What is the first thing that comes to mind, when you hear the word yoga? For a long time, I thought yoga wasn’t for me. But when I moved to Budapest, so did Covid about a month later, and soon followed the lockdown. I still remember it was an insane winter, cold and desolate, and here I was oceans away from my friends and family having to navigate through a pandemic all the while settling in a foreign country with a two-year-old.
The glimmer of hope that everything might soon return to normal, kept fading away as the gloom and doom stretched over the entire world, inch by inch and then all at once. It was overwhelming, to say the least.
So, to find some peace of mind, I turned to poetry, dancing, and yoga. The latter took some stumbling. I believe there are different views on the effectiveness of at-home yoga and we are not going to debate it, as it’s far from the intentions set for this article. But it is my experience that the stumbling led me to discover that there’s more to yoga than I initially assumed.
It was no longer about looking a certain way or perfecting a pose. Instead, it was about connecting with myself by “finding what feels good”. If this resonates with you or perhaps sounds familiar, you will love what today’s guest had to share about her yoga journey.
When Margarita Remeikaite and I got in touch on IG, about a month ago, I noticed that her practice was rooted in something more meaningful than what we are often accustomed to seeing on these platforms. I loved how she captioned her posts, as silly as it may sound I had a hunch that she’d have something of value to offer.
So I immediately asked her if she would like to speak with me about her take on Yoga and I must say, it is to date one of my favorite interviews. We spoke once on the phone and then in person, and in an era where lots of wonderful people fall through the cracks of crazy algorithms of social media, I am so glad we connected.
30-year-old Remeikaite is originally from Lithuania and has lived a fair share of her life in countries like Italy, Malta, and Estonia before moving to Hungary. By profession, she is a Yoga Alliance® certified Hatha Vinyasa Yoga Teacher who owns and runs a beautiful little Ashram (yoga studio) here in the heart of Budapest along with her assistant yoga teacher 😉 Maya; A lovely golden retriever they had adopted about 6 years ago, from a Golden Retriever shelter in Hungary.
Most importantly as a person, Margarita has a child-like spirit and, based on what I gathered from our interactions, she is incredibly passionate, authentic and a wanderer at heart. She is also compassionate and observant… and most certainly lives by the philosophies she shares with those who practice with her.
How did you get into Yoga and when? Do you recall the first time you got on the mat and what it felt like?
Oh, I remember it very well. I was nineteen, and I was at a practice led by a professional dance teacher in an old ballet room. I doubt there was a mat, but I clearly remember the color and texture of the wooden floor and the 1-minute long Salabhasana (locust pose) which was accompanied by classical music.
Frankly speaking, to me “Yoga” sounded very exotic. So, I was simply curious to try it out. Besides, no one explained to us much about it, and we perceived it as a physical practice of postures, and we tried our best to survive a class in a stoical manner.
I think this is still true for many of us, and that is why I wanted to speak with you. You have been practicing for over a decade, and teaching in Budapest for about a year. What was your yoga journey like?
Yes. Frankly speaking, when I started Yoga, I was just practicing only 1/8 of what I know about Yoga philosophy today. I perceived it as a physical practice; a hard and boring one. I used to follow the reflections of my body postures in the mirror trying to do good and look good. I had no clue about what “ujjayi breathing”, pranayama or mindfulness was. Surely there are many out there who could relate to my story.
Eventually, though, I tried a couple of other yoga studios and met different yoga teachers who came from various backgrounds, and I started to realize that the practice of meditation too was a part of yoga. I started digging deep, reading about it, bit by bit uncovering the bigger picture of what yoga is all about and mostly the invaluable philosophy behind it.
During this journey, there were times I experienced severe insomnia issues and I started to understand benefits of yoga can extend beyond its physicality, to bring about psychological healing benefits as well. With this, my curiosity grew exponentially and as a result of it, I found an Indian-origin Yoga School, called Bindusar Yoga Studio, and finished my first 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training Course, led by Mukesh Kothari.
One year later, I enrolled in an advanced 300-hour Teacher Training Course and spent a month living in Arhanta Yoga Ashram, which is run by 5th generation yogi Ram Jain and his family.
Today I practice yoga as a lifestyle.
I’m not sure if yoga can be taught. In my opinion, you can only share with someone your maps and know that we both may reach the same destination through different paths. I don’t judge your choice of path, but I do my best to help everyone who comes to practice yoga with me, discover and develop a holistic approach to it.
That’s interesting, I’ve never heard anyone interpret it like that. So, what brought you to Budapest, and most importantly what made you stay?
About four years ago I came to Budapest just for 18 months. At that time, I was working in one Budapest-based international organization, and I was writing a master thesis about employee motivational systems management. A few months left to my departure one gentleman invited me for a dinner. Little did I know that three years later, on the same day, I would call him my husband. Love finds you in mysterious ways.
Do you plan on settling here in Budapest?
For now yes, but long term I imagine myself living somewhere else, probably by the beach practicing yoga.
You work with individuals and corporates. What is your wish or intention for those who practice with you? What would you want them to achieve when they get off the mat?
Practice observing and resist the temptation to evaluate or judge your thoughts, emotions, and actions. As on the yoga mat, so in life.
Do you have a mantra you live by?
The golden rule: treat others the way you want to be treated.
This is something I’m quite curious to know. The pandemic and the lockdown had a big impact on many of us, and our mental well-being. How did it affect you?
When Covid-19 and the first lockdown knocked on our door, I was practicing Yoga each day. It left no place to hide from myself. I was also gifted to go through the pandemic and the lockdown with my partner. Marton was the one with whom I shared all my 3 a.m. thoughts, feelings, and emotions, it was him who summed it up to a nice conclusion – “you are ready for your teacher training, go find it…”
To me, it was a time of beautiful discoveries in both fields: personal growth and the meaning of partnership. I don’t remember it as an easy time, but it was the moment that I made some life choices, which will have a great impact on the rest of my life. No regrets.
When I say it had an impact on us, I mean it also rewired our brains to appreciate the little moments of life and embrace them with more gratitude.
I also noticed many trying to prioritize finding that balance in life. What’s something you learned from the pandemic?
I think I started to value authenticity more than ever. To value the truth, even when it’s bluntly painful. I began to shed light on all those things I wanted to deny and shared this experience with my beloved one while learning to accept our differences. I think the pandemic showed all of us how short this journey might be. There is no time to walk the path that doesn’t belong to you.
Let’s talk about some misconceptions about yoga, that probably discourage many from even considering taking up some lessons.
If you just search for “yoga” on TikTok or even IG, you get tons of content from contortionists and acrobats! While all yogis who have practiced for years would have the ability and the flexibility to do complicated poses, I believe it could deter one away from the core of practicing yoga – mindful movement. But since I’m not a professional 🙂 I would like to know your thoughts on this.
When someone asks me if I give classes to beginners I often refuse to answer. I can’t categorize someone as a beginner or an advanced practitioner. And I don’t think it’s necessary or useful to make such evaluations. I
If you can bend as a pretzel, but can’t bring your focus to your breath for longer than a minute – are you an advanced practitioner or just a beginner? What are we really achieving if our practice is alive on the mat but can’t find a place in our daily rituals?
We must remember that flexibility has never been an original goal, but a natural consequence, part of the preparation for deeper meditation. Ideally, your practice should not be attached to any desires. Calm happiness, a healthy soul in a healthy body, balance – that’s something IG or TikTok can rarely depict.
Social media plays a big role in forming our perceptions and as a result, yoga is often associated with a certain body type, gender, and age isn’t it?
Well, probably we are evolutionary pre-programmed to categorize and label everything around us. We have the perfect age to start a career or a family, we know what type of activities are feminine and masculine, we know what food is good or bad, etc. And this road is easy, it allows us to travel on autopilot, but by doing so we dismiss so many beautiful opportunities to grow.
We should let ourselves develop curiosity and learn to ask: “Why?” again, to explore without judgment. I don’t demonize social media; it can also work as a very useful tool. But sometimes it’s worth switching off your so-called ‘guides’ and finding time to download your “inner App”.
We touched on this earlier but just to bring in more clarity… would you say advanced poses mean you are better at yoga?
In Yoga philosophy, the practice of asanas is just a third of eight steps path: Yamas (moral principles), Niyamas (daily rituals), Asanas (postures), Pranayama (breath work), Pratyahara (control of senses), Dharana (the practice of concentration), Dhyana (meditation), Samadhi (enlightenment).
Moreover, the whole principle of yoga is to learn to observe without judgment. There is no room for competition and categorization. Let’s leave such terms as “advanced” or “beginner” to sports and gymnastics.
How important is it to perfect these poses?
We adapt the asana to the body, not the body to the asana. What’s perfect to me, might be damaging to you and another way around. It’s important to take care of overall well-being.
Is yoga just stretching, or does it count as a workout?
To me it’s more of a work-in than a work-out, however, the practice of asanas can reflect various styles: slow-paced Yin yoga, traditional Hatha yoga, and vigorous Ashtanga. I value the benefits of building strength as much as flexibility, it’s perfect if we can balance both.
In your opinion, what constitutes a good 30 or 40 mins of practice?
To me, it’s a life philosophy. If it would be taught at universities, most probably it would be a combination of subjects from physiotherapy and psychotherapy sciences.
Starting your morning with a glass of water, practicing few rounds of Surya Namaskar (sun salutation), sharing a good word with the one next to you, having respect to your mental health, being conscious about your daily habits – that’s already a practice of Yoga.
Those 30-40 minutes can be wisely spread throughout the day. Before entering a Yoga studio for the practice of asanas, start noticing small things: What is my posture when I sit? How do I stand and walk? How deep or slow do I breathe? What emotions am I going through now?
As someone who has been practicing for a long while, would you say yoga could instantly make you happy?
I don’t really trust instant solutions. But I do believe in thousands of spontaneous moments of happiness that we miss while trying to fix what we perceive as broken.
What are some underrated benefits of yoga?
Developing conscious and positive relationships not only with yourself but also establishing different grounds for relationships with others. Bit by bit the whole lifestyle starts to change, you get clearer about your priorities and goals, and very naturally you attract different circumstances and people in your life. It’s not magic: every choice will nicely ripple in all fields of your life.
In addition to that, there are more and more clinical researchers made on how the practice of yoga and meditation helps to tackle healing PTSD (posttraumatic stress disorder), eating disorders, bipolar depression, and anxiety attacks. It’s so much more than a physical practice.
Do you work with both individuals and groups?
What type of classes do you offer?
In my class I invite you to experience a holistic yoga practice: mindfulness and meditation, combined with breathing exercises (pranayama) and postures (asanas), bringing awareness to all five senses. From a physical point of view, I offer different classes, bringing focus on specific areas: Spine Yoga Practice, Hip-opening Yoga Practice, Balance and Stability Yoga Practice, and Prenatal Yoga Practice. I prefer to work with small semi-private groups so that no one would be left unseen.