For today‘s interview we fly to Lithuania- a small European union country which is often mixed with its neighbouring country – Latvia. If you are one of those people who mix Lithuania with Latvia, that's okay, but if you ever wish to attend a yoga class with a well known yoga teacher in Lithuania – make sure you catch your flight to Vilnius! This is where Gražina, an amazing human being, is doing amazing things in a small country! Besides her regular yoga classes at her own Yoga Guru studio, she is also busy working with youth and children showing them that yoga is a never ending journey!
Q: How did Yoga find its way into your life?
A: Since childhood I enjoyed being alone; I enjoyed silence and I liked observing people and my surroundings. Probably like most little girls, I dreamt of being a ballerina or a doctor. I did become a ballerina and had success in lots of other areas too; work, higher education. However, the fast pace of life, challenges and competition made it exhausting. Dancing became my escape, as working with my body made me feel rejuvenated and relaxed.
I didn’t think of trying Yoga, but The Universe gave me this gift, when one day I was asked to cover a yoga class at a sports club, since the teacher was sick. I said yes and started preparing for the class! Right there and then, with my whole being, I found what I’ve been looking for. After that first class, I immersed myself fully into Yoga: books, videos, teachers, seminars, meditation, power, flow, kundalini- you name it! I explored the whole ocean of yoga, until I found my stream.
Q: What does Yoga mean to you and how did it change your life? Did others notice a difference in you?
A: Firstly - I started breathing deeper. Not just in a physical sense, but I started feeling the breath of life. I started developing the feeling of peace, and all my fear and worries were gone. Of course, these changes don’t happen just in one night! I 100% agree with the theory that physical practise on the mat, even if we don’t sense it at first, influences our life as a whole.
Others definitely noticed a difference, my family first! Funnily, as a result, our family atmosphere started changing, the way we spend time, diet, creative expression. Sometimes you don’t see the changes yourself, but after a few years of a yogic lifestyle, I ran into an old colleague and he immediately noticed that I was different. He joked and said that I used to be a stubborn but now I radiate such peace and kindness, you want to be in my presence for longer. That was the most wonderful compliment I have ever received.
Q: How did you come up with the idea to start ‘Yoga Guru’ studio and what is your main objective with it?
A: The name ‘Yoga Guru’ received criticism, but it came from the idea that the studio will be a home to many different styles of yoga, not just one. We invite different yoga teachers and hold varying practises and seminars. The name itself had to be simple and easy to understand. I created this studio with the idea that the practises lead would be available and open for any type of person - for a regular yogi, or someone who just wished to try it out. One of the things that draw people into our studio is curiosity. Those who stay, however, are open to the changes that yoga brings about: our commitment to the practise, the breathing exercises and asanas are rewarded with the clarity of mind, mental strength, physical health and inner peace. By changing ourselves, we also change the world.
Q: Your studio has been open for multiple years. Did everything go according to plan and the studio is the way you imagined it to be? Or did Yoga Guru take a life on its own and turned out a little different than what you envisioned?
A: I think my organizational skills which I learnt in previous jobs, and my ballet dancer’s drive and passion helped realize that which was envisioned. The studio has been working continuously for a quite a few years: In 2010 it opened its doors in the port city, Klaipeda, and it’s been 3 years since it opened in Lithuania’s capital Vilnius.
In Klaipeda, the studio is very popular and its in a way an oasis for the locals! Lots of different events, seminars, lectures, knowledgeable teachers (not just in yoga, but other fields too), yoga classes multiple times a week and affordable prices!
People reacted passionately to my decision to open another studio in Vilnius. I was a little scared myself. Afterall, everything was doing great in Klaipeda - beautiful studio, lots of visitors, respect, great recommendations- everything! However, after 5 years of growth and instructors that grew with the studio, my so called child had grown up and it was time for new challenges!
In Vilnius, everything started from the beginning! Vilnius is a big city; more people, more competitors and more options for people to practise yoga. It seemed like regular yogis already had their mind set on certain teachers and certain studios. However, the Universe was so good to me!
The studio is doing great, the Yoga Guru circle of people is growing and my fellow yogis from Klaipeda stop by our Vilnius studio whenever they’re in town. I absolutely love what I do, as it’s my lifestyle.
Q: What yoga styles do you teach in your studio and which ones are the most popular?
A: The movement system that I am offering in my yoga classes is independent from any other yoga types, however it is very strong and original. It includes both dynamic and statics movements which are perfectly combined with the breath. The foundation of the movement system that I am offering is warmth and connection.
The majority of people, whether beginners or practitioners, associate yoga with slow and careful movements, which help to relax. However, not everybody know that along with latter one, yoga can also be energizing and challenging. When we combine or connect one asana with another, and add the breath, - we create a flow. During that flow it is important that our Mind wouldn‘t wander around, because if it does – we immediately notice that our flow is not happening easily. We struggle. One of the ways to keep our mind focused on our practice is to combine yoga asanas which require constant attention on our body, without losing focus.
Balance, coordination of the movement – all this leads to meditation. This type of yoga practice I call Hatha powerflow yoga. This is yoga with character. In one of the Indian ancient temples dedicated to the worship of Lord Shiva, there is an ancient text hanging for the students as a reminder : “Willpower is a whip which guides humanity towards success“
Q: Is yoga popular among young people in Lithuania? Do they visit the yoga studio?
A: The youth is really enthusiastic about our yoga activities, and there is a lot of participation in both Klaipeda and Vilnius! It’s really heart warming to see that after the yoga events that we organise, our visiting guests commit to making that first step to try yoga. Just by looking at someone doing yoga, we can get inspired and willing to try.
For the last 2 years I’ve been giving yoga classes to a group of people who are practicing cross fit. Majority of those people are of a younger generation. The classes are packed so you wouldn’t find a spot to squeeze an additional yoga mat. Last September, Vilnius municipality started a beautiful project which offers the opportunity for youth to enjoy yoga classes two times per week for a symbolic 15 eur/month fee. The municipality also provides the venue at the youth center „Kregždutė”. Sometimes I joke that I wish I would have the ability to move the walls of the studio, so that everyone who is expressing the interest to join the class could easily fit.
Q: What would your advice be to those who think that yoga isn’t for them, that they can’t do it because they lack flexibility, and as a result are a little scared to go to a yoga studio?
A: There are quite a few myths floating around about yoga! Yoga is boring, it’s only for women and not men, you have to be skinny and flexible, it’s better to skip the yoga studio and not embarrass yourself. My dear people, don’t be afraid of Yoga! Imagine that yoga is like an educational establishment, such as an art academy or a dance school! Yoga teaches us how to move forward, accept our accomplishments, talk to our bodies, improve. By practising 3-4 times a week, you will get everything that you dreamed about when you first looked at your teacher and their beautiful asanas!
Q: If you had a magic wand, what 3 wishes would you like granted?
A: I don’t have any big wishes. I just wish for our Earth to be cleaner and healthier, for our people to be happy and also for the animals to be happy. Maybe I have one humble wishes: I just wish to grow old without losing my vitality, maintaining a calm and clear mind, and peacefully accepting the coming end of this human experience.
Q: Where in the world would you love to go to and why?
A: For me, the whole world is wonderful, and I want to go everywhere - even to places I’ve already been! Then again, dreaming is the first step towards realization! At this moment I’d love to go to Tibet. Why? I don’t really know! (smiling)
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