the desk of: Sherri Baptiste Freeman
The Baptiste Family:
America's Own Yoga Family
"Yoga was established on the West
Coast in the mid-50’s with Walt and Magaña Baptiste’s San Francisco
Studio. The Baptiste family yoga dynasty continues
today with their children, Sherri and Baron."
The Lineage and Legacy of Teaching-America's
own unique Yoga Family is a lineage of Baptiste Teachers that started
more than 65 years ago. According to the Bhagavad Gita (chapter six),
one of the best births, though difficult to attain, is to be reborn into
a family of yogis. The Baptistes have accomplished this challenging feat.
1. What can you
tell us about the Baptiste family - who are the yoga teachers (past,
present and future)?
Leadership - Vision - Inspiration
Walt Baptiste (1917-2001)
Walt Baptiste was a renowned and much loved
San Francisco leader and legend, a patriotic American, a leader and a pioneer
who inspired hundreds of thousands to embrace the world of Body Mind & Spirit.
Walt was one of the foremost authorities and teachers of Yoga in the world,
who taught countless students over the course of six decades. In 1934 Walt
established the first center of its kind, combining the disciplines of
physical culture, yoga, weight training, meditation and the science of
breath, as an integral part of higher health, peak performance and constructive
personal psychology. Baptiste was a pioneer in establishing the valuable
benefits of having a sound nutritional program; he integrated purification
diets into his program for highest health and vitality. Bernarr Mac Fadden,
father of physical culture in the world, described Walt as "the prince
of teachers and a constant resource of inspiration to other teachers."
Walt and his wife Magaña had already
been teaching yoga asanas, pranayama, concentration and meditation principles
as a foundation of their system at the comprehensive 'Walt Baptiste Health
and Fitness Centers' in the heart of San Francisco's downtown Union Square
District. In the 1950s they opened another center - San Francisco's first
'Yoga Center', dedicated solely to yoga and meditation. 'Yoga was established
on the West Coast in the mid-50’s with Walt and Magaña Baptiste’s
San Francisco studio.’ -Yoga Journal. Walt was introduced to these
techniques by his Uncle Joseph Baptiste, who was a disciple of Paramahansa
Yogananda; Joseph was instrumental in sponsoring Yogananda when he came
to America in the 1920s. An authentic and natural-born teacher, Walt had
been expounding these yogic truths since he opened his first center in
San Francisco at the young age of 17. Walt Baptiste, a former Mr. America,
was highly acclaimed by the Physical Culture World. He was the editor of
Body Moderne magazine, now a rare collector’s item due to its valuable
information and timeless content. His weight-resistance training program
developed coordination between body and mind through the use of concentration,
breath and visualization. He was an international authority and leader
in the fields of Physical Fitness, Yoga, Breath Work, Nutrition, Meditation
and the Human Potential Movement in the US, pioneering new areas of thought,
research, and development in the areas of Physical Culture, Self Realization
and Body Mind mastery.
Walt Baptiste - a committed yogi and
spiritual teacher who brought Yoga to the US.
Mayor's Proclamation, City and
County of San Francisco
- Meher Baba called Walt Baptiste a "son
- When Walt arrived in India to serve
as the opening speaker at the world convocation of spiritual leaders
during the great Kumbha Mela of 1974, Swami Rama, a great master of the
Himalayas and founder of the Himalayan Institute, welcomed Walt Baptiste
as his guest into his Ashram on the Ganges.
- Haridas Chaudhuri, founder of the California
Institute of Integral Studies wrote: "Walt Baptiste has always been eager
to hold aloft the authentic Yoga ideal of harmonious self-development,
emphasizing the need for integrating the physical, mental and spiritual
aspects of personality. He has helped countless numbers of people in
their search for mature growth and spiritual fulfillment. He deserves
to be complimented for his appreciative insight into the spiritual heritage
of India as well as of the West."
- Swami Muktananda welcomed Walt and
his wife Magaña into his Ashram and gardens in Ganeshpuri on numerous
- Great Saint and Spiritual Master, Sant
Kirpal Singh Ji Maharaj said: "Walter Paul Baptiste has realized the
way of the Masters...I need not say that he is further and more on the
Way than any in California."
- Swami Sivananda, wrote: "I greatly
appreciate your Yoga exercises so perfectly performed...you have the
blessings of the sages and saints...You are a dynamic Yogi...You have
a divine mission...Your yoga will be a wonderful success." Walt Baptiste
was given the sacred title of Yogi Raj, "king of yoga" by Swami Sivananda
and the Forest Vedanta University in Rishikesh India.
- Richard C. Miller, Ph. D., renowned
yoga teacher and author, says of Walt Baptiste: "He has been such a wonderful
light to many who know him and all those touched by him who may never
know that it was he who was touching them."
- San Francisco Mayor Willy Brown officially
proclaimed September 25, 1999 as Walt Baptiste Day, "for his many outstanding
contributions to the health and spiritual consciousness" of San Francisco
residents and hundreds of thousands of people nationally and internationally.
Walt Baptiste was known as a catalyst for creating extraordinary change
in people's lives.
Magaña Baptiste - Born 1921
A seminal figure in the world of dance and yoga.
Through the power and inspiration of art,
music and dance Magaña Baptiste has elevated all the lives that she
has touched. Her work has influenced the lives of millions of people. With
her husband Walt she has contributed to the popularity of yoga today. Magaña
helped to take the science of bodybuilding mainstream, and to introduce bodybuilding
to women. She was 1st runner up in the 1951 Miss U.S.A. contest. Magaña
has taught Mudra classes, classical Hindu dance, since the1950's. She currently
teaches sacred dance from around the world, approaching the Yoga of Movement
and Dance as a practice that combines the physical, mental and emotional aspects
of our human existence. She is an author and has written for numerous magazines.
She has lead yoga and dance groups to India, Nepal, Central America, Morocco
Magana Baptiste Website
Magaña Baptiste has received
international acclaim as a pioneer in the fields of health and dance,
and has received numerous honors and awards.
Magaña continues to teach yoga and
dance, filling her classes to capacity and performing for the world
- The San Francisco Dancers League honored
Magaña Baptiste in 2003 as a 'Living Legacy Dancer and as a Pioneer'
who introduced Yoga, Middle Eastern and East Indian Dance in San Francisco.
Magaña was also honored and inducted into the New York Dance Hall
- Magaña was given the honorary
title of Yogi by Swami Sivananda and the Forest Vedanta University in
- Dr. Larry Payne, internationally renowned
Yoga Teacher, author and Founder of The International Association of
Yoga Therapists, said on a KGO Radio Interview Broadcast 2002: "I want
the whole world to know that one of Magaña's early students that
she inspired was a woman by the name of Rama Vernon. And Rama Vernon
and the great Satchitananda went on to start something called Unity in
Yoga. These were the early days of bringing all of the yogis together
in one ecumenical path. And that Unity in Yoga was the inspiration for
the modern day Yoga Journal Conferences that we have now that literally
have reached millions of people. And I thought that the world should
know that that motivation came from you inspiring Rama Vernon to make
this happen for all of us in the world to have the modern day yoga that
we do today."
- Joannie Greggins- KGO Radio Interview
Broadcast 2002: "This is what I'm saying; in their quiet way, but also
always living as Magaña would say from the light, the Baptistes
have had such an influence on so many thousands and thousands of people,
generation after generation. I hope that YOU, my listeners, that what
you get from all of this as well, is that this is a woman, she and her
husband, and now their children, who have always lived with this wonderful
insight, the depth of understanding, the spirituality and have done so
much with their life without broadcasting it. Doing you know.... when
you say...... the real thing! The real thing!"
- San Francisco's Mayor Willie Brown,
proclaimed August 11, 2002 Magaña Baptiste Day in San Francisco.
Walt and Magaña have offered workshops
and retreats since the 1940s:
In addition Walt and Magaña
founded the 'Baptiste Health & Fitness Center 1971-1990' at Arguello and
Clement in SF. There has never been another center like this. It was a San Francisco
Institution that supported the health and wellbeing of thousands and thousands
of people who traveled through it's doors each year, year after year. This dynamic
center provided the San Francisco bay area with the most complete Health and
Fitness Center of its kind. Four stories tall and half a block long, it was devoted
to the health and wellbeing of all that entered. People traveled from all over
the bay area to receive the quality of information, education and guidance that
was offered. This
center included "Baptiste Natural Foods Store", "Hungry Mouth Health Food
Restaurant", "Magaña's Bazaar Boutique", a comprehensive Dance studio,
gymnasium, and a huge Yoga room with forty-foot high stained glass ceilings.
- Retreat properties were purchased and
developed specifically for the students of the Baptiste teachings starting
in the1950's. The first Baptiste Yoga and Meditation Retreat was on the
ocean in Half Moon Bay, California. Then in the 1960s, The 25 acre farm
in Tomales Bay, California was established. In 1975 Walt and his wife
Magaña founded the first school of yoga in Central America "El
retiro del Espiritu", an idyllic beach setting, which accommodates 30
people, with pools, a yoga studio, gym, meditation pyramid, and a zoo
with tropical birds, monkeys, horses and many other animals. The family
retreat was recently given to their children, Sherri & Baron to use
for their work. In the1990's Walt and Magaña established a retreat
property in Oregon.
Walt and Magaña are recognized radio
and television personalities, and have had their own health and fitness
radio shows. They have attracted many prominent people, including Herb
Caen and Cyril Magnin, as well as renowned poets, dancers, celebrities,
athletes, creative artists, psychologists, corporate leaders, educators,
philosophers, spiritual teachers and householders from all over the Bay
Area and around the world. They have hosted and presented many of the greatest
master teachers, artists and writers of the world in their many San Francisco
- When Maharishi Mahesh Yogi came to
America for the first time, Walt and Magaña presented him in a
series of lectures and initiations.
- Swami Vishnu-Devananda, yoga master
and founder of the Sivananda Centers and Retreats worldwide, was another
yoga pioneer who first came to the Baptiste Center for support.
- Indra Devi, the first lady of yoga,
frequently came to the Baptiste Centers in San Francisco. It was there
that she introduced a film of Sai Baba for the first time in America.
3. Tell us a little
about your own work. Where, what, how?
SHERRI BAPTISTE FREEMAN "Sherri Baptiste
Freeman, Marin’s most respected yoga luminary, is a recognized master
in the yoga revolution". — Pacific Sun 2003
Sherri is frequently asked when she began
to practice Yoga. Her answer is "in the womb". Sherri is the daughter of two
of America's yoga-health-fitness pioneers Magaña and Walt Baptiste,
who established yoga on the West Coast in the mid-50s. An inspirational teacher
at the forefront of yoga training in America, born into a lineage of teachers,
Sherri can look at the yoga mats sticking out of half the backpacks on the
street and know that her family had a part in it. Growing up in San Francisco,
Sherri watched her parents at their spiritual and health centers and retreats
as they taught profound life-changing principles of yoga, health and fitness
in a simple way that made them accessible to everyone from all walks of life.
She witnessed their students’ transformation and self-renewal. Trained by her
parents, Sherri began to teach yoga in her teens. She was the founder and owner
of Baptiste Natural Foods in San Francisco at the Baptiste Center on Arguello
and Clement for fifteen years. Today she teaches both group and private classes
at Marin's leading health and fitness facilities. A TV and radio personality,
Sherri is the founder of Baptiste Power of Yoga™, offering workshops
and retreats. Her Teachers Training Program is registered with and recognized
by The Yoga Alliance, Yoga Alliance of Europe and International Yoga Federation.
She has served as the Membership Liaison for the International Association
of Yoga Therapists and served as a teacher to Dr. Dean Ornish’s Research Participant
Group. She leads spiritually enriching retreats, at both local and international
destinations, including Bali, Central America, India and Nepal. Sherri has
taught at Rancho La Puerta Spa in Tecate Mexico, at Marriott Palm Desert Resort
providing a Life Balance Yoga Program, and has co-taught with her brother Baron
in the Yucatan. In addition Sherri Baptiste is an associate teacher with The
Himalayan Institute, Rishikesh India, Pennsylvania, and Minneapolis. She
has recently released her new Baptiste Power of Yoga and Meditation videos,
DVD and CD. <www.powerofyoga.com>
Baptiste Power of
Yoga-Sherri Baptiste Freeman workshops, seminars, conferences and retreats in
2004 will include:
- Richard Miller, Ph.D. Internationally
respected teacher, Co-founder of the International Association of Yoga
Therapists: "Sherri Baptiste is such a lovely embodiment of all that
Yoga is. You are energetic, enthusiastic, joyful, relational, spiritual,
full of life and vitality, love what you are doing and bring that infectiousness
to your students. How could they resist the power of what Yoga is when
seen through your eyes."
- Mary Frank, KRON TV Producer, tried
Yoga before, but she didn't get hooked on it until she took Sherri Baptiste
Freeman’s class. That was six years ago. Now, the TV commercial producer
says, "I feel better. I look better." The difference was Sherri Baptiste
Freeman. "This isn't just something she kind of does; this is something
that has been in her blood since birth." Frank says. "She’s inspiring." — Marin
Independent Journal - 2002
- "Sherri Baptiste Freeman, has been
a popular yoga teacher in the Bay area for years...Her parents were great,
and that Baptiste Lineage is strong. Their father Walt, a world-famous
bodybuilder and former Mr. America, founded San Francisco’s first yoga
studio in 1935." - HEALING RETREATS Magazine
- Swami Veda Bharati- Spiritual Director
of The Himalayan Institute: "It is obvious that the seeds you plant in
your orchard are not to get fruits for your own table but for passers-by
to pick as well. Sherri I give all my blessings to the fine and spiritually
beneficial work that you do- and may all your teachings touch as many
people as possible."
- Dan Millman, renowned author and speaker: "You'll
always be my archetypal Yoga Babe and Super-Coach. I appreciate the energy
and heart you bring to your teaching."
Sherri's workshops, classes and retreats
blend a sweet balance of the following elements: Baptiste, as
you would expect from her background, is an excellent teacher. Her
instructions and guidance are both physically exact and spiritually uplifting. -
Yoga Journal 2003
- YOGA POSTURES for Serenity,
Strength and Beauty: You will be skillfully and gently guided through
postures [asanas] held in accurate alignment, giving full range of motion
for muscles, bones and joints, as well as developing and controlling
a deeper breathing pattern. Series of flowing movements with breath will
strengthen the mind as well as the muscles of the body, enabling you
to access and sustain mental, emotional and physical well being. You
will be encouraged to work at your own level of ability, with modifications
given throughout the practice. Yoga feels good, and you can feel and
see it working.
- BREATHWORK: This natural process
brings many personal benefits; presence and peace of mind while strengthening
the body's immune
system, slowing biologic aging processes, awakening regenerative energies,
balancing the nervous system, and nurturing enhanced creative abilities
with a calm and relaxed state of mind. Pranayama cleanses and strengthens.
Breath is life. How we breathe influences everything in our lives.
RELAXATION AND MEDITATION: Meditation is an increasingly familiar
concept as it becomes integrated into modern life. Physicians, psychologists,
and other professionals endorse meditation as a powerful tool for
relieving stress, maintaining health, and promoting creativity and
Meditation is a powerful technique that anyone can use to increase
balance, clarity of mind, and awareness. Rejuvenate, energize, balance,
relax, deepen internalized awareness and enjoy an improved quality
of relationship to life itself through meditation.
- CHAKRA JOURNEY:
Join Sherri Baptiste in this dynamic exploration of the chakras
as a path of yogic transformation, healing, and Self Realization. The
have been part of sacred yoga practices for thousands of years,
in the hatha/tantrika traditions. You will explore gentle hatha
yoga postures that balance the centers and relax your whole being. Visualization,
meditation, and mantra techniques will be taught for awakening
awareness. The goal of this workshop is for you to learn tools
for centering within your chakras and discovering the hidden dynamic
your life, and for integrating you body-mind-spirit in a way that
brings the timeless yoga traditions of Patanjali and the Yoga Sutras
EATING SMART AND HARMONIZING YOUR DIET is a matter of balance.
Sherri was born into a family of revolutionary thinkers. For
her, healthy nutrition
and cleansing/purification programs were a natural part of her
upbringing, and something that she has practiced her entire life.
the founding owner of The Baptiste Natural Foods Store at the
Arguello & Clement
Streets in San Francisco for fifteen years. Recognizing that no two people
are the same, Sherri hopes to support her students in discovering what
supports their own best balance. Sharing tips and guidelines with them
from her professional and personal experience, she encourages the individual
to incorporate fresh and healthy foods into their daily eating regime,
so that they eat in a way that supports optimal health and wellbeing
for their lifetime.
4. What can you tell
us about your other siblings' work?
Devi Ananda Baptiste
is internationally recognized as a teacher of dance, mime and hatha yoga.
She teaches dance and yoga at the Baptiste Studio in San Francisco. Her
great forte' is dance and she gives dance performances in San Francisco
and the Bay Area. Devi Ananda was featured on the cover of ELLE magazine.
She has performed on television, in movies, with the Jefferson Star Ship
and with many other great performing artists.
is at the forefront of Yoga and Human Potential work in America. He is
a renowned teacher and author. I give Baron great credit for opening up
many doors for yoga's popularity and growth in the mainstream in the 1990s.
His work continues to grow and blossom in the most unique and inspiring
ways. As a teacher he gives much! and leaves the student with a greater
depth and understanding. He is a great and inspiring teacher.
2. Is there a collective
yoga style and/or philosophy the Baptiste family teaches from, or do you all
do your own thing independently?
INSIGHT - LEADERSHIP - SERVICE:
The Baptiste Family teaches the concept of a sound mind in a sound body,
and has helped to support countless numbers of people in their steps toward
health, physical fitness, self mastery, realization and spiritual discovery.
The Baptiste Family’s interest has been to give the student the tools and
understanding, so that they may live their lives to the fullest. What I
have observed in our family’s work is that our focus addresses the whole
person, to bring the essence of yoga - with the best of both West and East
- to the mainstream in a way that is acceptable and accessible and yet
not watered down. I can only speak from my perspective and sense of it
all: What I have noticed is that there is a clear and distinctive Baptiste
Energy and Style that people pick up on right away. The Baptiste teachings
have always been practical and real, effecting deep change and growth.
As teachers, authenticity in expressing our own unique sense of things
and style and being true to ourselves in the process is what this work
is all about; it's what we want for others, it's that journey of discovery.
Yoga acquires a new significance for every generation. And watching yoga
all of my life, I have realized that the system of yoga has neither a beginning
nor an end, but it is permanent and is based on universal principles that
appeal to us on every level, mentally, physically and spiritually. It's
about being in the moment, living life to the fullest, feeling the life
within the breath and experiencing our richest potentiality and growth
as a life-long process.
A broad spectrum of enthusiastic students,
past and present, report all-encompassing benefits from working with the
Baptiste Family. They say that our teachings address the whole person and
empower and enrich every area of their lives; and that their training in
the Baptiste work gives them the skills for physical, mental and emotional
mastery, and is supportive of their personal psychology, achievement and
Links to more information about Sherri Baptiste:
Power of Yoga -Teachers Training Program
Sherri Baptiste- Power of Yoga