After years of struggling with addiction and eventually ending up in jail, Vytas Baskauskas knew that there was something greater to life. Once out of jail, he turned to yoga, and it helped him find what he was looking for. Now he’s been practicing yoga for 15 years and teaches in Southern California. He also teaches yoga classes online through MyYogaWorks.com.
How do you teach? How has this changed over time?
I believe that the beauty of yoga lies in its simplicity. My teaching reflects that. I am not into fancy poses or putting smoke and mirrors around the practice. There is truly magic when we step onto the mat, turn inward, breathe deep, and begin to move our bodies. When I was newer to teaching, I was still in a phase of my practice that was about conquering the most advanced postures. Years later, after having conquered some (not others), I have the understanding that well-aligned basic poses are what make me feel the best.
How do you approach difficulty and challenge?
Difficulty is a repelling concept for many of us, myself included. We usually want the easier and softer way. Through my years of practice, I have come to see that any true and sustained growth has come from walking through challenges. I try to challenge myself in some way every single day. These are usually not the parts of my day that I look forward to, but they are the parts that I get the most out of. They are the parts that I am proud of when the day is done. This is something that I try to take onto the yoga mat with me as well. Finding balance through yoga means walking through some of the imbalances sometimes. Although these processes may not be fun or easy, they can be truly rewarding.
What poses have had the most potent effect on your body/mind/heart?
As an athletic guy, I was initially drawn to poses that made me feel big and strong. Those poses still inspire me on certain levels and allow me to maintain a masculine vigor to my practice. That being said, the poses that have had the most profound impact on me are the softer, more passive postures that force me to get still and quiet my mind. That restless thing between my ears can plague me more than anything else in the body, so learning how to calm it down has become one of the most powerful tools in my life.
Who has been your greatest influence? Who are your yoga heroes? Who are your yoga villains?
I have had many teachers over the years and they have each given me something at times when I needed to hear it. When I first came to yoga, there was probably nobody I could’ve related to better than Bryan Kest. He was one of my first teachers, but at a point, I needed to move on. From him, I evolved to learn from Govindas, Lisa Walford, SN Goenka and Vinnie Marino. These teachers could not be more different, but each has brought something extremely special into my life and my yoga practice. The term “yoga villain” is new to me, but I would have to say that anyone who brings extreme judgement into our yoga community would fit that bill. Yoga is such a broad term and everyone is going to connect with it in different ways. We should never put down yogis or yoga, no matter how different they may be.
What are your future dreams?
Living in Southern California, it would seem as if everyone does yoga, but my dream is to continue to grow this practice to the millions of people in our country and across the world that have yet to experience its benefits. Yoga has helped change my life, and it would be a bit selfish if I kept it to myself. As I continue to teach and spread the message, I will also continue to learn. Anyone that has spent time practicing with me knows that I do not buy into dogma or tradition for tradition’s sake. This practice was made by humans and will be transformed by us. I yearn to refine our knowledge and insights with more study, research, and the integration of modern science and technology.