February 2008

Yoga To Go Newsletter
Expert Interview Series

Dear Friends,

Welcome to our "Interview with Yoga Experts Series." This special edition of Yoga To Go's newsletter features our interviews with expert yoga teachers from around the world. These are teachers who are shaping the future of yoga and who I personally find inspiring. Through these interviews, you'll learn about their own journeys with yoga, as well as practical advice you can use to deepen your own yoga practice.

Nancy Wile

Interview with Yoga Expert
Sherri Baptiste

I was very excited to have the opportunity to interview Sherri Baptiste. Sherri is an inspirational yoga teacher at the forefront of training in America. She is the daughter of America's yoga pioneers and master teachers Magana and Walt Baptiste. Founder of Baptiste Power of Yoga, she offers classes, workshops, retreats and teacher training. Her retreats and teacher training programs provide an empowering, peaceful oasis in a hurried world, a place where students can find within themselves the tools and knowledge to support and maintain a happier, healthier and more spiritual lifestyle. Sherri presents for Western Athletics Clubs's Bay Clubs, Gold's Gym, Yoga Studios Larkspur and San Francisco, Nautilus, Loyola Marymount University's Yoga Therapy Rx Program, Equinox, IDEA World Fitness and Inner IDEA Conferences, Body Mind Spirit, Yoga Journal, ECA, AFPA, Can-Fit-Pro, Rancho La Puerta spa and Yoga Therapy Conferences. She has instructed for the International Himalayan Yoga Teachers Association (under Swami Veda Bharati's guidance) and conducts yoga retreats at locations such as Kripalu, Omega, Haramara, Green Gulch Zen Center and Feathered Pipe Ranch.

A member of the International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT), Sherri's teacher-training and continuing education programs are recognized by Yoga Alliance at the highest designated level of E-RYT 500. She is also recognized by the International Yoga Federation as an honorary member of the World Yoga Council. A radio and television personality, she is featured in video, DVD and CD programs that include "Power of Yoga" and "Power of Meditation." Sherri is the author of Yoga with Weights for Dummies (Wiley Publishers 2006). She also serves as the online yoga expert for VoiceofDance.com and is a published writer in Best Body Magazine and Alternative Medicine Magazine.
Interview with Sherri Baptiste
International Yoga Expert

Nancy: Please explain your philosophy of yoga. What makes yoga important to you? What do you want your students to gain from their practice?

Sherri: Born into a pioneering yoga and fitness family, my parents Magana and Walt Baptiste believed in the benefits of Western health and mainstream fitness practices, but also clearly understood, as the Eastern Wisdom Teachings and philosophy found in the yogic system express, that everyone has an inner spirit, essential Self, a rich quality of potential and perhaps a responsibility to bring this gift of authentic Self to life.

Dad was a former Mr. America, and my mother is a renowned dancer and was one of the first women to bring the science of bodybuilding and yoga to women. Through dedication to these arts and sciences, they shared their vision and growing insights into the meaning of body-mind- spirit to enhance the richness of life. They opened the very first and finest fitness centers in San Francisco's financial district and are recognized for having established yoga in the West Coast.

Growing up with my family and seeing people study with my folks gave me a bird's eye view of the benefits and joy people experienced with health and fitness. I would come to learn that yogic techniques and practices have the ability to support and transform our lives in exciting ways.

Trained in my foundation by my parents, I began teaching in my teens. Today I have a dynamic following for my classes in Marin County (San Francisco Bay Area) and also teach at the leading yoga, fitness and yoga therapy conferences around the United States. I'm blessed to teach thousands of people each year. Working with teachers, instructors and students, I see how people in the West are realizing more and more the mind-body relationship: that our mental state and physical well-being are intimately connected.

Nancy: Describe your current personal yoga practice. What is the style of your practice and how does it benefit your life?

Sherri: The word yoga itself has many meanings: the art and science of the mind, to yoke or to bring union, or the balance between opposites that offers a movement toward something higher. Yoga means that greater perspective of who we are, the gift of being fully in the moment and in our lives. Through practice, we unite the mind and body, strength and flexibility, heart and soul and masculine and feminine. We feel and know integration within ourselves in the present moment, increasing mindfulness and awareness of the truth of our being. In a moment of clear awareness our life has the potential to take on a newer and brighter awakened state toward balance, peace and physical and mental well-being. This union with our lives and our innate spiritual nature of consciousness is what the yoga I've known all of my life is all about.

In the West, when we think of yoga we usually imagine the practice of Hatha Yoga, a series of physical poses and practice of the body. Most people approach exercise from the outside in. In contrast, yoga is meant to develop you from the inside out. You build from the inner foundation of your awareness and breath first. Hatha Yoga though, is actually a branch of yoga, a preparation for the true yoga of Raja (sometimes called the Royal Path) or the practice of the Eight Limbs of Ashtanga Yoga. Thousands of years old, Raja Yoga is the Eastern science of the study and practice of mastering the mind in order to purposefully live from a consciousness-based awareness and approach in every day life. When we practice and begin to recognize and to know that our life is our practice, then the consciousness of the mind, vitality of the body and inspired state of being snowballs building on it-Self. That energetic sensation of spirit building within becomes a collective consciousness, one that leaves us a little bit better than it found us every time we practice. In the end we develop into a quality of being, awareness and consciousness that evolves 'us' on a more soul- based level toward greater understanding as a full- made human and spiritual being in the process.

Yogic practices of mind body and breath as practiced in the Baptiste Method of Yoga support and offer us such beauty and wisdom in the teachings. The practices of postures, breath word, mindfulness techniques and meditation allow us to push through boundaries, taking quantum leaps that are exciting and liberating and yet gentle and oh so nurturing in the process. As we expand and grow into our own potential, it gives us the tools to support others. I like to say that we are connecting the dots within ourselves, building highways and pathways of understanding that awaken intelligence, insights and integration. As we evolve, we feel more in control of ourselves in a healthy way and have the character to be of service in our immediate world and to the people we care about. We become an example to others: The reach of our service expands out similar to what happens when we drop a pebble into the pond and the water ripples out. In other words, a domino effect takes hold. As Gandhi said, "Be the change that you wish to see in the world. . . . It begins with you."

Nancy: What keeps you motivated in your yoga practice?

Sherri: My practice is my life. Personal Development and bringing out the authentic gifts that we have been given and seeing this open up in others are inspiring to me. Finding that authentic voice as a teacher and being an example and support to others in the process, as we all evolve together is what motivates my days in this work and field.

Nancy: What advice would you give yoga students to help them stay motivated in their practice?

Sherri: Building your life with the awareness of being in the moment fully as it's unfolding may be rough at first, but this is where the real empowerment lies. This is where cultivating your personal practice and attending longer retreats will serve you to build not only a foundation in your life that expands with you as you evolve but also keeping joy and personal health in the process for you at it's highest levels. Again and again participants tell me that they experience a powerful process of growth and transformation that occures during the classes, Baptiste Retreats and Yoga Journeys together. Very simply put, the retreats are often life changing for the participants, with benefits and newfound clarity and strengths for body mind and spirit that are carried home into daily life.

During the retreats you are skillfully and gently guided through each practice. The practices and Baptiste programs cultivates a quality of integration that builds on itself with each session cultivating a more dynamic and empowering collective consciousness that awakens within. The practices are based on postures for serenity, strength, and beauty. Working towards mastery of an intermediate practice, morning practices, each day at retreats, and workshops will give extended time to develop and establish your series of flowing movements with breath that will strengthen the muscles of the mind as well as toning, and sculpting the body. You'll experience breakthroughs in your practice and in what you bring home. Breath work is at the heart of it all. You experience many personal benefits from this natural process, bringing 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. You learn and recognize how the 'mind influences body and body effects the mind' and that you have the power to regulate much of that. You'll learn first hand through your own practice, with ways to bring this home, why Physicians, psychologists, and other professionals endorse yoga, meditation, and these techniques and practices as a powerful tools for relieving stress, maintaining health, and promoting creativity and vitality. You will be encouraged to work at your own level of ability while working towards mastery of an intermediate practice to bring home.

These retreats and workshops are great for anyone interested in yoga, meditation, and health. This is for the layperson, beginner to expert, and householders to CEO's - anyone wishing to develop a deep relationship and a strong intermediate to advanced practice over time and with consistency. Excellent also for Yoga teachers, health and fitness professionals wanting to bring in yogic depth to their classes and clients too. Sherri Baptiste 500 RYT - Baptiste Power of Yoga Programs are recognized by Yoga Alliance.
More with Sherri Baptiste
Sherri's Personal Yoga Stories

Nancy: Right now, what are some of your favorite yoga postures to practice and why?

Sherri: Well my practice really is my life...every breath... every day. Staying open to the evolution and process of my life personally offers challenge; a medium and conditions to work with. Living in the real world with family, home and work it has its rewards and stresses. It's real life and I've found that working with the power of thought is an important key in the path of my daily experiences. I've noticed that habitual patterns of thought may sweep me away from being in the moment as its unfolding, sometimes needless worry can serge or imbalance from mental stresses may build in areas of my body. Recognizing that I have the power to influence my life through developing conscious thought patterns is a powerful thing that I've discovered personally as well. It can be summed up simply in a few words. It goes something like this, you carry 'the power of change within you' and when YOU look at 'how you look at the things in your life' the things in Your Life will CHANGE.

Nancy: What do you like to do when you're not teaching or practicing yoga?

Sherri: Walking around one of our local lakes here in Marin Co, Ca near my home is a favorite activity of mine. I try to do this, weather allowing a few times each week. It takes about an hour and the path around the lake has many wonderful twists and turns, as does my mind in the process. At the onset of the walk, my mind may be still racing with all the activities of my day, where I still have to go and what I need to do, etc. But then around twenty minutes into my walk I tune into a moving meditation quality ' breath into breath...moment into moment' and my gears shift mentally and physically. I can feel my stride of walking altering into another level of optimal energy. I begin to see more around me; with simplicity and clarity...my mood lifts to a state of greater well being and optimism. Finishing the walk I have a sense of balance in my life that complements all my yoga practices, home and family life, creative professional work - body mind and spirit (it's all yoga).

Nancy: Can you think of an inspirational or funny yoga story from your life as a yoga teacher or yoga student?

Sherri: I'm often asked: 'When did your yoga practice begin'? and 'What did the word yogi or yoga mean to you as a child'? My work in the yoga and fitness world really began early; you might say that training for me started in the womb! Our family ate healthy, fresh foods, exercised regularly in the gym, practiced yoga postures and dance and spent time in nature. Music surrounded us in our work, and a lively group of diverse and dynamic students always filled the studios and centers that my parents owned in San Francisco.

But the first time I remember hearing the word "Yogi" was when I was four years old. I was standing next to my father in our backyard and there was a commotion going on. People were standing on their back porches looking toward our yard. A reporter named Herb Caen was interviewing my dad about our pet duck Yogi who was balancing like a pigeon on the power lines with the other local birds. His unusual ability had drawn an audience and the interest of this renowned San Francisco columnist.

What was so notable about our duck? He was a huge- oversized domestic duck with gigantic webbed feet that were never designed to cling to power lines or help him fly. Yogi flew beyond the expectations others had for him; he was living from his zone of unlimited potential, just as we are capable of doing. Watching Yogi, I knew that he was teaching us that we all have the ability to fly beyond limitations. I would come to learn that yoga has the ability to support and transform our lives in exciting ways.

It makes sense that our duck was named Yogi because I was born into this Baptiste family of pioneers and teachers in health, yoga, dance and fitness. The Baptiste Method has always believed in the benefits of Western health and mainstream fitness practices, but also understood, as does Eastern philosophy that everyone has an inner spirit and quality of potential.

Nancy: Thank you Sherri for sharing your insights. It's been a pleasure.

To contact Sherri, visit her website or email her at: info@powerofyoga.com.

To contact Nancy or learn more about the information available at Yoga To Go, please visit our website, or email Nancy at: nancy@yogatg.com.