As you probably know if you're a regular reader of MindBodyGreen, men and yoga is a favorite subject of mine. And one of the leading men in yoga is Baron Baptiste. Baron talked to us about growing up in a yoga family, kids and yoga, men and yoga, and giving back through his yoga for multiple sclerosis program and Africa Yoga Project.
MBG: You grew up in a yoga family -- can you tell us about when you first got serious?
BB: My parents were my first teachers. They had a yoga center and health food store in San Francisco in the 1950’s. My parents were both teachers. In fact, my mother still teaches today. I met Mr. Iyengar at a dinner party with my parents while he was in California. He and I immediately connected and he invited me to his workshop for his teachers. Mr. Iyengar lit a fire in me that is still burning.
Yoga and kids... Why is this important? Do your own children practice? Any tips for parents?
I wrote My Daddy Is a Pretzel when my youngest son, Malachi, was 5, and he’s now 11. My two older sons are 17 and 14 and are incredible athletes. We all practiced more together when they were younger, but now they are finding their other physical expressions -- skiing, basketball, football, etc. As parents, I believe that being connected to our own bodies and our own yoga practice sets a key tone for our kids. Getting them grounded into their bodies at an early age will help serve as a foundation for their lives. My bottom line advice for parents is if you pour yourself into something and show dedication, your kids will be inspired…. kids do what we do, not what we say.
Men and yoga -- What's the biggest misconception men have about hitting the mat? When you worked with the Eagles, what was that like?
Transitioning from teaching yoga in Beverly Hills to being a peak performance coach in the NFL was huge! My biggest lesson from my time as a coach is the power of yogic principles when authentically applied to life.
The biggest misconception I think men have, and many people have in general, about yoga is that you won’t be good at yoga if you are not flexible. For me yoga is about flexibility of mind, and conditioning the body to be in balance. Also, typically guys don’t like to do something they are not good at. I often see men try yoga once, and in that class they notice how skilled all the women around them are and their egos kick in. It can be humbling, but also empowering, to try something new and different. My experience is that most men get hooked into a stronger style of practice like Baptiste Yoga because, like me, they connect with the physical power of the practice. The men (and women) that get into a routine, learn quickly how the results of yoga practice have positive impact on every area of their life and therefore it keeps them coming back and opening up to new possibilities in body and spirit.
Do you have any challenges in your own practice? Who inspires you?
Like most people, I’m juggling being a dad; kids sports practice schedules, games, homework, music lessons, conference calls, work travel, etc. But for me, my own yoga practice is essential. I know that I show up bigger and better for those around me when I am committed to my practice and my center. When I practice, I’m a more empowered person and therefore a more connected father. My practice gets me present for myself, my life, and present for my kids. When I show up fully for my life, that’s when I am creatively inspired.
Yoga is becoming more popular -- how do you see it evolving?
Yoga is getting more popular, which is wonderful. More people are seeking connection to their health and well-being, families, those around them, and their own center. We have so many distractions today and fill our schedules up with one commitment after the next, so it’s inspiring to see more people carving out time to reconnect, restore, strengthen and commit to their own personal practice.
What does the "mind/body/green" connection mean to you?
To me, mind/body/green means a holistic approach to life. It means the union of not just our minds and our bodies, but also with nature and planet earth. At one with ourselves, our surroundings, our environment, our families, our life’s work.
Can you tell us more about your MS program? How did this evolve?
The My MS Yoga program is a series of yoga practices that I developed with leading MS experts, which are specifically tailored to the needs and unique conditions of MS patients. The western medical community is starting to make the mind/body connection and prescribing yoga to both mental and physical fitness for their patients. Anyone can sign up for the free My MS Yoga DVD at mymsyoga.com. I was hired by Biogen Idec to develop the program.
What are you working on now? What's next?
2011 is a year of creation and I have a lot going on. I’m very excited about completing my new book, Being Of Power (HayHouse 2011)!!!!
I’m in the process of creating a documentary focusing on the life-changing work and people of the Africa Yoga Project. The mission of the Africa Yoga Projects is to use the transformative power of yoga to empower individuals and communities, and to promote unity, non-violence and possibility. I’m the co-creator of the non-profit that is based in Nairobi, Kenya. I’m planning to go back to Kenya this year and do my third teacher training with the Africa Yoga project -- it is growing and making a huge impact in lives daily. The teachers are sharing yoga with over 2500 people each week in over 100 classes. These young people are now lighting up Kenya by inspiring others and leading change in their communities. Stay tuned for more information about the upcoming documentary, and to learn more about the Africa Yoga Project go to africayogaproject.org.
In the next few months I have a live practice DVD from a teacher training I lead in Africa coming out. I just released two new practice DVDs: Ignite and Integrate, and Energize & Elevate. These can be purchased through my website baronbaptiste.com.
I’m expanding and evolving my workshop offerings and teacher training programs through The Baptiste Power Yoga Institute. We are actually just wrapping up an amazing new program that is all online -- Digital 40 Days to Personal Revolution, based on my book. We had 100 people participate in the challenge together from all over the world -- 5 different continents. It is incredible! We’ll launch another Digital 40 Days program this summer.
In September I am leading the Baptiste Power Flow Immersion in partnership with the Yoga Journal conference in Estes Park, CO. It will be three full days of immersion with me and some of the top Baptiste teachers from all over. This is an event that is not to be missed!
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