for most people.


SMS: What is your personal practice typically like?

BB: Typically, I meditate every morning from 20 to 40 minutes, 7 days a week. Then, I’ll get in some yoga asana practice. It really depends on my schedule. Because I have a busy life—I’m the father of three kids, I’m traveling a lot, I’m running different aspects of my business, teaching—my practice adapts to what I can do in a given day. About 3 or 4 days a week, I practice in the morning for 90 minutes. The other days, I do a little yoga in the morning—about 20 minutes. Then, in the afternoon, I’ll do another 20 to 30 minutes. I also try to do another meditation in the afternoon. Probably 4 or 5 afternoons a week, I’ll do a second 15 or 20-minute meditation.


SMS: You have three sons. Do any of them practice yoga?

BB: They practice yoga. As kids, it’s more of a natural unfolding. There’s no real discipline around how they practice. I don’t force it on them, or anything like that. Their mom and I are both yoga teachers, so they’ve grown up around it. They have fun with it—at different points in time they’ve been in kid’s yoga programs. They have been around both parents’ teachings and classrooms, and the older boys have shadowed me in class. They have it in their nervous systems so, when they’re in the mood, if someone asks them to show a yoga pose, they can pull a lot out of their pocket. They know it, but it’s pretty much a natural technique.

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