I remember that Christmas Eve of 1993. At that time I was just 21 years old, but I had already been married and started my adult life as a housewife. I remember that wonderful winter day. The beauty of winter’s magic dance hypnotized me while I was staring at it through the window. The puffy snow blanket kept slowly covering the trees in our backyard. I saw the sunlight spinning in whimsical twirl on the top of the neighbor’s house roof. The cold Winter Sun did not give any heat of course, and I felt so grateful for my old fireplace which generously pampered us with its warmth and coziness. My house has been filled with the Holiday spirit! We placed the most elegant Christmas tree ever in the middle of the living room. We brought the tree from the woods behind our house, and I decorated it with the pieces of wood wrapped in the colorful gift paper. My two-year-old son has had fun chasing our cat and cheerfully yelling.
The time came for starting Christmas Eve dinner preparation. Traditionally we would serve 12 dishes made with fish, mushrooms, vegetables cooked in all the delicious ways and variety of fruit. There was not a single family in my home country Lithuania who would celebrate Christmas without a traditional poppy seed milk and poppy seed cookies. But when I opened my fridge, I found there just three herring fish which were staring at me with the glossy sad eyes. Also, I noticed five potatoes glowing at me in all their sprouted beauty. A sharp thought rushed through my mind: How will I make Christmas Eve dinner for my family if I have nothing but the empty fridge? But this sudden thought couldn’t spoil my Christmas spirit. I got used to being creative while cooking for my family. Lack of food was my everyday reality.
But I have always been a dreamer and always believed in miracles. So, I closed my eyes and imagined what would happen if I met Santa Claus. What gift would I ask from him? Of course, the most desirable Christmas gift – the basket of fruit. I closed my eyes tighter, and the image of different exotic fruit has magically appeared in front of me. I could feel the taste of those delicious tangerines in my mouth. I could smell how fragrant they were. But reality happened to be fruitless. We had no money for such a luxury that Christmas Eve.
Time passed by and few years later I immigrated to the US along with my family, two hundred dollars in the pocket and big dream in our hearts. We were looking forward to start a new life in the most beautiful country. Soon I got a job and it made me feel happy because it paid money. I was working hard. Sometimes I worked three different jobs same time with no days off. I remember myself holding my first salary in my hand. I was spinning around looking at those dollar bills feeling like the richest person on Earth. I have never ever got such amount of money in my entire life before! I was so excited I could not decide where to go and how to spend my money. I realized that now I have enough to pay rent, utilities, internet, food for my kids and it felt amazing. I run to the closest Walmart toward my “big” shopping experience. I have been walking for hours between the isles, contemplating all the goodies at the endless shelves. I felt like a butterfly fluttering in that world of brightness, shine and beauty. But that day I left the store with the only box of tangerines in my hands. The most desirable fruit weren’t luxury for me anymore. Now I could eat as many tangerines as I wanted. I rushed back home holding my catch being anxious to start my tangerine celebration! I placed the orange balls in the vase and arranged them nicely. The color, the smell seemed to be magical and seducing. Slowly I started peeling off the very first tangerine feeling how my mouth starts watering but all of a sudden I heard the phone ringing. It was my sister calling. She spoke to me and cried telling that our parents are in such financial trouble they may lose their apartment soon. Next morning I sent all my money, my very first salary to my parents. I remember that day as one of the happiest moments of my life when I finally could help my family!
Since that time many years passed by. I was busy working, raising kids, living my life and little by little I lost my excitement I used to have for the ability to pay bills. Trips to the grocery store turned into a not very pleasant chore. Besides, with the time I developed allergies on citruses and even forgot when I ate my last tangerine. I was turning as a squirrel in the wheel between jobs, bills and other responsibilities. My life became bleak. I tried to entertain myself going shopping, learned how to spend money I didn’t have and didn’t earn. I kept asking myself – where did my American dream disappear? Where is my happiness? Is my life only about working, raising kids, spending time on Holidays with friends, shopping, paying bills and in the end I will die when my time comes? That’s it? Why nothing makes me happy anymore? Who am I? What is the purpose of my life?
One of these days I went to the local gym and took a yoga class. Since that moment I began my revival. I could not clearly describe what happened in that class, but something changed for me. I noticed that the Sun shined brighter, the trees look greener, and people looked happier. I wanted to smile with no reason feeling joy in my heart. I wanted to hug and kiss the whole world. I came back to get more of this wonderful experience and started practicing yoga. From the beginning, I did my practice just two, then three times a week until I could not imagine even one day of my life without yoga. Yoga changes everything. Every morning I woke up listening to the most impressive birds’ symphony, watching how the first rays of the Light are twirling to the rhythm, feeling the incredibly delicious aroma of my coffee. My senses were dancing at the top of the hill! I’ve been celebrating every day, every minute of my life!
But same time I could feel that there is something more behind just a regular practice of Asanas( physical postures) and Pranayama (breathing exercises). So, I wanted to discover all the yoga secrets that ancient yogis kept hidden for thousands of years. I enrolled for the Yoga Teacher Training with Williamson, Virginia, and the doors of the mystery yoga knowledge slowly began to open providing me with such desirable information. I started learning yoga philosophy and following the yogic way of life with the support of my dearest teacher. The Universe surprised me with the new paths opening for me every day. In October of 2009, I conducted my first yoga class as a teacher in my own studio! I understood that I found my path, my passion, my love and myself. This way was not easy, but I have never felt tired or disappointed. I was working fifty-five hours a week at my primary job and every evening and every weekend I had have enough energy to teach yoga classes at my studio. I was so happy with what I was doing, I was following my real destiny, so my yoga studio was growing year by year.
My hunger for knowing more about yoga was growing, and I was working and saving every penny for the future studies. In 2012 I went to the internationally well-known yoga institute Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram in Chennai, India for The Heart of Yoga course. It was one month program of Yoga in T. Krishnamacharya tradition. I traveled to India by myself. I thought I had prepared very well for that trip by reading two traveling books about this country. But no matter how much you try to be prepared for India, upon your arrival the cultural shock is guaranteed. First two weeks I thought that I would die and this is the end of my life story. The fear was following my footsteps. Dirt, poorness, noise, smell were my daily companions on the way to the school. Homeless women on the streets with dirty hair dressed in smelly rags were carrying babies in their arms. They would follow me all the way begging for money. My heart was broken when I saw those babies, but there was nothing I could do for them. Fear and pity were my feelings in every minute of my first stay in India. It was disgusting and scary to see urinating men in almost every corner. Homeless people, sick and skinny, dogs with their ribs protruded under the skin filled the streets. They had no emotions hopelessly searching for something edible. Besides, the food was fire spicy, and people at the restaurants were eating with their hands! That was my first impression of India. Pictures I posted on Facebook terrified my family and friends. Even though my experience outside of the school was awful, I was happy at the school. I fell in love with T. Krishnamacharya yoga tradition. Every cell of my body was absorbing such valuable and desirable information, which I had been searching for the longest time. For the whole month, I plunged into the deep ocean of the authentic traditional yoga studies, practices and experiences. I knew that I have to come back here again for more yoga studies. I was dreaming of becoming a certified Yoga Therapist.
While concentrating on my studies, I didn’t realize when I started feeling more comfortable being in India. My fear had gone, and I started noticing beautiful things on my way to the school. Every morning I saw Indian women creating colorful mandalas with the chalks in the front of their houses. They were dressed in beautiful sari, and almost all of the ladies would wear fresh jasmine flower garlands in their hair. Indian kids were friendly waiving to me on the way to the school. I found beautiful temples were I could meditate for hours. I saw happy faces of poor people thankfully accepting a simple portion of rice for lunch at Rama Krishna Temple in Chennai. I felt blessed to be able to share my lunch with them sitting on the floor and eating with my fingers. The pictures that I kept posting on Facebook started to change to positive, nice and beautiful. I fell in love with India and I could not wait to come back for more yoga studies.
I promised to myself to come back to India for Yoga Teacher Training and Holistic Yoga Therapy Training and I did come back.
I am so lucky to have this opportunity to grow as a person and to study with well-known teachers in yoga world: Menaka Desikachar, Kausthub Desikachar and others. I successfully completed my courses and started integrating this unique knowledge of yoga in my everyday work. I help people to heal not just from physical but also psychological, spiritual, emotional problems which include problems with the relationship. I’m very happy with the students who come to study with me at Florida Yoga Academy.
Today we offer wonderful courses for the people who are seeking an authentic traditional yoga training: Yoga Teacher Training, Kids Yoga Teacher Training and Holistic Yoga Therapy Training. Besides our main programs at the studio, we run some other educational programs, workshops and health retreats. I’m blessed with the wonderful staff helping me to do all the work. Our mentors teach yoga for the kids at the local schools and voluntarily share the light of yoga with the disabled patients of United Cerebral Palsy of Southwest Florida.
I don’t think my journey of studying in India is over. I’m creating new plans to come back for Chanting Teacher Training course in 2019.
I’m a dreamer and I have so many projects in my near future.
I want to share with the world my adventurous trips to India and other countries by writing books. I want to open a healing center for the people who are tired from life and cannot find themselves. I hope that universe will support me.
I love my native country and will be Lithuanian to the end of my life, but I feel very thankful to the beautiful USA the country of my dreams which gave me a chance to change my life, to find myself, to follow my dreams and to be who I’m now.