Why I Love Baptiste Yoga

by Carolyn Fagan 

How many types of yoga have you tried? I have been going to yoga on and off since my freshman year at NYU, six years ago. Of all the yoga, I’ve tried (and there are many types in NYC), Baptiste Yoga is my favorite. Baptiste Yoga is a branch of Hatha Yoga, or classic yoga, in which you are constantly flowing in a heated, but not too hot, room. I’ve found that I’m able to clear my mind and test my body whenever I go--something about the sweating and the transitions between holding static balance poses and flowing through poses that challenge the muscles of my entire body helps me leave feeling rejuvenated. I’ve found that adding yoga to running, weight-lifting, and HIIT workouts really opens up the possibilities of what your body is able to accomplish.

Today, I’m living in Asheville, North Carolina, a growing city in which there constantly seems to be new fitness studios and trends. I found a wonderful class where I’m able to practice Baptiste whenever I feel a need to reset. Here’s why I like it so much.

 The flow in Baptiste is extremely similar to Vinyasa yoga--a high-powered class in which you are always “flowing” from one position to the next. This is completely different from the slow-paced version of yoga often called “Yin yoga,” where you remain sitting throughout the class and hold stretches for prolonged periods. Baptiste and Vinyasa keep you moving. You hold stretches similar to Yin yoga, but you’ll often find you might need to slow down because your heart rate will be cranking.

The entire class time is guided by a specific set of motivational tenets or key-words, labeled as the “Journey Into Power.” This Journey encourages movement through principles like “Awakening” and “Vitality.” Don’t worry, these principles aren’t super in-your-face, no teachers that I’ve had have formally announced them. I wasn’t even aware of the “Journey Into Power” until I reached out to a Baptiste teacher. Knowing it now, though, perfectly encapsulates one of the main reasons Baptiste feels different. The journey is smooth, and within each portion there are parts that push you and relax you.

Humor is valued. I’ve been fortunate to take classes with Baptiste yoga teachers who encourage laughter, combine comical relief with the actual relief that comes with moving on from a static pose, and assign activities, ranging from asking someone about the most exhilarating thing they did recently or linking up arms during the final resting pose. The humor, for me, is what makes this practice so crave-able. Ideally, yoga should leave you with some peace of mind. Baptiste yoga elevates that peace of mind to a lightness of mind that allows you to find laughter at, or regardless of, what is around you.

The studios are art. I know all yoga studios are decorated and designed in ways that help you relax, but the Baptiste studios I have visited are welcoming in a way that is extraordinarily friendly. Whether a rainbow-colored tree painted on the wall or a smiling skeleton perched in the corner, there’s been amusing details that end up invigorating my Drishti (concentrated intention and focus).

It is hot, but not too hot. Baptiste yoga tends to be practiced at 85-95 degrees (F). This temperature falls right between practices like Ashtanga, which hover around 82 degrees, and Bikram--classic “hot” yoga--which leans towards 105 degrees. This is another huge draw of Baptiste, for me. Hot enough that you’ll definitely get to sweating, but not so hot that you’ll get light-headed.

The classes are around 75 minutes long. I used to shy away from classes this long, thinking I might get bored. However, these classes are designed so that you’re really pushing yourself up front, and are beyond pleased to “relax” and sink into static stretches by the end.

It’s worth it. Beyond Groupons or special first-time discounts, I’m not sure that any yoga is wallet-friendly, at least not to the degree that Yoga to the People was (“donation-based” is to college students as “free” is to college students…). However, I do think it is worth it, especially if you figure out a plan (unlimited month vs. ten expiration-free classes). I’m also seeing an awesome trend in Asheville of exchanging volunteer work for yoga classes, so check out if that option is available to you, if you’re interested.

So if this sounds good, or intriguing, try it out! You can find a Baptiste studio near you here. If you have any questions or want to weigh in your experiences with Baptiste Yoga, let us know.

Carolyn Fagan is a writer who lives in Asheville, North Carolina.