"Sculpt your ideal body...free your true self...transform your life..."
If I seem to be making a lot of promises to you here, that's because I am. It may sound too good to be true, but if you work the principles in this book, I guarantee you will journey into power in every area of your life. Your body will transform, you will change your destructive patterns permanently at a cellular level, your mind will be infused with life and equanimity, and your relationships will be truer, deeper, and more fulfilling.
How do I know this? Because I have seen thousands of students come through my studios, Bootcamps, and workshops and with my own eyes witnessed their transformations. I have seen students arrive the first night of Bootcamps anxious and heavy with emotional baggage, but by the time they leave, it's as if they have shed a hundred pounds of physical and psychic debris. I have witnessed overweight people who come to my studios create entirely new bodies within only a few months.
Countless students from all over the world who come to my programs write to me and tell me about breakthroughs they have experienced in all different areas of their lives even those who have been practicing yoga for years! A forty-seven-year-old woman from Seattle wrote to tell me how she experienced a physical opening in her shoulders that created a tremendous release of old stress and sorrow that she had been carrying around with her for decades. She told me she hadn't felt this free since she was in her twenties! Another student, a thirty-six-year-old woman who teaches yoga in Colorado and has been doing yoga for nearly six years, e-mailed to say that she saw for the first time how her competitive nature was interfering with her growth and her overall happiness. She wrote: "I was able to see that I can challenge myself to my new heights...that yoga isn't about competition or comparison, but rather it is about pushing myself beyond my current abilities and moving past the limited definitions of myself."
People with lifelong aches tell me their pains have vanished after only a few practice sessions. Hundreds with chronic back problems experience quick and long-lasting relief and are able to resume activities they hadn't been able to do for many years. A twenty-two-year-old man who was going through a depression and did not want to take pills came to a workshop on the advice of his therapist. He stayed with his power yoga practice after that workshop, and within three months, the depression was totally gone. I have one student whose ovarian cancer went into remission after she wholly dedicated herself to a healing yoga practice.
Many others are inspired to make bold and wonderful changes in their lives, from leaving unhealthy relationships to venturing into careers they had always dreamed about. A very successful thirty-three-year-old systems analyst came to a Bootcamp looking for a change in her life, and on the last day she announced to all of us that she was going home with a newfound confidence and courage to quit the job she hated and go back to school to pursue her dream. She had simply opened herself up to whatever spontaneous insights would arise, and when this plan materialized, she knew in an instant that her life was about to take an amazing, wonderful turn.
But the main reason I am so convinced that my power yoga can transform people is that it happened to me. I didn't just arrive as a master yoga teacher, happy and serene, walking my authentic path. Like so many other people, I had to go through the dark to get to the light.
My parents, Walt and Magana Baptiste, were two of America's yoga pioneers. My father came from a fitness background (he was Mr. America in 1949), and in 1952 he and my mother were the first to open a yoga and health center in San Francisco. They were way ahead of their time as early proponents of the whole healthy lifestyle movement. From the time I was a little boy, yoga was part of my life. We had famous spiritual masters coming through our home all the time, from the Maharishi to Yogananda. It all seemed normal to me. While other kids were playing baseball and hanging out on the weekends, I would be off at my parents' spiritual and health retreat ranch in Sonoma Valley, watching people going through personal transformations and self-renewal programs. Back then, I just thought yoga was kind of fun, but not really a big deal. And definitely not how I would spend my life.
I hit my rebellious stage at around twelve years old. I started wanting to be with my friends on the weekends, not riding goats and meditating out on the farm. I got teased a lot at school, as you can imagine. The other kids would call me "Hare Krishna" and laugh when I brought banana and honey sandwiches on whole-wheat bread for lunch instead of lunchmeat and Twinkies. As you can imagine, my childhood was difficult, because at that point in American culture, I didn't fit in.
My rebelliousness was not just a result of not fitting in. I had a curious mind and a searching spirit that simply did not respond to being stuffed with school lessons and information that had no meaning to me. I was always questioning my teachers, because I knew there was something more out there than what the teachers were telling me. I had a huge appetite for growth and discovery, so I moved on to become a student of life.
I managed my father's health food restaurant to make enough money to travel around the world and surf. I went to Mexico, Bali, Asia, and, when I needed a rest, to my parents' retreat center in Central America, which was filled with amazing and interesting people who shared my quest for knowledge and a deeper understanding of life. I was drawn there more and more, and it eventually became a kind of home base for me, a place where I could come into contact with other soul searchers.
Around that time I started reading stories about the prophets and sages, about Jesus, Buddha, Socrates, and Gandhi. I read Yogananda's famous book, Autobiography of a Yogi, and was fascinated by his vivid, magical descriptions of being in the light and the philosophies of the mystics of old. It made me yearn to find my own path to bliss my own inner light.
So I began a spiritual search that lasted for many years. I made a choice to go for it, and to really seek out the enlightenment I had been reading about, I moved to Yogananda's men's ashram in Encinitas, California. We did kriya yoga (based on chakra energy), meditated, and worked on the farm, all in silence. I stayed at the ashram for about a year, and though it was a very introspective time, I still felt empty. I just wasn't finding the bliss all the books were talking about. The more I learned about the yoga tradition, the less it seemed to speak to me. It was all more confusing than ever, and true life mastery started to seem unattainable. I got very proficient at my practice and experienced some benefits, but somehow it just wasn't all coming together.
After I left the ashram, I went back up to my parents' studio and worked part-time in their health food store. One afternoon my father asked me to fill in for him at a yoga and meditation class he had scheduled. I didn't want to do it, but he pressed me and told me I knew a lot and I had a lot to share from my experiences. He told me I had a responsibility to share what I knew, that if you don't share it you lose it. Sharing what you know makes it more real, more a living part of you. I reluctantly agreed, and to my surprise, teaching came very naturally to me. I just opened my mouth and spoke about what I knew, and the students loved it. I couldn't believe it. That was the first time it had ever dawned on me that perhaps I would make teaching yoga my life.
Around my nineteenth birthday, the hatha yoga master B. K. S. Iyengar came to San Francisco from India, and it was at his workshop that I first witnessed the powerfully physical side of yoga that went beyond any of the forms I had practiced up until then. I had always been athletic (I had been studying martial arts since I was nine years old; by the time I was eighteen I had earned my black belt and won the California State Championship title for tae kwon do), so what Iyengar was teaching was exciting to me in a whole new way.
A couple of years later, when Bikram Choudhury (founder of Bikram yoga) came and taught a workshop in San Francisco, he invited me to move to Los Angeles and be his protégé. I was curious about Los Angeles, and it seemed time to leave San Francisco, so I went and studied with Bikram, and within about a year I was teaching his style of yoga, also intensely physical. My body became incredibly strong and flexible as I became very good at contorting it into demanding poses, but my spirit was still restless. I had tried the ashram route, but that didn't give me the answers. Now I was being taught that if I could just get all the poses right, I would be enlightened. I was getting them right, but though I did feel a certain level of vitality, something was still missing.
I continued on this way for a few years, teaching at Bikram's studios in Beverly Hills and Paris, and studying with Iyengar and others in India. By all outward appearances I was "yoga-ing" right: I followed the advice of the gurus, practiced daily, was a vegetarian, didn't drink any alcohol or do any drugs. But my relationships weren't working, and inside I felt at a loss and, most of all, empty. There was still a big block within. Being able to meditate for six straight hours or wrap my legs around my head or hold a handstand longer didn't necessarily change me on a deeper level. Like so many other people, I hit the bottom of my soul and really wondered: Is this all there is?
Looking back now I see that I was in a waking sleep, a mild hypnosis. Even though I was practicing yoga and meditation, I was misusing it; cultural conditioning had taught me to stay distracted and anesthetized and not to see or feel what was really happening within me, both the good and the bad. Somehow all the mind/body "medicine" I was learning was falling short of a cure.
The day it all started to turn around for me began like any other day. I was in Los Angeles, on my way home from teaching one of my now-popular classes at the famous Voight Fitness and Dance Center in Hollywood (where Johnny G. was launching spinning in the next room). I'd been teaching there for a few years, taking traditional yoga practices and making them empowering and accessible to all types of people. I was putting this all into a flow practice that was more athletic than the styles I'd been taught, and it was catching on in a huge way. I had become the "yoga teacher to the stars" and achieved a certain level of celebrity. From the outside it looked as if I had it all, but inside myself I knew there had to be more. All the success wasn't filling the void, and the mechanics of yoga just weren't cutting it for me anymore. There was a big piece missing, but I simply didn't know where to look.
Anyway, that afternoon, I heard a spiritual psychologist speaking on the radio. He was saying that the only way to find true peace, acceptance, and power was through stillness. He said that being in stillness leads you to truth, but you may not always like to see and hear the truth, because very often it isn't the rosy picture you might have hoped for. Something exploded within me when I heard that. Maybe I was finally open enough to see it, but the truth unfolded for me in that moment like never before. I realized that the truth I could not admit was that I was simply regurgitating what others were teaching me. I was filled with the advice and teachings of gurus and books, but had no idea what I really thought or felt. I'd spent my entire life up until that point looking outward, seeking inner peace like it was a goal, never really daring to come face-to-face with the truth that was within me.
This speaker broke through to me in a way that all those years of chanting and meditating and twisting my body into a pretzel never had, and that was because he was the first to truly ignite my spirit. It was in that moment that I realized how severely I had neglected my authentic self my inner voice my real wisdom. I went home that day and cried, because I saw myself deeply and clearly for the first time. I saw all of my unfinished business in the forms of resentment, fear, withholding of forgiveness, anger, jealousy, insecurities, and self-doubt, and saw how I had been working to just stuff it down with "feel good" pseudospirituality. I had been looking toward mastery of the practices and paths of others instead of paying respect to and honoring what was already within me. I saw that if I stopped smothering my spirit and soul with external knowledge goals, I would actually start feeling, and ultimately healing.
Knowing and accepting these truths started to finally set me free. I saw where I was being dishonest with others, and started being more honest about how and who I was in every moment. I began to unravel all the emotional knots that had been strangling me. My revelation was that my true path was to more deeply accept that which I already knew and had within me. I realized there was a power that would give me peace that yoga practice offers valuable tools but only insofar as they lead to one's inner self.
As a teacher, I started seeing that we don't have to take dogma so seriously. When we start to take it too seriously, outer mastery becomes the goal, and we are then chasing the illusion once again. Spiritual masters often teach that tradition is holy, and that we must follow it to the letter if we are to be enlightened. Do it their way or it won't work. But how can that be? If we tune out the inner voice of wisdom in favor of what someone else is telling us, how can we ever really be in our own power? That just puts us in the shadows of someone else's power, of someone else's courage to look within for the answers. It was only then that I was able to start teaching with real integrity and began to share with my students that we must each find and walk our own path.
This focus on intuition rather than tradition hit a nerve with many of my students and formed the core philosophy of what was later to become Baptiste Power Vinyasa Yoga. Attendance at my classes exploded, and new students began appearing every day. I was at last fully present in a way I had never been. They came because they wanted beautiful bodies, but they stayed because they were inspired to be the best versions of themselves. They had listened to all the others, walked the paths, but ultimately discovered the same thing I did: The only person who can open the door to the inner truths and lead you to the light is yourself.
Ultimately, no yoga teacher can tell you what you need not in a pose, not in a diet, not in a lifestyle. They can give you the principles, but it is up to you to use your intuition to find what is right for you. You have to practice your own naturalness, and that is what Baptiste Power Yoga is all about.
I will share with you the ancient pillars of life that will illuminate your journey. I will show you how to access the innate wisdom in your mind, the strength and suppleness in your body, the infinite and exquisite beauty of your spirit. But ultimately, I'm not teaching you anything you don't already know somewhere deep within your being. Your genetic systems are encoded with this knowledge. My role is to awaken you to what you have simply forgotten along the way.
I feel honored and blessed to be your guide on your own personal Journey into Power, and I hope this program brings you all the joy and fulfillment it has brought me.
Copyright © 2002 by Baptiste Power Yoga Institute, Inc.