What Is Baptiste Yoga And Why Should I Care?

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Baptiste yoga is named after its founder Baron Baptiste. He was born into a family of yogis. His father; Walt Baptiste was a world famous body builder and Mr. America and his mother; Magana Baptiste were the co-founders of the first ever yoga studio in San Francisco, CA in 1955.

Today's Baptiste yoga is practiced in a heated room (90F) and is an alignment based (born from Baron's studies Krishnamacharya; the father of Ashtanga yoga), power vinyasa yoga practice.

Commonly the sequences of poses varies from class, but a Baptiste class will align closely with the sequences laid out in the Journey Into Power flow designed by Baron Baptiste. Music isn't often used during a Baptiste class (but it can be) since there is an emphasis on slow, steady breath. It is a magical thing to lead a class of yogis breathing ujjayi breath in unison. The sound of breath is more powerful than any song that could be played..

Baptiste yoga classes are not described in terms of beginner or advanced, the Baptiste flow can be practiced by any and all yogis. Blocks, straps and blankets are all props which can be used in the Journey Into Power sequence.

A Baptiste yoga teacher does not practice from their mat while they are leading the yoga class. They will hold space for all the yogis in the room while looking, listening and giving tools to the yogis on their mats in order to expand the students' practice. This may mean giving a hands on assist to square the hips or to deepen a half pigeon pose, or it could mean additional verbal cues to enhance a yogi's alignment without a physical assist. It also means watching the flow unfolding and teaching to the who is present; offering modifications or offering enhancements depending on the yogis in the studio at the moment. A Baptiste teacher will move continually through the room guiding the yogis from one pose to another, encouraging them to try something new, shift their gaze, approach the flow as a beginner where anything is possible.

Often Baptiste studios will supply cool lavender towels to the yogis at the end of class. Once all the students have settled in to their final pose (savasana), the yoga teacher will place a cool lavender towel on each yogi's forehead as the closing sign of the rebirth and renewal of savasana. The towel cools the yogi's forehead, blocks any ambient light from their eyes and provides the relaxing scent of lavender. From my perspective, the experience of receiving this gift transforms a challenging yoga class into an experience of gratitude, loving care and empowerment.

It has been my experience that yoga teachers trained in the Baptiste style are encouraging, uplifting, positive, energetic, grounded, attentive and aware (just to list a few adjectives!). They are tuned in to your practice, encouraging you to try new things, be up to something bigger than yourself. This style of teaching can be a powerful experience for a student (I know it was for me!).

I moved to Tampa (two years ago this April) with the full realization that there was not a Baptiste yoga studio anywhere in Tampa. I looked upon this situation as an opportunity and decide to enroll in yoga teacher at Jai Dee training fifteen days after I'd arrived in Tampa. I have a burning desire to give back to the world what I have received from a Baptiste yoga practice. When I graduated from YTT training, I was teaching from the mat. This left me at a disadvantage because I could not interact with any of the students or see how they were moving through the asana sequence. When I came back from Baptiste Level One training, I had developed the skills needed to teach off the mat, but was not yet confident to perform hands on assists. After I took part in the Art of Assisting weekend intensive at Hot Spot Power Yoga in Jacksonville, I came back to Tampa ready to impart my knowledge of hands on assists.

The journey towards Baptiste certification is a long one. The prerequisites for achieving a Tier One 200 hour certification are:

  • LEVEL ONE: Journey Into Power (96 hours)
  • LEVEL TWO: The Sannyasin’s Journey (112 hours)
  • Art of Assisting (50 hours)
  • A Letter of Recommendation to apply for Tier 1 Certification
  • Proof of 1 year or 100 classes teaching the Journey Into Power sequence prior to applying for Tier 1 Certification
  • Proof of 1 year or 100 classes practicing the Journey Into Power sequence prior to applying for Tier 1 Certification

As I chart my progress towards certification, I see each class I teach as an opportunity to develop the skill of looking, listening and giving tools based on who is in the class at that moment. I am registered to attend Level Two training this July, and if all goes according to plan - I will be applying for certification at the end of August 2017. I began my journey the first day I stepped onto my mat and that was a mere five years ago. My yoga anniversary is June 9th, 2012. I took my very first class at Breath and Body Yoga in Austin Texas, with Desirae teaching that day and I've never looked back.