Sherri Baptiste Freeman - Story
From the desk of: Sherri Baptiste Freeman

The Baptiste Family: America's Own Yoga Family

"Yoga was established on the West Coast in the mid-50’s with Walt and Magaña Baptiste’s San Francisco Studio. The Baptiste family yoga dynasty continues today with their children, Sherri and Baron."
Yoga Journal

The Lineage and Legacy of Teaching-America's own unique Yoga Family is a lineage of Baptiste Teachers that started more than 65 years ago. According to the Bhagavad Gita (chapter six), one of the best births, though difficult to attain, is to be reborn into a family of yogis. The Baptistes have accomplished this challenging feat.

1. What can you tell us about the Baptiste family - who are the yoga teachers (past, present and future)?

Leadership - Vision - Inspiration

Walt Baptiste (1917-2001)

Walt Baptiste was a renowned and much loved San Francisco leader and legend, a patriotic American, a leader and a pioneer who inspired hundreds of thousands to embrace the world of Body Mind & Spirit. Walt was one of the foremost authorities and teachers of Yoga in the world, who taught countless students over the course of six decades. In 1934 Walt established the first center of its kind, combining the disciplines of physical culture, yoga, weight training, meditation and the science of breath, as an integral part of higher health, peak performance and constructive personal psychology. Baptiste was a pioneer in establishing the valuable benefits of having a sound nutritional program; he integrated purification diets into his program for highest health and vitality. Bernarr Mac Fadden, father of physical culture in the world, described Walt as "the prince of teachers and a constant resource of inspiration to other teachers."

Walt and his wife Magaña had already been teaching yoga asanas, pranayama, concentration and meditation principles as a foundation of their system at the comprehensive 'Walt Baptiste Health and Fitness Centers' in the heart of San Francisco's downtown Union Square District. In the 1950s they opened another center - San Francisco's first 'Yoga Center', dedicated solely to yoga and meditation. 'Yoga was established on the West Coast in the mid-50’s with Walt and Magaña Baptiste’s San Francisco studio.’ -Yoga Journal. Walt was introduced to these techniques by his Uncle Joseph Baptiste, who was a disciple of Paramahansa Yogananda; Joseph was instrumental in sponsoring Yogananda when he came to America in the 1920s. An authentic and natural-born teacher, Walt had been expounding these yogic truths since he opened his first center in San Francisco at the young age of 17. Walt Baptiste, a former Mr. America, was highly acclaimed by the Physical Culture World. He was the editor of Body Moderne magazine, now a rare collector’s item due to its valuable information and timeless content. His weight-resistance training program developed coordination between body and mind through the use of concentration, breath and visualization. He was an international authority and leader in the fields of Physical Fitness, Yoga, Breath Work, Nutrition, Meditation and the Human Potential Movement in the US, pioneering new areas of thought, research, and development in the areas of Physical Culture, Self Realization and Body Mind mastery.

Walt Baptiste - a committed yogi and spiritual teacher who brought Yoga to the US.

  • Meher Baba called Walt Baptiste a "son of Light".
  • When Walt arrived in India to serve as the opening speaker at the world convocation of spiritual leaders during the great Kumbha Mela of 1974, Swami Rama, a great master of the Himalayas and founder of the Himalayan Institute, welcomed Walt Baptiste as his guest into his Ashram on the Ganges.
  • Haridas Chaudhuri, founder of the California Institute of Integral Studies wrote: "Walt Baptiste has always been eager to hold aloft the authentic Yoga ideal of harmonious self-development, emphasizing the need for integrating the physical, mental and spiritual aspects of personality. He has helped countless numbers of people in their search for mature growth and spiritual fulfillment. He deserves to be complimented for his appreciative insight into the spiritual heritage of India as well as of the West."
  • Swami Muktananda welcomed Walt and his wife Magaña into his Ashram and gardens in Ganeshpuri on numerous occasions.
  • Great Saint and Spiritual Master, Sant Kirpal Singh Ji Maharaj said: "Walter Paul Baptiste has realized the way of the Masters...I need not say that he is further and more on the Way than any in California."
  • Swami Sivananda, wrote: "I greatly appreciate your Yoga exercises so perfectly have the blessings of the sages and saints...You are a dynamic Yogi...You have a divine mission...Your yoga will be a wonderful success." Walt Baptiste was given the sacred title of Yogi Raj, "king of yoga" by Swami Sivananda and the Forest Vedanta University in Rishikesh India.
  • Richard C. Miller, Ph. D., renowned yoga teacher and author, says of Walt Baptiste: "He has been such a wonderful light to many who know him and all those touched by him who may never know that it was he who was touching them."
  • San Francisco Mayor Willy Brown officially proclaimed September 25, 1999 as Walt Baptiste Day, "for his many outstanding contributions to the health and spiritual consciousness" of San Francisco residents and hundreds of thousands of people nationally and internationally. Walt Baptiste was known as a catalyst for creating extraordinary change in people's lives.
Mayor's Proclamation, City and County of San Francisco

Magaña Baptiste - Born 1921

A seminal figure in the world of dance and yoga.

Through the power and inspiration of art, music and dance Magaña Baptiste has elevated all the lives that she has touched. Her work has influenced the lives of millions of people. With her husband Walt she has contributed to the popularity of yoga today. Magaña helped to take the science of bodybuilding mainstream, and to introduce bodybuilding to women. She was 1st runner up in the 1951 Miss U.S.A. contest. Magaña has taught Mudra classes, classical Hindu dance, since the1950's. She currently teaches sacred dance from around the world, approaching the Yoga of Movement and Dance as a practice that combines the physical, mental and emotional aspects of our human existence. She is an author and has written for numerous magazines. She has lead yoga and dance groups to India, Nepal, Central America, Morocco and Egypt.
Magana Baptiste Website

Magaña Baptiste has received international acclaim as a pioneer in the fields of health and dance, and has received numerous honors and awards.

  • The San Francisco Dancers League honored Magaña Baptiste in 2003 as a 'Living Legacy Dancer and as a Pioneer' who introduced Yoga, Middle Eastern and East Indian Dance in San Francisco. Magaña was also honored and inducted into the New York Dance Hall of Fame.
  • Magaña was given the honorary title of Yogi by Swami Sivananda and the Forest Vedanta University in Rishikesh India.
  • Dr. Larry Payne, internationally renowned Yoga Teacher, author and Founder of The International Association of Yoga Therapists, said on a KGO Radio Interview Broadcast 2002: "I want the whole world to know that one of Magaña's early students that she inspired was a woman by the name of Rama Vernon. And Rama Vernon and the great Satchitananda went on to start something called Unity in Yoga. These were the early days of bringing all of the yogis together in one ecumenical path. And that Unity in Yoga was the inspiration for the modern day Yoga Journal Conferences that we have now that literally have reached millions of people. And I thought that the world should know that that motivation came from you inspiring Rama Vernon to make this happen for all of us in the world to have the modern day yoga that we do today."
  • Joannie Greggins- KGO Radio Interview Broadcast 2002: "This is what I'm saying; in their quiet way, but also always living as Magaña would say from the light, the Baptistes have had such an influence on so many thousands and thousands of people, generation after generation. I hope that YOU, my listeners, that what you get from all of this as well, is that this is a woman, she and her husband, and now their children, who have always lived with this wonderful insight, the depth of understanding, the spirituality and have done so much with their life without broadcasting it. Doing you know.... when you say...... the real thing! The real thing!"
  • San Francisco's Mayor Willie Brown, proclaimed August 11, 2002 Magaña Baptiste Day in San Francisco.
Magaña continues to teach yoga and dance, filling her classes to capacity and performing for the world community.

Walt and Magaña have offered workshops and retreats since the 1940s:

  • Retreat properties were purchased and developed specifically for the students of the Baptiste teachings starting in the1950's. The first Baptiste Yoga and Meditation Retreat was on the ocean in Half Moon Bay, California. Then in the 1960s, The 25 acre farm in Tomales Bay, California was established. In 1975 Walt and his wife Magaña founded the first school of yoga in Central America "El retiro del Espiritu", an idyllic beach setting, which accommodates 30 people, with pools, a yoga studio, gym, meditation pyramid, and a zoo with tropical birds, monkeys, horses and many other animals. The family retreat was recently given to their children, Sherri & Baron to use for their work. In the1990's Walt and Magaña established a retreat property in Oregon.
In addition Walt and Magaña founded the 'Baptiste Health & Fitness Center 1971-1990' at Arguello and Clement in SF. There has never been another center like this. It was a San Francisco Institution that supported the health and wellbeing of thousands and thousands of people who traveled through it's doors each year, year after year. This dynamic center provided the San Francisco bay area with the most complete Health and Fitness Center of its kind. Four stories tall and half a block long, it was devoted to the health and wellbeing of all that entered. People traveled from all over the bay area to receive the quality of information, education and guidance that was offered. This center included "Baptiste Natural Foods Store", "Hungry Mouth Health Food Restaurant", "Magaña's Bazaar Boutique", a comprehensive Dance studio, gymnasium, and a huge Yoga room with forty-foot high stained glass ceilings.

Walt and Magaña are recognized radio and television personalities, and have had their own health and fitness radio shows. They have attracted many prominent people, including Herb Caen and Cyril Magnin, as well as renowned poets, dancers, celebrities, athletes, creative artists, psychologists, corporate leaders, educators, philosophers, spiritual teachers and householders from all over the Bay Area and around the world. They have hosted and presented many of the greatest master teachers, artists and writers of the world in their many San Francisco Centers.

  • When Maharishi Mahesh Yogi came to America for the first time, Walt and Magaña presented him in a series of lectures and initiations.
  • Swami Vishnu-Devananda, yoga master and founder of the Sivananda Centers and Retreats worldwide, was another yoga pioneer who first came to the Baptiste Center for support.
  • Indra Devi, the first lady of yoga, frequently came to the Baptiste Centers in San Francisco. It was there that she introduced a film of Sai Baba for the first time in America.

3. Tell us a little about your own work. Where, what, how?

SHERRI BAPTISTE FREEMAN "Sherri Baptiste Freeman, Marin’s most respected yoga luminary, is a recognized master in the yoga revolution". — Pacific Sun 2003
Sherri is frequently asked when she began to practice Yoga. Her answer is "in the womb". Sherri is the daughter of two of America's yoga-health-fitness pioneers Magaña and Walt Baptiste, who established yoga on the West Coast in the mid-50s. An inspirational teacher at the forefront of yoga training in America, born into a lineage of teachers, Sherri can look at the yoga mats sticking out of half the backpacks on the street and know that her family had a part in it. Growing up in San Francisco, Sherri watched her parents at their spiritual and health centers and retreats as they taught profound life-changing principles of yoga, health and fitness in a simple way that made them accessible to everyone from all walks of life. She witnessed their students’ transformation and self-renewal. Trained by her parents, Sherri began to teach yoga in her teens. She was the founder and owner of Baptiste Natural Foods in San Francisco at the Baptiste Center on Arguello and Clement for fifteen years. Today she teaches both group and private classes at Marin's leading health and fitness facilities. A TV and radio personality, Sherri is the founder of Baptiste Power of Yoga&trade;, offering workshops and retreats. Her Teachers Training Program is registered with and recognized by The Yoga Alliance, Yoga Alliance of Europe and International Yoga Federation. She has served as the Membership Liaison for the International Association of Yoga Therapists and served as a teacher to Dr. Dean Ornish’s Research Participant Group. She leads spiritually enriching retreats, at both local and international destinations, including Bali, Central America, India and Nepal. Sherri has taught at Rancho La Puerta Spa in Tecate Mexico, at Marriott Palm Desert Resort providing a Life Balance Yoga Program, and has co-taught with her brother Baron in the Yucatan. In addition Sherri Baptiste is an associate teacher with The Himalayan Institute, Rishikesh India, Pennsylvania, and Minneapolis. She has recently released her new Baptiste Power of Yoga and Meditation videos, DVD and CD. <>

  • Richard Miller, Ph.D. Internationally respected teacher, Co-founder of the International Association of Yoga Therapists: "Sherri Baptiste is such a lovely embodiment of all that Yoga is. You are energetic, enthusiastic, joyful, relational, spiritual, full of life and vitality, love what you are doing and bring that infectiousness to your students. How could they resist the power of what Yoga is when seen through your eyes."
  • Mary Frank, KRON TV Producer, tried Yoga before, but she didn't get hooked on it until she took Sherri Baptiste Freeman’s class. That was six years ago. Now, the TV commercial producer says, "I feel better. I look better." The difference was Sherri Baptiste Freeman. "This isn't just something she kind of does; this is something that has been in her blood since birth." Frank says. "She’s inspiring." — Marin Independent Journal - 2002
  • "Sherri Baptiste Freeman, has been a popular yoga teacher in the Bay area for years...Her parents were great, and that Baptiste Lineage is strong. Their father Walt, a world-famous bodybuilder and former Mr. America, founded San Francisco’s first yoga studio in 1935." - HEALING RETREATS Magazine
  • Swami Veda Bharati- Spiritual Director of The Himalayan Institute: "It is obvious that the seeds you plant in your orchard are not to get fruits for your own table but for passers-by to pick as well. Sherri I give all my blessings to the fine and spiritually beneficial work that you do- and may all your teachings touch as many people as possible."
  • Dan Millman, renowned author and speaker: "You'll always be my archetypal Yoga Babe and Super-Coach. I appreciate the energy and heart you bring to your teaching."
Baptiste Power of Yoga-Sherri Baptiste Freeman workshops, seminars, conferences and retreats in 2004 will include:

Sherri's workshops, classes and retreats blend a sweet balance of the following elements:  Baptiste, as you would expect from her background, is an excellent teacher.  Her instructions and guidance are both physically exact and spiritually uplifting.  - Yoga Journal 2003

  • YOGA POSTURES for Serenity, Strength and Beauty: You will be skillfully and gently guided through postures [asanas] held in accurate alignment, giving full range of motion for muscles, bones and joints, as well as developing and controlling a deeper breathing pattern. Series of flowing movements with breath will strengthen the mind as well as the muscles of the body, enabling you to access and sustain mental, emotional and physical well being. You will be encouraged to work at your own level of ability, with modifications given throughout the practice. Yoga feels good, and you can feel and see it working.
  • BREATHWORK: This natural process brings many personal benefits; presence and peace of mind while strengthening the body's immune system, slowing biologic aging processes, awakening regenerative energies, balancing the nervous system, and nurturing enhanced creative abilities with a calm and relaxed state of mind. Pranayama cleanses and strengthens. Breath is life. How we breathe influences everything in our lives.
  • DEEP RELAXATION AND MEDITATION: Meditation is an increasingly familiar concept as it becomes integrated into modern life. Physicians, psychologists, and other professionals endorse meditation as a powerful tool for relieving stress, maintaining health, and promoting creativity and vitality. Meditation is a powerful technique that anyone can use to increase physiological balance, clarity of mind, and awareness. Rejuvenate, energize, balance, relax, deepen internalized awareness and enjoy an improved quality of relationship to life itself through meditation.
  • CHAKRA JOURNEY: Join Sherri Baptiste in this dynamic exploration of the chakras as a path of yogic transformation, healing, and Self Realization. The chakras have been part of sacred yoga practices for thousands of years, especially in the hatha/tantrika traditions. You will explore gentle hatha yoga postures that balance the centers and relax your whole being. Visualization, meditation, and mantra techniques will be taught for awakening subtle awareness. The goal of this workshop is for you to learn tools for centering within your chakras and discovering the hidden dynamic potentials of your life, and for integrating you body-mind-spirit in a way that brings the timeless yoga traditions of Patanjali and the Yoga Sutras to life.
  • NUTRITION- EATING SMART AND HARMONIZING YOUR DIET is a matter of balance. Sherri was born into a family of revolutionary thinkers. For her, healthy nutrition and cleansing/purification programs were a natural part of her upbringing, and something that she has practiced her entire life. Sherri was the founding owner of The Baptiste Natural Foods Store at the corner of Arguello & Clement Streets in San Francisco for fifteen years. Recognizing that no two people are the same, Sherri hopes to support her students in discovering what supports their own best balance. Sharing tips and guidelines with them from her professional and personal experience, she encourages the individual to incorporate fresh and healthy foods into their daily eating regime, so that they eat in a way that supports optimal health and wellbeing for their lifetime.

4. What can you tell us about your other siblings' work?

Devi Ananda Baptiste
Devi Ananda is internationally recognized as a teacher of dance, mime and hatha yoga. She teaches dance and yoga at the Baptiste Studio in San Francisco. Her great forte' is dance and she gives dance performances in San Francisco and the Bay Area. Devi Ananda was featured on the cover of ELLE magazine. She has performed on television, in movies, with the Jefferson Star Ship and with many other great performing artists.

Baron Baptiste
Baron is at the forefront of Yoga and Human Potential work in America. He is a renowned teacher and author. I give Baron great credit for opening up many doors for yoga's popularity and growth in the mainstream in the 1990s. His work continues to grow and blossom in the most unique and inspiring ways. As a teacher he gives much! and leaves the student with a greater depth and understanding. He is a great and inspiring teacher.

2. Is there a collective yoga style and/or philosophy the Baptiste family teaches from, or do you all do your own thing independently?

INSIGHT - LEADERSHIP - SERVICE: The Baptiste Family teaches the concept of a sound mind in a sound body, and has helped to support countless numbers of people in their steps toward health, physical fitness, self mastery, realization and spiritual discovery. The Baptiste Family’s interest has been to give the student the tools and understanding, so that they may live their lives to the fullest. What I have observed in our family’s work is that our focus addresses the whole person, to bring the essence of yoga - with the best of both West and East - to the mainstream in a way that is acceptable and accessible and yet not watered down. I can only speak from my perspective and sense of it all: What I have noticed is that there is a clear and distinctive Baptiste Energy and Style that people pick up on right away. The Baptiste teachings have always been practical and real, effecting deep change and growth. As teachers, authenticity in expressing our own unique sense of things and style and being true to ourselves in the process is what this work is all about; it's what we want for others, it's that journey of discovery. Yoga acquires a new significance for every generation. And watching yoga all of my life, I have realized that the system of yoga has neither a beginning nor an end, but it is permanent and is based on universal principles that appeal to us on every level, mentally, physically and spiritually. It's about being in the moment, living life to the fullest, feeling the life within the breath and experiencing our richest potentiality and growth as a life-long process.

A broad spectrum of enthusiastic students, past and present, report all-encompassing benefits from working with the Baptiste Family. They say that our teachings address the whole person and empower and enrich every area of their lives; and that their training in the Baptiste work gives them the skills for physical, mental and emotional mastery, and is supportive of their personal psychology, achievement and spiritual discovery.

Links to more information about Sherri Baptiste:

Power of Yoga -Teachers Training Program
Sherri Baptiste- Power of Yoga

Sherri Baptiste

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