Marin Independent Journal

Extending the legacy
Born to fitness leaders Walt and Magaña Baptiste, Sherri Baptiste Freeman was destined to teach yoga.

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Meet the Innovators!
Anniversary 25 Yoga Journal

“In America is the place, the people, the opportunity for everything new," wrote Swami Vivekananda before he left India in 1893. Vivekananda, had learned from his guru, Sri Ramakrishna, that the world’s religions “are but various phase of one eternal religion” and that spiritual essence could be transmitted from one person to another. He set about to bring that transmission to our shores. His first speech was at the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago. ‘Sisters and brothers of America,” he began, and the audience was on their feet, giving him a standing ovation. Our love affair with the East was born, and so began a steady stream of Eastern ideas flowing west. In 1920 Paramahansa Yogananda came to address a conference of religious liberals in Boston. He had been sent by his guru, the ageless Babaji, to “spread the message of kriya yoga to the West.” Although his early works had unpromised titles like Recharging your Business Battery out of the Cosmos, his 1946 Autobiography of a Yogi [self Realization Fellowship] remains a spiritual classic. Yoga was established on the West Coast in the mid-50’s with Walt and Magana Baptiste’s San Francisco studio. Walt’s father had been influenced by Vivekananda, and Walt and Magana were students of Yogananda. The Baptiste family yoga dynasty continues today with their children, Sherri and Baron.
SAN FRANCISCO yoga teacher Walt Baptiste, who died on July 6th at the age of 83, was one of Americas’s pioneers. Baptiste began teaching breathwork at the tender age of 17, having been exposed to yoga by his uncle Joseph Baptiste, a disciple of Paramahansa Yogananda. Two years later he opened the Center for Physical culture, where he combined weight training with yoga and meditation. In 1955, Walt and his wife, Magana, opened the first yoga school in San Francisco; in 1971, they founded the Baptiste Health & Fitness Center, which included a yoga room, gymnasium, and dance studio as well as a natural food store and restaurant. Baptiste was also a competitive bodybuilder [he won the “Mr. America” title in 1949], wrote extensively on physical culture, and edited Body Moderne magazine. But as a committed yogi, he was as much concerned with the spirit as the body. Meher Baba called him a “son of Light, “ and Swami Sivananda, founder of the Divine Life Society, bestowed on him the honorific Yogiraj, “king of yoga.” Over the course of six decades, Baptiste taught countless students, and today three of them-his and Magana’s children, Sherri Baptiste Freeman, Devi Ananda Baptiste, and Baron Baptiste, all accomplished and popular instructors-carry on the family yoga tradition.
-Richard Rosen
The Improper Bostonian

Meet the New Guru Baron Baptiste
Unlike most American yogis, Baptiste didn’t discover yoga: he was born into it. His father was a world famous body builder and Mr. America, [see Baptiste Family History] who studied the eastern religions and ancient disciplines of yoga with his father. Barons’s mother demonstrated the benefits of yoga during a San Francisco magazine while he was still in her womb. “Baron has all the knowledge of the purist view of yoga and he’s able to translate it in a way that people understand”.
Natural Health

Baptiste: I was born into a lineage of yoga teachers and yoga scholars. My father Walt Baptiste opened the first yoga center in San Francisco in 1935, and his father uncles, and grandfather were all into the Eastern mystical traditions and yoga. As I was growing up, my father’s yoga center was very busy--over 3,000 people a week coming through. It included a health food store run by my sister Sherri Baptiste, a health-conscious restaurant, and a dance center run by my mother Magana. Then, when I was probably 18 or 19 years old, I was running the health restaurant for my father and I remember getting a call from him, asking me to teach his big Saturday morning meditation class, which has 150 or 200 people in it, because he was leaving town. I said “No,” but he pushed me. I remember getting kid of angry and upset. Then calmed down and said, “Okay, I’ll do it.” I went in, and it was really a wonderful experience. We had always practiced meditation, and it was a natural extension to share what I knew and loved and believed. In. And people loved it.

Our focus is on bringing yoga, the essence of yoga, in a way that is acceptable and accessible to people, into the mainstream.


The NFL”S Yogi
If you haven’t yet heard of Baron Baptiste, just wait-ESPN’s Cyberfit Power Yoga master is coming to a cable channel near you. Whether He’s hawking his instructional yoga videos on the QVC shopping network, directing his classes with infectious enthusiasm, or leading Philadelphia Eagles football team through integral yoga workouts, Baptiste seems to exist at the calm center of his own promotional hurricane. And then suddenly-and you hear this from nine out of ten people-they’ve tapped into an inner calm, a poise, an equanimity, an inner peach with themselves that they’ve never experienced before in their lives. “ This inner balance, Baptiste believes, forms the essence of yoga, no matter what the style. Even critics admit that ‘their parents were great,” and that Baptiste's lineage is strong. Baron’s father Walt, a world-famous bodybuilder and former Mr. America, founded San Francisco’s first yoga studio in 1935. Magana, Baron’s mother was photographed for a 1963 layout in the San Francisco Chronicle while eight months pregnant with her son, demonstrating yoga for expectant mothers. [“So I suppose I have yoga in me since before I was born,”Baron laughs.] At twelve, Baron was studying, fasting , and meditation in a Himalayan ashram, and at fifteen he was teaching children’s yoga classes in San Francisco. His sister, Sherri Baptiste Freeman, has been a popular yoga teacher in the Bay area for years.
Yoga Journal, OMPAGE

Talking shop with Baron Baptiste

Yoga has always been close to home for teacher Baron Baptiste, who was born into a lineage of yoga teachers and whose parents opened the first yoga studio in San Francisco when Baron was a child.
‘Body Moderne’ edited and published by Walt Baptiste 1949 to 1955 and Health & Strength Magazine