For those of you who have been to a Baptiste Power yoga class and were wondering about its origins and the Five Pillars that make up its foundation, you might find the following article of interest.
Baptiste Power yoga was founded by Baron Baptiste. His parents, Walt and Magana Baptiste, opened the first yoga studio in San Francisco in 1952. Through his parents, Baron was exposed to many different styles of yoga: Iyengar, Bikram, Ashtanga, Viniyoga and more. In the mid-1990s, Baron Baptiste brought elements from all of these different styles together to form the Foundation of Baptiste Power vinyasa yoga. He created the Five Pillars: breath (Ujjayi), heat (Tapas), flow (Vinyasa), gaze (Drishti) and core stability (Uddiyana bandha). All of these pillars are an essential part of Baptiste’s dynamic physical practice to help sculpt, hone and tone every muscle in the body along with meditation and self-inquiry. He also wanted to make his yoga accessible to any level of physical ability through modifications and advancements.
The Five Pillars of Power yoga
Ujjayi is the main pranayama (breathing exercise) used in Baptiste Power vinyasa. In ujjayi breath, you constrict the back of your throat (as you would when fogging up a mirror) while you inhale and exhale through your nose. It slows down the breath to keep it deep and powerful during challenging postures. It brings calmness to your practice.
Through the use of your Ujjayi breath, engagement of your Uddiyana bandha and the strong flow of the practice, you build up internal heat known as Tapas. It is often referred to as healing heat that melts away tension. Tension is stuck energy, and when the internal heat moves around your body it burns away this tension. Inner heat helps students to loosen up, go deeper in their practice and avoid injury.
Flow is the absence of resistance. In Baptiste power vinyasa each pose flows right in to the next. As you flow it combines flexible strength, mental focus, deep breathing and stability. Flow allows you to let go into the movements and create a fluid quality that allows deep release. It can become meditation in motion allowing you to lose your thoughts and focus on you body in the present moment. Flow also helps to build up internal heat and increases your heart rate to bring a cardiovascular element to your practice. Baptiste Power yoga uses the Vinyasa to link the poses to keep the practice flowing.
Drishti means “gaze”. In yoga it means softening and focusing your eyes to one point. This focus sends soothing messages to the nervous system and brings the mind from distraction to direction. The eyes are the lens of the mind, and with drishti you are focusing your consciousness. You are turning your attention away from distractions around you and bringing your focus inwards to the present moment on your mat. It allows you to slow your mind and focus more deeply within yourself and your practice.
Drishti is an important part of Ashtanga yoga, where it is taught as part of the alignment for each pose. In Baptiste Power vinyasa, the gaze is not specific for each posture but directed to any point that doesn’t move. There is also much emphasis on keeping the eyes soft.
Core Stability–Uddiyana bandha
Core stabilisation is uddiyana bandha. The “upward-lifting lock”. In Baptiste Power vinyasa, this means the constant drawing in of the belly button toward the spine. Through uddiyana you draw attention to the core of your body, the epicentre of all movements. Making this core the focal point helps you to move, breathe and balance more easily. It tones the internal organs and plays a vital role in protecting your lower back. A strong core—which includes your back and abdominal muscles—is the foundation of real body strength. Your uddiyana bandha should be engaged in every pose throughout your practice, hence the need to engage it gently, so you can maintain it throughout.
Hopefully, by having a better understanding of these Five Pillars, you will have a greater awareness of them during your practice.