Caution: this is a digression. It’s about yoga. It’s about what I learned this weekend from Baron Baptiste. If you’re not a yoga practitioner… and before you start snickering… let me just tell you straight out that you’re missing something. Power vinyasa yoga – the sweaty, high-energy kind – is the best workout I’ve ever gotten. I’m in better shape now than I’ve ever been. I’m calmer. (I’ve been practicing for 10 years plus.) I try and fit in a class 3 or 4 times a week at Down Dog Yoga, (a great studio to drop in to if you’re ever in D.C.). Yoga is my sanity. It’s my anti-email, anti-computer antidote. It’s my passion. OK, that’s out of the way. Here’s what I learned about the power of authenticity from Baron Baptiste…
Frankly, I was skeptical at first about how authentic Baron Baptiste could be… now that he’s turned into a big-name brand. Baron Baptiste is one of the master teachers who has helped popularize – and de-mystify – yoga in the past five years so that virtually every fitness gym now offers classes. Perhaps you’ve tried one!
In addition to teaching classes, the guy does workshops, bootcamps, produces audio CDs, videos, writes books. He’s got a mean looking Web site that does a great job of branding and selling. He’s just written a book for children, My Daddy is a Pretzel, and was interviewed on The Today show.
Yesterday afternoon, before concluding our Personal Revolution Weekend, Baron invited the 200 yogis in attendance to crowd up to the front of the room and sit for a while. Then he invited questions. They came slowly at first. Most were about his teaching style, who had influenced him the most, how he feels about incorporating religion with a capital “R” into his practice (good questions).
Towards the end, I raised my hand and asked if he was worried that his corporate success – and increasingly well-known brand – would diminish his effectiveness as a teacher. In other words, could Baron Baptiste the brand ultimately diminish Baron the teacher.
He paused; then gave a wonderful answer. No, he said in his calm way. He speaks like the Californian he was brought up as. Informal, low-key, not always perfectly articulate, but warm, approachable. (OK, the guy is cute; there’s no denying it.) He’s not trying to create an empire, Baron said. His company is growing organically. Instead of being a company of one, which is lonely and hard, he’s created a team that can multiply what he does. He has no desire to create a McBaron franchise of studios in every city. Whatever happens (in terms of corporate growth) happens, he said.
Ya know, I believed him. He’s so utterly in the moment, so genuine, so likable. And his classes were great this weekend. He’s a marvelous teacher. I’m convinced. Baron’s is a genuine, authentic brand. How many other companies are there like this… where the people behind the company so effectively embody the brand? Where the mission and vision are so clear? Virgin Atlantic? Ben & Jerry’s?