Yoga has been practiced since the fifth or sixth century BCE and has taken the Western world by storm since the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Walt Baptiste and his wife Magaña are often credited with bringing a modern yoga practice to the United States in the 1940s and 1950s, having opened their first yoga school in San Francisco in 1955. As a dedicated yogi, Walt spent six decades sharing his practice and sadly passed away in 2001 at the age of 84. Walt and Magaña had three children all of whom carry the family yoga tradition, but their son Baron Baptiste is credited with making the practice of Baptiste YogaTM accessible to the public. Baron grew up around many famous teachers, yogis, and holy-men including Sai Baba, Swami Rama, and Muktananda. Baron knew he had to share the practice after teaching his first class on accident; substitute teaching for his father. Baron’s philosophy behind Baptiste YogaTM is a marriage of spiritual psychology and body mechanics.
Baptiste is known for creating an inclusive and powerful practice that has a strong focus on “clear language and strategic technique, making it accessible to everyone regardless of level, age, and experience.” The practice is built upon three pillars:
Asanas refer to yoga postures or positions. Baptiste YogaTM is a highly physical practice, similar to power Vinyasa asanas. Level One training of Baptiste YogaTM, known as Journey Into Power, focuses on a 53-posture sequence.
The remaining two pillars work together in harmony, helping you look deep within to yourself to ask “why?” Why do you move a certain way? Why are you doing what you do in your life? Baptiste YogaTM encourages participants to reflect and inquire upon their actions and invite a meaningful conversation with oneself.
The actual practice of Baptiste YogaTM takes place in a room that is heated to about 90-95 degrees. The heat cleanses and detoxes your body, allowing you to get deeper into postures and look deeper within yourself. The heat creates both a physical challenge and mental challenge as you manage through the discomfort of a heated room and a lot of sweat. While the physical practice of Baptiste YogaTM challenges your movement, it also emphasizes the importance of the breath to guide each asana. As Baron himself said, “The breath is the key to unlocking your body’s potential.” In Baptiste YogaTM, each exhale should expel stale energy in your body and each inhale should invite new energy.
As the Baptiste YogaTM website states:
The Baptiste Yoga™ practice and programs are designed to empower you with the focus, training, and insight you need to achieve consistent results in the most important areas of your life. A potent physical yoga practice, meditation practice and active self-inquiry are used as tools of transformation – encouraging participants to reclaim their full potential, discover creativity, awaken passion, and create authenticity, confidence and new possibilities.
We had the chance to sit down with Scottie Michel Bailey, who is a New Orleans-based Baptiste YogaTM instructor. She has been practicing Baptiste YogaTM since 2013 and was recently certified under Baptiste Power Yoga Levels 1 and 2, as well as Baptiste Power Yoga Art of Assisting.
RM: Why did you want to get trained and certified in Baptiste YogaTM?
SB: Honestly the first yoga class I ever took was a Baptiste class taught by someone who trained directly under Baron. It was an empowering, physical, and inclusive class that was truly serendipitous for me. I always found myself coming back to Baptiste YogaTM because of its playfulness and physical demands. It is not that other styles of yoga are boring, it is that Baptiste YogaTM is not.
RM: What about Baptiste YogaTM is exciting to you?
SB: Baptiste teachers are not afraid to call you out. Not in a bad way, but accountability is important to most Baptiste teachers. For me, it was important to have someone keeping me accountable during my practice because I let myself off the hook too easily. All of my instructors took the time to get know their students before the practice started, so everything felt more personal; they always knew my name. Now, as an instructor, I can see someone’s body, recognize the adjustments they need to make, and make a more encouraging practice for my students.
RM: What makes Baptiste YogaTM unique from traditional Vinyasa yoga?
SB: The three pillars of the practice help you be more “in touch” with it. For me, the theory was much more accessible than other types of yoga. With Baptiste, I was able to take the theories and apply them to my practice immediately. I also love how you are constantly moving in Baptiste YogaTM. If you are not moving and in a static pose, you are focused on your breath and alignment, getting the most out of that pose.
Scottie currently teaches at Free to Be Power Yoga in New Orleans. Be sure to visit the studio if you are ever in the Crescent City!