Why I Teach Baptiste Yoga

This is a repost of something I wrote back in 2011. I came across it this morning and was reminded of why I love this practice. 5 years later, it all still applies. It's long, so I will post it in two installments.

Why I Teach Baptiste Power Vinyasa Yoga (part 1)

I spent many years dating around in the yoga world. I’d try one style of yoga for a while, then be over it and find something new to satisfy my need for physical and spiritual nourishment. Some of these forays into a certain style of yoga didn’t last past the first date (e.g. Shiva Rea’s Trance Dance) while others went on for years (Ashtanga) and became an important part of my day-to-day life. Even in the long term relationships, though, I always had a sense that the practice was not exactly right for me. While I was deep into the second year of my relationship with Ashtanga, I went on a date with Baptiste Power Vinyasa. I had an ecstatic experience, but I was so involved with my Ashtanga practice, that I wasn’t sure what to do. My heart wanted to dump Ashtanga but my head kept telling me that my Ashtanga practice had supported me for so long, that I should not jump ship.

In the months that followed, I started to dabble in the Baptiste practice a little more. I’d travel to Jacksonville, FL for a workshop at MBody Yoga and even took a weekend workshop with Baron Baptiste. At the same time I would do the Primary Series every morning and even signed up for and attended David Swenson’s Ashtanga Yoga Teacher training. The training was great but I left conflicted. Having studied at the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute in Mysore, India a couple of years earlier, I had been steeped in the tradition and taught that the only “legitimate” Astanga teachers were authorized by the Jois family.  As a life-long rule-follower I was having a hard time deciding to teach Ashtanga without being “legit.” I also firmly believe that a good yoga teacher practices what they teach. So I was in a pickle. I practiced Ashtanga, but felt like I wasn’t good enough to teach it, even though I had been teaching yoga classes for several years at that point.  

Within a month of returning from that training, I signed up for Mark White’s Baptiste inspired teacher training at MBody. I had only taken a handful of Baptiste classes at that point, but felt in my heart like it was the right thing to do.

It would be nice to say that during my first weekend of teacher training I fell out of love and jumped in to Baptiste Power Vinyasa with both feet. The truth is that like with many long term relationships, the breakup was slow and painful. I was so attached to my way of doing things that Mark White had to use a lot of force to get me to let go of my old way of being. The truth was that I still loved Ashtanga but knew that I needed to move on. Like any relationship, the practice had run its course and taught me some incredible values and lessons. In the end, though we weren’t meant to be lifelong partners. 

The good news was that Baptiste Power Vinyasa and I had an amazing physical relationship right from the start.  Every time I practiced I was amazed at how great my body felt - I was buzzing from head to toe and didn’t have any pain at all! In previous practices, I would typically push myself to the point of at least some ache or pain - but  it was the “good kind” of pain, I would tell myself. In this practice, even when I worked heard or Mark kept us in frog pose for 15 minutes, I would wake up the next day feeling great.

While the physical relationship was great, the emotional side of things was challenging. I had this notion that my perfect yoga would steeped in history and therefore legitimate. Learning that Mark had only been practicing for 5 years and was already teaching this style of yoga, not to mention teaching teachers, made me skeptical. What did he know that I didn’t already know? Heh. A lot.

The next three months of teacher training were a journey of self-discovery. And Mark was my unexpected guide. I learned more about myself than anything else, and some of the lessons weren’t pretty. Mark was my mirror, showing me the harsh reality of my teaching. I was robotic, pushy, self-centered, self-absorbed, and hiding behind my technical skills and physical practice. I watched Mark break the other students down into tears and was determined not to let that happen to me. The harder he pushed, the harder I resisted. 

It was not until the last weekend of teacher training that something changed. As part of our final evaluation and certification process we would all be asked to teach one section of the Journey into Power sequence. I was very strong on the technical side, but weak on the inspiration side, so it was perfect when he asked me to teach the hip opening sequence. As I stood in the front of the room looking at my peers, I was filled with love and for the first time really saw my students and connected to them. The tears started flowing as I begin to teach. I don’t recall any of what I said, but it was not technical. It was straight from my heart. I had finally found love in my teaching.

What Mark taught me is that teaching is not about me. It’s about really seeing and connecting to each student and teaching from that connection. To me this is the essence of the Baptiste Power Vinyasa Yoga.


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