Life’s Journey Yoga & Wellness Center interviews Master Yoga Teacher Christopher Baxter, ERYT-500
Master Yoga Teacher Christopher Baxter, who brings 40 years of yoga practice to yoga classes and yoga teacher training programs, will be teaching the 200-Hour Yoga Teacher Training course starting January 2013 at Life’s Journey Yoga & Wellness Center in Orange Park, FL. The course ends June 2013
Because LJYWC would like to give enrolled students and potential students of this course an opportunity to learn more about this well-experienced teacher with whom they’ll be studying for six months, we asked Christopher 13 questions. Not surprisingly, his answers were heartfelt and informative.
In this interview, find out why Christopher believes yoga is an ideal healing tool, how yoga has significantly helped his life’s journey, his suggestions for the best way to prepare for a yoga teacher training program, what he believes are the biggest benefits and challenges for those enrolled in a yoga teacher training course, and so much more.
So, grab a glass of water, a cup of herb tea, a fresh juice or such, get comfy, and gain inspiration and clarity from Christopher’s insightful answers on the topic of yoga and well-being!
What made you want to initially take a yoga teacher training program?
Christopher Baxter (CB): I realized what a powerful effect yoga was having on my life. I was feeling more energized, more relaxed, and more in touch with myself and the world around me than I had in years. I really enjoyed increasing the flexibility in my body and mind and was delighted at how much better I felt going through my day. I also saw that my relationships with others were a little easier, as I felt easier with myself. As a result, I felt inspired to share that with others. I also knew that by taking a teacher training I would deepen my own practice and draw more and more of my potential into my life. What I didn’t know at the time was how profound and long-lasting the effect would be.
How would you describe yoga? Why is it such a good healing tool?
CB: To me yoga is a way of life. Because the practices and principles have been in use for more than 5,000 years, there is a profound depth and reliability. And the reason yoga has sustained over such a long time is because it works! Yoga addresses the whole person, providing techniques and methods to enable anyone – irregardless of age, physical condition or religious beliefs – to improve the quality of their life, their connection to their community, and their sense of self responsibility. To sustain our well-being over the entire course of our life through using our body, breath, mind, and heart is very empowering. To know how to increase our energy, decrease our stress, and refine our awareness is to know how to take care of ourselves form the inside out.
Because yoga can be done alone or with others, requires no special equipment, and can be very very gentle or very very vigorous, it is possible to easily fit it to any time of day and any stage of life. It’s economical, simple, practical, and portable. Once you learn the basics, it’s infinitely adaptable in response to your own inner intelligence.
I think it’s a good healing tool because of how it uses all parts of our intelligence – right, left brain and integrative as our primary health care provider. Yoga develops highly refined attention of what the body feels, what it’s doing, what hurts, and what needs help on a daily basis. Because It helps calm down the nervous system, anxiety – one of the main causes of disease – receives early intervention.
As we become more aware of the early stages of stress, we are better able to transform stress into free-flowing energy. As a result, on a daily basis, on an hourly basis, even a minute-to-minute basis, we can monitor and adjust our living in our body. Then, we can be healthier more consistently and economically.
What advice do you have for others considering a yoga teacher training program but go back and forth in their minds about it?
CB: I actually think it’s a good idea to go back and forth in your mind when considering taking a teacher training. It’s a serious commitment in time and money. Picking a yoga teacher training course is easy, but choosing to take it and do the work is where the real commitment comes in. The training itself is a transformational process; you will not be the same person coming out of it that you were in the beginning. As in any transformational process, you will go through a lot of different changes. So, it’s very helpful to know that you’ve considered wisely and have made your choice based on a strong determination that this something you really want to do for yourself and for others, and you are determined to do what it takes to do your very best.
How would you encourage someone to prepare for a yoga teacher training once they have made the commitment to do so?
CB: The best way to prepare for a teacher training is to establish a regular practice for yourself. Not trying to do anything extraordinary, not trying to be super flexible before you enter the training, but much more importantly – developing a friendly, regular relationship with your body and energy through practice.
What, in your opinion, is the biggest benefit for someone taking a yoga teacher training journey?
CB: The biggest benefit in my experience after 40 years of practice is that I have developed a friend for life. In all honesty, there has not been a day in my life since I began my deeper relationship with yoga that I haven’t found some way that the practice comes to me spontaneously – either on the mat or in daily life.
There have been times when I have felt that almost everything around me had collapsed, and I wasn’t sure where my next steps lay, but somehow the presence of the practice deep in my core gave me the ground to recognize and actualize what needed to happen next. Whether I reached for it or it intuitively arose in me, it was there when I needed it – without fail.
What, in your opinion, could be the biggest challenge for someone taking a yoga teacher training journey?
CB: The biggest challenges are having unrealistic expectations of what we are supposed to accomplish and an unrealistic view of who we think we are! If we can allow yoga to simply reveal to us in a very steady, intelligent, and realistic way what we’re capable of and where our limitations are, then it’s a very simple process of going with what we discover each step of the way. So, it’s important to realize that we start where we are, and we gradually mature into the practice. We can drop the anxiety of not being good enough and really enjoy and benefit from where we actually are!
What is different/unique about the teacher training program that you provide through InnerSky Yoga?
CB: The InnerSky yoga approach has many things in common with other yoga teacher trainings. We will use many of the same positions, breathing techniques, and terms. However, in this approach, the main emphasis is on using the body and mind to grow into a happier, healthier, more balanced human-being. Developing skillful, integrated awareness of our total well-being – body, mind, and heart – brings us into a relationship with the entire web of life. As a result of that alignment with reality, we feel genuine lightness of heart and an easy sense of presence. There is a strong emphasis on meditative awareness combined with precise anatomical instruction. Both the inner awareness and the outer forms are kept in balance. This approach always rests on an open, spacious, joyful core of intelligence. While we work extensively with the muscles at the core of the body, the more profound aspect of the work is in establishing a foundation of stable, mobile, spacious inner strength.
What words of wisdom, comfort or such do you have for persons considering your training beginning January 27, 2012 at LJYWC?
CB: For anyone considering taking the training, I would recommend taking some time to consider how your life will be different as an experienced practitioner if, by the beginning of summer, you have successfully completed this 200 hours of training. Imagine how you would be living, how you would feel about yourself, what you would be able to offer others – how the course of your life might grow.
How would you describe the space at Life’s Journey Yoga & Wellness Center where you will teach the training?
CB: The life’s journey facility is a lovely, unique setting with woods and trees – nature a few seconds from a main highway. Convenient yet quiet and secluded! The obvious care and skillful design that has been used in creating the environment makes it an extremely supportive center for our training. Comfortable, spacious, and welcoming with all the equipment and amenities necessary. It is a sanctuary and a center for focused practice.
What do you say to those who shy away from yoga because they think it is a religion?
Yoga is a science of inner well-being. It concerns itself with the natural study of who we are and what we are capable of. Unlike a religion, there is no belief system connected with yoga. There is a whole system of possibilities in the form of techniques, methodologies, and experiments which you can do on yourself and then observe whether the effects are beneficial.
In yoga, you are the expert on which aspects are useful to you. There is no outside authority to tell you. For some, it is a vehicle for wellness, and for others, a way to be themselves. Its very nature is flexibility and adaptability.
At the same time, it’s important to recognize that yoga did occur in India, and as part of that culture there are also a variety of images and art forms that can serve as metaphors and symbols for some of the processes of yoga, but it’s always at the discretion of the practitioner as to whether those are of value. Some relate to images that represent transformation, images that represent compassion, images that represent removing obstacles, and so forth. Others are drawn to exoticisms and like to dress up in the look. There is room for all that. The good news is that there’s never any pressure to have to relate to any aspect in a certain way. It’s like going into a restaurant and seeing a big menu with some flavors you like and some you don’t. Well, you don’t have to eat the ones you don’t enjoy.
How do you believe you have benefited most from being an ongoing yoga student and teacher?
CB: Without a doubt, the greatest benefit to me of being both a yoga student and a teacher – which are one of the same – is that I have been able to connect deeply with my life, establish genuine well-being for my body, heart, and mind, and be able to share those capabilities with my friends, family, loved ones, and students. Just expressing that gift has enriched my life far beyond what I could ever have imagined.
CB: At the Meet & Greet, I will give an overview of what to expect in the training and be available to answer questions about yoga teacher training, the practice of becoming a teacher, and ways that you can tell if you’re really ready and qualified to undertake the venture. I look forward to meeting new, enthusiastic practitioners and to find ways to enable them to fulfill their dream and to actualize their potentials through the reality of the way of yoga.
What immediately comes to mind when you hear the words “yoga teacher“?
CB: The words ‘yoga teacher’ for me is always a teacher with a small “t”. The teachers that inspire me the most are those who are lifetime students of -learning – beings who you may not know are teachers, but you sense that they are full-bodied, open, light hearted, well grounded human-beings who don’t take themselves too seriously and are not “special”, yet they transmit to others a genuine, simple essence of yoga through how they live their lives.
When I hear the words “yoga teacher,” I also have this image of tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of these “agents of change” all across the planet. With literally millions of students practicing together in rooms indoors and out, in the heat and cold, in countless languages and dialects – all sharing the same core experience while coming home to the inner sky of heart and mind and sharing that warm-hearted presence with others. Reflecting on that makes me happy!
Want to learn more? Sign up for a Meet & Greet with Christopher Baxter at LJYWC
2013 Dates to be determined