If you’re looking for the infamous, wildly viral video of the Baron Baptiste Impressions so you can see what all the Baptiste-inspired yogis are talking about, scroll straight to the bottom of this post! Together we say: Namaste!
Dear authentic, inauthentic, whole person that you are,
The thin towels had absorbed as much as they could take, and my yoga mat was a shimmering pool of salty sweat. I didn’t know if tears were streaming down my face, or more rivers of perspiration. I couldn’t tell where my leg was any more. Was it even still attached? I couldn’t move my head to see. Was I breathing? I couldn’t remember. Was there music playing, or were my ears ringing? Somebody was sobbing behind me, and on the other end of the room, a ripple of hysterical laughter had started, weaving through the 160 bodies flattened on their mats in half pigeon pose. The sobs on the mat behind me heaved into wails of laughter, and I felt a shaking, inexplicable, unreasonable chuckle well up from my diaphragm, bubble up my throat and fall out of my face. This is Level One, Baron Baptiste Power Vinyasa Training.
My life is changing before my very eyes.
On August 1st, just a few days ago, I arrived at the Menla Mountain Retreat where our week-long training was to take place. Carved into the Catskill Mountains of upstate New York, this is the Dalai Lama’s retreat when he visits the United States. It is a place of special and unique power – wild animals roam, unafraid of the visitors, a lush vegetable garden tended by the chef sprawls in a sunny pasture, and wooded glens and cool ponds provide sacred spaces for contemplation.
Training that first night starts out friendly enough – Baron is everything you would want him to be, engaging us with humor and friendly compassion on our aching, travel-weary bones. “Go yogi, go! Flow yogi, flow!” He calls us through the sequences, a stiff-lipped smile cracking his face when we groan in wheel, and he says, “You aren’t working that hard! Stop being yoga weird. Stop complaining. Do the work.”
Morning comes soon. Intensity drives up quickly. We roll out of bed by 5:30 AM to hit an early breakfast prepared by retreat staff, and march up the gravel-littered path to the yoga room where we will spend the majority of our day sweating, crying, discussing and listening to each other. Today, we aren’t contemplating on the edge of a placid pond – we’re sweating mercilessly, in a lake of our own making. Maybe somebody in here is contemplating, but probably on things more profane than the mysteries of the universe. Faultlessly assembled in an unraveling sequence of increasing depth, the training is designed to take you inward – past the love, peace and feel-good emotions we all recognize and parrot, and into the beating heart of the ugly, selfish, unworthy and unlovable stories and masks we create around ourselves. Our carefully constructed barriers, wedged tightly with the precision of a Mayan pyramid over our lifetimes, start to crumble from the inside out. Unfolding, peeling back, stripping away, the training takes us through the heart of yoga and out the other side. Driving back the clutter of semi-spirituality, breezy patterned t-shirts and over-priced Lycra pants, Baron systematically shreds away our expectations, assumptions and falsehoods about “real” yoga.
“Double pigeon pose.” The room groans in concert as tingling legs swing around to stack in another equally painful hip opener. “Why are you here?” The sound of dripping sweat and deep breathing expands to fill the space. “Fear is present in the room,” he acknowledges, and the fear manifests itself as we hesitate on the edge of the pose, arrange our towels and blocks and poke at loose strands of hair. He challenges us, walking across the sticky mats in his signature measured gait, arms swinging confidently at his sides. “If not now, when?” We sigh heavily in unison as our bodies draw forward, some farther than others, into the depths of the pose. “Be here. Be here now. Be in the now, and you’ll know how.” It rhymes, it sounds like a cliche, and it drives the truth home.
Somebody starts to cry again. Sobs muffled in a towel. These aren’t sobs of physical pain, though – we’re unwrapping our lives on the mat. The sweat is secondary – it’s a tool. It’s part of the process. Nobody cares about that any more. We’ve gone beyond.
It was a week that felt like two days, two years. The friendships that were forged under duress of exposing your truest self, struggling in unison on the mat and in front of the class, and rising early and going to bed late and sharing showers and running out of water and chasing a bear through the woods [it happened, true story] are bonds that will be cultivated for years and lifetimes to come. How to explain what happened? You have to be there to experience it. There isn’t a day in the rest of my life that won’t be affected by what happened this week.
I’m ready for yes.
The week finished with an explosion of celebration – we cut loose, rocking out yoga style, and exulting in the new freedoms we had found personally, collectively, authentically! The next morning, lingering over our last breakfast, we found a spot of local talent among us as Chris showed off his impersonations of our teacher, Baron. It was too good to let it pass and we ran outside for an improv film session. Jump in to a few seconds of Level One with this re-creation of The Yoga Room!
Earth to yogi, earth to yogi – go yogi, go!
The Baron Baptiste-Inspired Impression Series is now live, presented by the Phoenicia Rising 2014 Level One Group! Starring Christopher Byford as Baron, Michael Suing as host, Andrea Huehnerhoff as producer and camera crew, Lani Levi as the student and beautiful yoga volunteers as the class, this very un-cut edition is raw and real – just like your story.
I’m a yes for being full of freedom and integrity – what are you a yes for?!
Find out more about the Baron Baptiste training events around the United States and Canada by going to www.baronbaptiste.com. This post has not been reviewed or endorsed by the Baron Baptiste group. Experience the yoga for yourself and find a Bapsiste-certified teacher near you!