Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Welcome to power yoga — the ultimate wake-up call!

So many of us are striving so hard to be better, to know more, do more, be more. We have been conditioned to believe that we are not good enough the way we are. We're afraid that if we do less, we'll be less, so we read all the latest self-improvement books, take the seminars, follow the diets, go to the gym, but nothing seems to really get us where we want to go. We still weigh too much, worry too much, and race around searching for something that will soothe whatever it is that we see as our problem.

But I believe we all have just one problem. Yes, you read that right: Every single one of us is suffering from the same problem. Of course, your life looks different from mine, or your friend's, or your neighbor's. You might even think your problems are completely unique, but for those of us who feel dissatisfied with our bodies or our lives, there is only one explanation: We are not living from our authentic selves, from our truth. We are asleep to who and what we really are and can be.

We blame external factors for our woes — our parents, our careers, our hectic lives, our spouses, our thighs, our lack of time to exercise or eat right — but the only thing that is "wrong" with us or our lives is that we are disconnected from our core. We were programmed to believe that things like status, money, achievement, and a perfect body would make us happy, or better yet, a complete person. We were taught that these goals were more important than honoring our authentic nature; the timeless and universal truths within us. The question is, are material possessions and perfect abs and thighs the object of our real search? We're pursuing some better version of ourselves, all the while asleep to the one true fact in the universe: Our ideal selves are already within us, just waiting to be awakened. Our only task is to relinquish the luggage of life and accept what was there from the start: the light in our hearts and the power within.

Michelangelo used to say that God put a statue within every slab of marble, and his job was to remove all that was not part of the statue. He claimed he merely freed the statue from the stone. I have studied and practiced yoga for nearly my entire life, and I know that it can be a powerful tool to help you free your own personal "statue." That is why I teach and why I have written this book. Because beneath the habits of our materialistic lifestyles and the stresses and demands of maintaining the identity we have created lie our true selves and the deeper meaning of life. I want to share with you how to peel away the layers that keep your magnificent body and inner being from shining through.

Journey into Power is not about seeking the answers from some outside source. It's not about piling on muscles, or gaining more knowledge, or finding a better relationship. You have been taught your whole life to look outside yourself, to parents, teachers, experts, maybe even to gurus, but all you need is already within you. It's time we wrap our arms around that truth! The goal here is not to go out and find yourself, for you were never really lost. Forgotten maybe, but not lost.

Journey into Power is about excavating the amazing, radiant self already inside you. Within you is a power that is already perfect, and the true essence of seeking on this journey is accepting. Your greatest power, your greatest wisdom, your greatest enlightenment is not suddenly going to appear in ten or twenty years. It's already here. Like Michelangelo's statues, within each of us lies our authentic body and our natural, divine self; all we need to do is chisel away all that does not belong in order to reveal it. And that is where my yoga program comes in.

Yoga is ultimately a journey into truth: truth about who you really are, what you are capable of, how your actions affect your life. Truth is the only medicine that ever "cures" us; it is the only means by which we can live at our full, incredible potential. At the most basic level, so many of us are not living life at 100 percent. But if you are not living in truth, you are cheating yourself. If you are living in a body that is weighed down and unhealthy, you are robbing yourself of your vitality. If you are plagued by anxiety and worry, you are denying yourself the peace that is so readily available to you. If you are controlled by your fears and emotions, you have sacrificed your personal power.

We could all be playing at a much greater level if we would only dare to go beyond where we are stuck. That's what yoga tells and shows us. Down through the ages, every great teacher has taught that we have the ultimate power to break through and therefore "break with" that which holds us back.

On the first night of Bootcamps I tell the students that I'm going to squeeze them like oranges. If you squeeze an orange, you get orange juice, so my question to them is "If we squeeze you, what will we get?" That's what this process of yoga does. It wrings you from the inside out. It brings up everything that's in there — the fears, doubts, frustrations, toxins, strengths, beliefs, potential — and exposes it either to be released or to be used for growth. It challenges physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually and gives you the opportunity to experience every part of yourself on a whole new level.

It all starts in your body, on the mat. I'll show you how to turn back the clock and come alive like never before. One of my students, a professional athlete, recently called me to say how thrilled he was that his body had a strong tingling sensation all over.

"What's so thrilling about that?" I asked, curious to hear his take on it.

"My body hasn't been alive like that since I was eighteen years old!" he said. He was in touch with a body that had been lost to him since he was a boy. His body was an athletic machine, but he had become numb. Now he could feel again. The yoga practices in this book will allow you to do the same thing: to heal and to empower.

Power vinyasa yoga is an amazing form of fitness that sculpts strong, healthy bodies. The results are dramatic because it is a whole body system, using full body movements that encourage the body to move as nature intended. Because every single muscle is used in strength and balance, it ignites the metabolic furnace. It tones and chisels through isometrics and isotonics. You lose weight because active muscle tissue burns fat — the stronger your muscles are, the stronger your metabolic fire burns — and also because you won't have the same need to feed your fears and soothe your anxious edges by overeating. Within the first few practice sessions, your belly will get flatter, your buttocks tighter, your arms will get toned and strong, and you will tingle and sparkle from your temples to your toes. You will feel strong and calm, more energized and alive. You will begin to see your body taking on a shape and level of agility you have never experienced before. You will stand taller and look sleeker, straighter, and leaner. In time, you will awaken in a whole new body.

But the physical changes are only a by-product of a more empowering purpose. The physical magic just kind of happens as you go through the practice. The real miracle is what starts happening underneath, within you.

We soak up life like a sponge, holding tensions, fears, and anxieties in our system. In yoga practice you reach down into all the nooks and crannies and hidden pockets of tissue, excavating all this clogging, unwanted stuff. Through the challenges on your mat, you step up to what I call your edge and pull up whatever is inside you that needs to be healed and released. You also discover how strong you really are, physically and mentally. Almost as if by magic, lifelong fears dissipate, blocked emotions are released, your mind gets quiet and gains startling clarity, psychic wounds from deep down surface to be healed. You experience mental shifts that free you from old thought patterns. You begin to understand on a deep level what is right for you and what to do. You just get it. These insights and revelations crystallize as something permanent and real within you.

At the same time, because it strips away all the excess debris, yoga brings you back to your sweetness, your innocence. It reminds you of your love of discovery. Children have natural yoga bodies because they haven't piled on the layers of toxic living, reactiveness, resentments, guilt, and anxiety that adults have. They have no blocks yet to stand in their way, and instinctively live from the center of their beings. My eight-year-old son has lots of friends, but when I once asked him who his very best friend was, he said, "Myself." As children we were complete within ourselves, but over the years we have come to live unnaturally. Yoga is a remarkably effective "unlearning" process. We have to unlearn our negative thought systems, our emotional patterns, our patterns of moving, breathing, and eating so that we can come back to our own naturalness.

On a deeper level, you awaken to cause and effect. You begin to have a meaningful understanding that every action you take generates a result. You see that what you put out there dictates what you get in return. If you are not putting out abundance, it's no wonder abundance is not pouring into your life! You start to connect the dots and recognize how the smallest daily actions have a domino effect. It hits you how your overreactions to stress cause your negative eating habits, and how they in turn affect your body and energy levels. You start seeing clearly the things you are doing to limit or hurt yourself, and the ways you can grow. You see how launching into reactivity, anger, fear, or jealousy fuels vicious cycles in your relationships, and where your responsibility lies. You really start to get it that your life circumstances are the sum total of decisions you made along the way, and that the only person who can ultimately transform your life is you, by operating from the deeper level of cause rather than trying to struggle with the surface effects.

If you were to ask ten people, "What would you ask for if you were granted only one wish?" the answers would vary. One might say "a new car." Someone else might say "good health," "a happy relationship," or "a perfect body." Another may say "money." But these people would be blindly limiting their opportunities in life. If we were truly inclined toward fulfillment, peace of mind, and contentment, we would choose quite differently. We might say, "If I had one wish, I would wish that every good thing I ever wished for would come true." Here we would be using our one wish as the foundation for all other wishes.

We all have that choice in life. In yoga practice we learn that the first step toward everything worthwhile is consciously responding from our underlying foundation of truth in each moment. When you awaken to this, you begin to live more consciously and at cause in other areas of your life: your diet, your health, your relationships, your career, your money. Your bad habits and negative patterns will dissolve like snow in the summer sun.

Ultimately, yoga ignites your spirit. When you are free from the constraints of a weak body and the limitations of emotional reactiveness, you live in a higher place. You begin to dwell in spirit, and from there, all that remains that is not authentically you falls away. You carry an inner oasis of calm and composure, even in the midst of the chaos of daily living. The word charisma was originally a spiritual term meaning "gift of grace," and this is what you will radiate. People around you will notice the changes and say you are so lucky, but you will know that luck had nothing to do with it.

When you live from spirit, growth becomes the most important thing to you. Your desire to know and evolve — to take a fearless inventory of yourself — sharpens, and from there your path continues to unfold to infinity. Once you discover how empowering it is to live from your truth, there is no stopping you! It is no longer a question of "How can I grow?" but "How far do I want to go?"

The program in this book is based on my "Journey into Power" Bootcamps, which are intensive, seven-day programs designed to purify your body, rewire your mind, recharge your spiritual batteries, and awaken your inner power. Of course, I know not everyone has the time or resources to be able to leave their life behind for a week and dedicate themselves wholly to growth, so the purpose of this program is to take the practices from the Bootcamps and permanently incorporate them into a long-term life plan. This program can work for anyone at any age, any weight, any fitness level. I have seen it work for eighteen-year-olds and eighty-year-olds, all different body types, weights, and levels of strength and flexibility. From absolute beginners to people who have been practicing yoga for twenty years, this program truly works, if you work it.

The program has five parts:

Rewiring Your Mind

Daily Power Yoga Practice

The Cleansing Diet

Meditation for Truthful Living

Journeying into Real Life

The "Daily Power Yoga Practice" is the heart of the program. I encourage you to embrace the whole program for the most effective and fastest transformation, but even if you do nothing else but roll out your mat and do the yoga flow, you will see and feel the magic, miracles, and results. The other parts of the program are all master keys to transformation to which you will naturally gravitate once you begin to awaken. As old habits and patterns dissolve, they release you. Effortlessly and very naturally you will start thinking better, eating better, meditating (to cultivate stillness and insight), and taking your practice to the next level by living your yoga. If your spirit is ready for growth and you are really willing to part once and for all with what's not working for you, then take action and get on board for the whole program and total life transformation.

If you sense arrogance, know that it is not part of me or my teaching style. It comes from faith in the power of this process, which has worked for thousands of years and millions of students. Something does not stick around for five millennia if it doesn't work. I have simply taken the practice and simplified, demystified, and developed it into the ultimate accessible body and soul path for you to get the most out of life — right here, right now!

The first part, "Rewiring Your Mind," is where it all starts. Yoga teaches you to manage your mental and emotional states, and this shift originates in your mind. As you set forth on your new practice and begin peeling away the layers that you've worn as a defense for so many years, it helps to pay attention to the signals your mind is sending. We all have negative beliefs we buy into, most of which we don't even know about because they are so deeply ingrained in our subconscious. When you are spiritually asleep, these beliefs run your life. When you awaken, however, you open the window to new possibilities.

The timeless principles I introduce here are cues to assist you in your physical practice, but each also has a deeper meaning that you may find helpful in the context of your personal growth and everyday life. Pick and choose what resonates for you at first, but revisit this section often to see if other principles take on new meaning for you as your practice deepens. I have worked these principles for many years and yet I still find fresh, new meaning in them with every new stage of growth.

Part Two, "Daily Power Yoga Practice," is where you will learn everything you need to know in order to start a power yoga practice at home. I will tell you what you need and what to expect. We'll talk about each posture in depth — how to do it, its transformational power, and more. You'll learn why it is important to practice daily, even if only for a few minutes; how to use the foundations of heat, breath, and flow; and how to create practices to fit into your schedule.

As a physical workout, power yoga is athletic yoga, so be prepared to sweat! It is unlike any other form of physical exercise you've ever done. It is challenging, but the beauty of it is that each person can adapt it to suit his or her own body. So even if you are just a beginner who has never even heard of the Sun Salutations, you will be able to do it. Each body will take the poses differently, and as you go through your practice you will begin to know when to push and when less is more, when to go for it and when to rest. When you are fully present in your physical practice, you will know what your body needs.

Part Three is "The Cleansing Diet." It's not a rigid regimen with weird recipes to follow. It's just the basic tenets of a health-giving, cleansing diet and the psychology behind it. Almost all of my students make changes in their eating once they begin doing power yoga. They start to feel lighter and cleaner, and lose the desire for their old unhealthy ways of eating. They now look for foods and habits that enhance their newfound vitality. You'll learn all about the hypnotic power of food and how to break its spell through mindful eating, why it's so important to eat water-rich foods, what "whole" foods are and why your body needs them, and how to let your negative eating habits fly away with the wind.

Part Four, "Meditation for Truthful Living," is where you will learn to cultivate stillness in your life. You've probably been told that meditation is good for you; what I will show is exactly why meditation is perhaps the single most important thing you can do for yourself every day. A regular meditation practice brings a powerful dimension to power yoga as it routinely empties your mental and emotional cup. It removes yesterday's stuff from your mind, cleaning the slate so you can continually return to your center and live in the now that is always fresh, new, and full of discovery.

A lot of people think meditation must mean sitting cross-legged and chanting "Om." Certainly that is one way to meditate, but I'll give you a painless and profoundly simple meditation technique from which you can benefit for the rest of your life. In fact, you'll wonder how you ever managed without it. The strength of coming into stillness will open new doors to you.

The last part of the book, "Journeying into Real Life," puts all you've learned into action. It includes ways to incorporate power yoga into your life and gives you tips on how to take your power yoga practice to the next level. You will learn how to make your practice a priority, things to remember when you find yourself going astray, and, ultimately, how to shine forth and make positive and healing changes in the world around you.

As I've said many times before, neither I nor any other teacher can tell you what is right for you. What I offer here are principles that have worked for many others, all of whom have in some way adapted the program so that it works for them. Don't follow me, follow yourself. I encourage you to dedicate yourself to your own growth, and use what resonates for you in this program to guide you along the way. Take what speaks to you and throw out what doesn't. Ultimately, it is your unique and personal path, not mine or anyone else's.

I promise that if you apply these timeless tools, your life will transform. The psychic debris will clear, your body will become strong and fit, and your spirit will be awakened. Your ultimate power is always within you; all you have to ask is "Am I willing to go for it?" and "If not now, when?" Your Journey into Power begins just by taking that most difficult first step, and you are already on your way just by picking up this book.

Welcome to the world of bliss. Now let's begin!

Copyright © 2002 by Baptiste Power Yoga Institute, Inc.

Excerpted from

Journey into Power: How to Sculpt Your Ideal Body, Free Your True Self, and Transform Your Life with Yoga, by Baron Baptiste
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