Monday, November 1, 2010

Natalie's Baptiste Yoga class visit

This is a year full of yoga and spiritual explorations for me. I have tried to take numerous yoga classes in the Boston area for the past few months. For this midterm assignment, I chose to investigate the Baptiste yoga studio in Brookline, MA. I was initially intrigued by this yoga studio because they claimed to have an approach to yoga that is unique to Baptiste or Baptiste affiliate yoga studios. The fact that the classes were heated also intrigued me because I have taken a heated yoga class that was not Bikram. I felt a depth in my poses and my focus was intensified in my heated yoga experiences. It’s interesting to me that they only have heated classes at Baptiste studios. Most studios I have attended offer classes with and without heat. I find that it’s usually nice to have an option. I was also interested in this particular studio because I’ve heard numerous people talk about how much they love it. The two people I know that go to Baptiste, are quite committed and loyal to this studio, so I was curious to see what Baptiste had to offer.
My first reaction to this site was that it seemed simple yet well equipped. In the entrance there were cubbies for shoes and bags. They also had a little area where they sold pricey yoga clothing and equipment. They also sold Baron Baptiste yoga DVD’s. The studio is located in the quiet and small area of Brookline Village. The streets around the village are lined with perfectly sweet and small family homes with front yards that have gardens. It seems as though there are many middle class families in this area. When I entered the yoga studio I noticed that they only had one large yoga room that has heaters that get the room to temperatures ranging from 90-100 degrees. The room was also well equipped with fans and vents to air out the room during the cooling down period of the class. I was surprised that they only had one studio, with so many ongoing classes and such a big name.
The Class
When I first saw my instructor I noticed that she was quite fit and was wearing Lululemon yoga gear. The teacher seemed as though she was in her mid or early thirties. Many of the clients were wearing Lululemon gear as well. Almost all of the clients had special yoga towels for their faces and for their mats. I have never seen such a large group of people so well equipped for their yoga class. Most of the attendants in the class were middle aged women. There were more men than I usually see at a yoga class. This could be because this class is a more athletic yoga. This was also a very large class, so it’s more likely that there would be more males attending. The founder of this form of yoga is a man, so this could make it more inviting to the male population. It could take away from the stigma that yoga is just for women. The class ended with a few minutes of Shavasana. The teacher ended Shavasana with a quote that discussed the importance of the self. The idea in the quote was that if we take care of ourselves then we can take care of others. I thought it was interesting that she ended the class with this quote about the self, since yogis in the past have discussed the unimportance of the self.
I attended another class later in the week. It was an evening “power yoga basics” class. This class was lead by the same teacher as the previous one I attended. When I initially walked into the class, I was shocked at how crowded the studio was. I have never been to a studio that was so crowded before. I was worried about finding space to put my mat, but I ended up squeezing in between people. When we began the class, I was happy to see that we had an initial few moments to focus on our intentions. It’s great when a teacher does this because it helps me start off more focused. The teacher told us to take breaks frequently, which was nice to do because of the heat and focus.
Before coming to the “basic” class, I was curious about whether or not the class would be heated since it was a “basic” class. The class was still heated, but it was a slower pace. This class is definitely better for beginners. The teacher was leading the class in a more meditative way, rather than athletic. It felt like there was a better balance. The teacher made more references to the yoga philosophy and way of living. For instance, she said that yoga can be done at any time. We can live with the practice of yoga at any moment in our lives. She also made references to the Pranayama practice through our breath. I found it interesting that she made this reference, because we didn’t follow any Pranayama practices. I left this class feeling more conscious of my body and more thoughtful. This is the way I like to end my yoga classes, though the heat made me feel weaker.
The demographics of the class was quite similar to that of the first class I went to. There seemed to be a few younger teen girls that came to this class that weren’t there in the previous class. This could be because the class was at 7:45pm and there is no school at this time. This could also be the reason why the class was a little bit more crowded than the class I attended a few days prior that was in the morning on a Monday.
After the class ended, I walked up to the teacher to ask her a few questions. I wondered what she had to say about how this yoga practice was different from others. To me it seemed that the class had a similar set up as many classes I have gone to. The teacher said that Baptiste yoga is defined by the set of Asanas that are done in a particular order and way. I also asked the teacher about if she had to get a special training to teach at the Baptiste studios. She said that she had to participate in a training that was unique to Baptiste methods to be able to teach at the studio.
I also asked a female, middle-aged student a few questions after the first class I attended. I asked her if she went to the studio a few times a week. She said that she only went once a week and that she did not have a hard time getting back into the swing of the heat and intensity of the class. She said that as long as one remains active throughout the week, going to one class per week would suffice. She also said that she has been attending classes at Baptiste for about a year. She said that this teacher was her and many other’s favorite.
The man the founded this form of yoga is Baron Baptiste. He comes from a family of yogis. His parents were viewed as pioneers of yoga. His father, Walter had a fitness gym and his mother, Magna was a dancer. Together, his parents were introduced to yoga in the 50’s. They were hooked to this new and unfamiliar form of spiritual practice. Yoga was a perfect fit for this dancer and bodybuilder. Magna and Walter opened a studio in 1955. In their gym they offered yoga classes. This was not one of many yoga classes in the San Francisco area. Years later, after Walter passed away, Magna still teaches and practices yoga. She is a proud mother of three children that are involved in yoga and dance instruction (“Baptiste Family History”).
Since Baron Baptiste had such a strong history with yoga, people in the yoga community are already familiar with his name. He is practically a celebrity in the yoga community. Baron practically grew up practicing yoga. He was a very successful trainer for a football team. He got this job by having a good reputation with training and yoga skills. When he began this new approach of Baptiste Power Vinyasa style of yoga, he had the intention of bringing in a very intuitive and adaptive style of yoga. In this style, people gain an athletic and meditative experience. There seems to be a focus on commitment with this style of yoga. The teacher I had emphasized that the we students need to go to the yoga classes frequently for a long period of time to feel the benefits and growth from this practice. Baron Baptiste is constantly traveling and teaching his methods abroad (Pizer, 2010).
The Method and Theory
Baron founded this form of yoga that he calls Baptiste Vinyasa Power yoga. He has a studied numerous yoga practices such as Ashtanga, Iyengar and Bikram. After many years of practicing all of these yoga methods, he discovered his own yoga method that incorporates some aspects of these other methods. The goal of this method is to lead people through a more intuitive and empowering method rather than a yoga class just based on tradition. Baron also has the intension of making yoga accessible and practical to everyone. In an interview, Baron also mentions that Baptiste Power Vinyasa yoga focuses on adaptation. People should listen to their bodies and modify the posses to fit their needs and abilities (Pizer, 2010). The teachers and the website seem to emphasize that one needs to come very frequently to feel the benefits and to improve.
If people are interested in deepening their experience of the Baptiste Vinyasa Power yoga, they may explore the different boot-camp options. The boot-camps are lead by Baron himself. Some of them take place in Hawaii or Mexico and last about two weeks. There are other options that are only weekend long explorations. These boot-camps are available to anyone who is interested. There is a strong emphasis on personal revolution. If someone would like to teach the Baptiste method, they can go on the numerous levels of the teacher training boot-camp program (“Bootcamps, Retreats and Workshops”).
What I got from the classes I attended at Baptiste was a vigorous, sweaty and intense experience. I enjoyed the classes, yet I felt that I was less focused on what my body was telling me. I felt more focused on how hot it was and how much I was sweating. I liked the heat to a certain extent. It became a little bit intense for me. Perhaps this is because I only attended two classes, and the teachers are right by saying that on needs to come often to get used to the class and feel the results. I also did not like how crowded the classes were. The teacher also can hardily give individual attention. It’s hard to approach the teacher with questions during the class because it is very crowded and fast-paced.

Baptiste family history. (n.d.). Retrieved from
Bootcamps, retreats and workshops. (n.d.). Retrieved from
Pizer, A. (2010, May 26). Baron baptiste's advice. Retrieved from

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