If you told me a couple years ago when I really and truly dove deep into my yoga practice that I would be writing a blog post about why I practice Baptiste Yoga, I would have told you that you had the wrong gal.
Let me provide some back story here. I moved to Austin in the Fall of 2012 to pursue my career as a Holistic Health Coach and be immersed in the wellness scene of Austin, Texas. I had been a marathon runner when I lived in San Diego and had a short stint as a gym rat around that time too. Late nights at 24 Hour Fitness, hours of running on the beach after work, early morning boot camps, you get the idea. I had done yoga on and off for a while when I was in college at Penn State but was more interested in frat parties and brunch than my practice.
So here I was in Austin, 26 years old and ready to live this life of holistic health full on. I figured that if I really wanted to embody the vision of health I saw portrayed on Instagram and my Facebook feed, that would mean fitting yoga into the picture somewhere. I kid you not that I explored the Austin yoga scene top to bottom looking for the yoga community that felt right. There were the trendy kids at Black Swan, the spiritual yogis at Yoga Yoga, the beautiful people of Wanderlust, the acrobats of the acro-yoga community, and the list goes on and on. Stepping into the yoga scene in Austin is like choosing what clubs you want to join at school. They all have a very different vibe and provide a different experience physically, emotionally, and spiritually. So a year later when I came across a class that moved me, inspired me, pushed me, and expanded my view of what yoga could do for my body and life, I was intrigued.
The power and grounded energy she brought to the class was a new yoga experience for me and it ignited a fire. I continued to step into my practice in a deeper way and found classes I loved throughout town but was still lacking that community that comes from finding and immersing oneself in a studio or specific methodology within the great and diverse 5,000 year old lineage of yoga.
A new awakening happened for me a year later when I was living in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica. When I left Austin to spend 3 months in Montana and then 3 months in Costa Rica, my practice nearly dissipated. I was living up in my head and fully disconnected from the pulse of energy and life in my physical body. In Puerto Viejo there was a sweet and beautiful studio called Om Yoga that was perched up high on a big wooden platform that overlooked the ocean. On a day of desperation where all I felt like doing was running away from everything I didn’t want to deal with or look at, I somehow cultivated the courage to go within instead. I showed up for my first yoga class after nearly a month of living in Costa Rica and even more months of not doing any yoga at all.
During that first class (taught by my friend Camille, a talented yogi & travel blogger at This American Girl) I felt my body shift. With each pose my body lengthened, my heart expanded, my mind quieted, my energy increased, and peace surrounded me.
I felt myself in tears several times throughout the class as I had a physical release of all the crap living in my mind. On that day, I decided to go to Yoga Teacher Training.
I did my first training several months later in an immersion program in Asheville, North Carolina at the Asheville Yoga Center. I documented my experience here, So You Want To Be A Yoga Teacher & 15 Things I Wish I Knew About Yoga.
I came back to Austin in early 2015 like a racehorse ready to break through the stable to get onto the track. I had this deep passion and desire to teach, share yoga, be a leader and of service to my community, but I realized I actually still didn’t know how to TEACH yoga. I knew that I loved to practice. I knew that I wanted to share that yoga was so much more than just physical postures and that it was a way of being and moving through life, and that I wanted to share how it had so powerfully touched and transformed my life by providing a safe space for inner exploration, but I didn’t know how.
In comes Baptiste Yoga. Other than that one class I had taken at Wanderlust Yoga with Leah, I didn’t have any experience with power vinyasa yoga. And quite honestly it was because what I wanted to share was way more about the truths, the insights, and the transformation that is available through a committed yoga practice than how to get a hot and sexy body through intense physical practice. I always associated a level of vanity along with any form of hot or power yoga and I wanted my practice to be about spiritual connection first and foremost.
But one day while working with Leah on our upcoming book, Your Vibrant Life: How to Eat, Think, and Live in a Stressed-Out World, she said something that shifted my perception. She explained that in Baptiste Yoga, they teach physicality first. Not because it’s the most important part of yoga but because until you get a student powerfully into their physical body, you won’t have access to speak to them emotionally or spirituality. Ding, the light went on.
This created a huge shift in what I believed power yoga to be about because it’s my EXACT thought when it comes to food and nutrition. I cannot speak to my clients about creating the life the desire if they are fueling their body with processed foods, chips, candy, soda, bread, etc. My motto is, “It starts with food but it’s really about living.” And now, Leah was sharing a yoga methodology that shared the exact same sentiment when it came to movement.
The more I learned about Baptiste Yoga, the more I saw how aligned I was with their teachings. Baptiste Yoga is a holistic journey through the body. The physical practice is dynamic and powerful and is based off the five pillars of Drishti (gaze), Ujjayi (breath), Bandhas (foundation), Tapas (heat), and Vinyasa (flow). The practice contains 53 poses, or asanas, within 11 sequences to open up the body, release stored energy, and create the space for something new to enter. Unlike Bikram yoga, the Journey into Power sequence is easily modified and adapted so it can be taught in alignment with the energy, intention, and message of the teacher, and adapted to fit every single type of body. If you want to open up your body, release stuck and stagnant thoughts and energy, and be open to something new entering your space and life, this yoga is for you. Yes, people get fit, lose weight if they need to, and build muscle but the practice is so much more expansive than that. It’s about stepping into the brilliance and truth of who you are and using the physical practice as a way to shed anything that’s blocking you from your fullest potential.
I spent years immersed in the personal development world working as an Event Coordinator for one of the top personal transformation teachers. I completed the entire Landmark curriculum that focuses on who you to yourself, who you are with others, and the impact you want to have on the world. I have read books by Brene Brown, Debbie Ford, A Course in Miracles, Gabrielle Bernstein, Wayne Dyer, Louise Hay, and Tony Robbins. And Baptiste Yoga has somehow found a way to combine powerful transformation and spirituality through the lens of movement and yoga. My hat off to you.
I am currently in the 200-hour Live Your Yoga Teacher Training program and just wrapped up the Art of Assisting weekend here in Austin, a staple of the Baptiste methodology. The theme of the weekend was connection over correction and there was a room of 100 people who traveled from around the country who came to be a part of the powerful pulse of this community. The #1 question and intention on every single participants heart and mind was, how can I bring this work back to be in service to my community? One woman, a breast cancer survivor, is bringing yoga and hands on assists to the hospital where she volunteers. One girl wants to travel to third world countries to work with the youth. Another woman in bringing yoga and hands on assists to the jail in her community where she can give the women there an experience of a healing and loving touch versus what they may have experienced in their life thus far. These people, this community, is up to big things, and that is exactly how and with who I want to be spending my time.
These aren’t yogis who are looking for spiritual connection as a way to bypass the realness of modern life, but as a way to be of more service to their community and step into their desire to be powerful and clear leaders.
One of my favorite explanations of what Baptiste yoga is, is this, “Practitioners are not forced to bend into a pretzel or to chant. Burning incense is less of priority than burning away the excess baggage that weighs down minds and bodies.”
I like to think of this as yoga for real life. Trust me, I’m into the chanting, the incense, the full moon meditations, and all the spiritual practices that are out there, but more than any of that, I stand for creating change in a way that touches the bodies, hearts, and lives of every student who walks into my class, including my own.
My journey will continue at Level 1 training for a week immersion in February in Sedona. And until then, I invite you to come play and practice with me at 6:30am on Tuesday and Thursday at Sukha Yoga for all of you who live in Austin.