• Alyssa Collins

Spirituality Manifests Itself in Lockport with New Yoga, Healing Center

Published in the Lockport Legend

Five women have come together to open Your Sanctuary, a place of healing and spirituality based around the bhkati yoga tradition.

Vita Sireikis, who often goes by her spiritual name Shakti Devi, called upon four friends to create a space dedicated to yoga, scriptures, art, singing and teaching. Your Sanctuary held an open house on Saturday, Jan. 25 to bring awareness and build a community of spiritual thinkers.

Decorated with bright red curtains and lush green plants, the second floor of 1000 S Hamilton Rd ignites a feeling of peacefulness. Sireikis along with her co-owners Gina Slager, Muriel Raymond, Sandra Gileviciute and Ramune Vera bring unique perspectives to the practice of yoga. The main goal of Your Sanctuary is to connect people to a higher purpose. Sireikis, who spearheaded this endeavor, hopes to bring people onto a path of spirituality by awakening one soul at a time. According to Sireikis, that is her purpose.

“It’s something that manifested itself. I heard the calling that I needed to open a space where I teach this very unique, very traditional, ancient knowledge and wisdom of yoga,” Sireikis said. “We came together and created this space which we want to make very sacred.”

Sireikis connected with the bhakti yoga tradition from the very beginning. She teaches a combination of bhakti, which is the yoga of love, and kundalini, which is the power associated with the divine feminine. Sireikis has studied the practice and teachings for well over 10 years and received training in India where she visits twice a year.

“I think bhakti is about devotion and for me it’s about connecting to the heart. When we can be in that space and share from that space, it has another dimension and we can see life from another perspective,” Raymond said. “It’s not only asanas for yoga, which is nice too, but it focuses on the wholeness of being human instead of fitness.”

The focus on spirituality and connection makes the practice different from hatha yoga which is typically seen here in the U.S. Bhakti it is not intended to be an exercise. It is intended bring union, harmony and balance within oneself to promote happiness from within, Sireikis said. Although bhakti is rooted in hinduism, it is not dogmatic, said Slager who often connects her practice to mother earth.

“It’s a stretch but it’s also an alignment between body, mind and soul. It involves music, vibrational tools to align a person and guided meditation during the practice,” said Gilevicute. “It’s not vinyasana where it’s just pose pose pose. This is a breath, a hold, a full deep inhalation, slowing down your heart rate and connecting with the energy.”

One of the main missions of Your Sanctuary is to balance feminine and masculine energy. Yoga dates back 5,000 years, but from the beginning it was mainly taught by men. By using sacred dances, singing and chanting, Your Sanctuary hopes to create a union between the masculine and feminine with emphasis the woman’s body, Slager said. Your Sanctuary hosts mothering workshops, women’s temples and self empowerment workshops to fuel this mission.

In addition to yoga classes and lectures, Your Sanctuary holds art classes, kirtan singing circles and yoga teacher trainings. The black spiral staircase to the left of the space leads upstairs where Ramune Vera teaches various meditative art classes. Her teachings focus on the abstract which is the most feeing form of art, she says.

“Connecting with the art allows you to let go of the problems arising in life,” Vera said. “Doing art for just 20 minutes a day will calm your mind and shift your focus.

Another way to release emotions and bring about self expression is through singing. Raymond who is a classically trained singer, turned to kirtan as a way to find freedom and spontaneity. Many people are afraid of singing and being vulnerable, but if you can breathe, you can sing, she said. Raymond joined Harmony Polo, a professional kirtan singer, to lead a call and response singing circle at the open house.

Your Sanctuary is a space focused on the bhakti yoga traditions and is not fueled by business or competition, said Sireikis. That’s why they host low cost classes and workshops.

“I can see a spiritual community gathering here. I can see the live music concerts here in the courtyard outside. I can see a lot of people coming and becoming a part of this huge family,” said Sireikis.

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