Interview with Christina Skarmoutsou Hatha Yoga teacher & merchandising display designer from Athens
It's Friday the end of the week for most. The day started off calmly and peacefully, the sun was bright but not harsh, cloudless blue sky and a windless day a perfect day for a picnic in the park too bad that is not possible at the moment as the parks have more police protection than people.
I have finally snailed out of my shell and move to my office desk, was expecting empty roads and closed shops but to my pleasant surprise the road are full again and shops were spick & span, store managers wide awake waiting for customers.
The sunset has now set and the atmosphere has definitely calmed further down perfect time to introduce our guest Christina who is a Hatha Yoga teacher and a merchandising & display designer she calls Athens, Greece her home and has beautifully detailed stories to share with us today so let's begin.
Shivam: Where did you grow up and what was your childhood like?
Christina: I was born in Athens, the year of 1988 by two wonderful souls Spiros and Anastasia. After the first five years of my life, I moved with my parents in the beautiful city of Levadia, where I lived until the age of 18.
My childhood has the colors of mountains and valleys and the sound of water due to the location of the city I lived in. As a young girl I used to listen a lot and speak less. Kind of introvert and shy but also a good listener since my young age.
I stepped into a ballet class at the age of four and since then my love for classical and contemporary dance bloom over the years and became part of my everyday routine till the age of 18 and also part of my personal growth. As an only child I learned to spend a lot of time on my own and make good friends with myself. That helped me explore many parts of myself and to be more observant as far as myself and also the environments and people around me.
Due to the great love of my parents I was feeling safe and fulfilled. Although I could have a lot of comforts I had the tendency not to ask and somehow reject the amenities offered to me. Like I was preparing myself to live a more simple life.
Shivam: Why did you become a Yogi? Who was your Yogacharya/Mentor?
Christina: My first acquaintance with yoga was at the age of 11. My father, a self-taught yoga practitioner since 1978, came one day and asked me if I wanted to do yoga. As a ballerina but also an active person, I generally accepted immediately. To make the short story long, we practiced yoga asanas with a simple way and during savasana I felt like a million ants were all over me and my body felt like elevating. When I told that to my dad he burst, and it took me more than ten years to understand why. For that, I count my dad as my first mentor. This day came back to my memory at the age of 22 when I started practising yoga alone, guided by that old book of my dad. Since then, yoga has become my daily habit and way of life. I soon found myself studying at yoga studios and exploring different styles.
My work until then as a decorator in large multinational companies in the field of clothing filled me with creativity and good earnings but there was always a void inside me, a love for offering to the fellow human being I was looking for a way to externalize. So after 4 years of practice in Hatha Yoga, a lot of self- observation and the encouragement of my favorite teacher Nasia Charisi , I decided to attend the 200 and then 300 hours of training of yoga teachers at the school of Andreas Provelegios.
That's how my journey in teaching yoga began, through the personal need to share all the benefits I experienced as a practitioner and thus help as many people around me as possible to experience the magical benefits of yoga. Since then I have been constantly training, growing up with it, discovering every day and something more that I share with my students with joy and an open heart in order that we all together reach the best version of ourselves.
Shivam: What style of yoga do you like the most?
Christina: My favorite style of Yoga so far is Hatha Yoga ( Flow ) which I mostly teach because it includes the spiritual element and it devotes time to many different breathing techniques while at the same time through the flow it gives a freedom to the body to discover its own limits within each asana.
I also enjoy to practice Kundalini Yoga, it brings me closer to myself and help me unfold my true potentials.
Shivam: What is the role of yoga in your life?
Christina: I could not say that Yoga has a role in my life, because to be honest, I feel that Yoga is my life, it is through Yoga that I live the most of my life. However, the role of teaching Yoga in my life, my goal and also the reason I choose to be also yoga teacher is to help as many people as I can to reach a better version of themselves, to live a healthier and happier life.
Shivam: What benefits do you get from Yoga?
Christina: When I first started practising Yoga, I felt a shift in my mood and my energy levels. From the very beginning, I felt happier, stronger and closer to myself. I was able to listen to my own needs, to love myself more and to take steps that took me in a better version of myself. Except that, since the age of 20 I had a car accident which caused me a permanent (as doctors said) rupture of the neck muscle. Everyday pain in my neck area and migraine was part of my routine. So while practising yoga at first it was a bit hard for my neck area, but after a few months my neck muscles became stronger, I had better posture and I felt relief. Since then, the pain faded away along with migraines, I almost forgot that I had an injury and I couldn’t be more grateful. Yoga also helped me to be more healthy, to learn how to love myself more (and then others around me). Yoga philosophy confirmed beliefs and ideas that I had since I was a child, that also filled me up with positivity and a great feeling of safety and union.
Shivam: When did you make the decision to teach yoga and why? What happened on that day?
Christina: I had been practising Yoga for some years and my teacher had already put in me the seed of attending a teachers training. It was also a time of my life that I had realized that one of my greatest powers was listening to people with an open heart and being patient enough to guide them into self- love, acceptance and evolution.
So, it was one day during a huge break down on Greece’s economy while no one was able to withdraw money from their bank account. I was decorating a window for the cloth company I was working for, in one of the most popular shopping areas in Athens. I looked out of the window and the streets were empty, the most crowded road looked abandoned.
It was exactly that moment that I felt that my current job is not collaborating with my life purpose, to help others. It was exactly that moment that my teacher’s words came to me and gave me the power to risk everything I had until then, to follow my heart and my path. At that very moment, I locked into the decision to become a yoga teacher and through that help people around me reach a better version of themselves physically, mentally and emotionally.
Shivam: What has been the most amazing yoga experience you have had?
Christina: Through the years I have had many experiences I like to call “magical”. One of them that is very vibrant to me after many years comes from Kundalini Yoga.
I was practising Kundalini Yoga with Lynn Roulo in a beautiful terrace opposite Acropolis of Athens. During relaxation, I felt totally one with the earth and the sky. While I opened my eyes I was able to see auras in the sky and around me, not only for a moment. Walking back home I was still able to see auras in the trees, in the sky and I felt a huge positive shift inside my whole being, in my general mindset. I spent some time in nature, talking to my inner self, I found answers about life that they were inside me from before, and they just came to my conscious. Since then, I go back to that day whenever I feel “lost”, I remember that we have inside us all the wisdom of the universe. Since then, I found my safe place.
Shivam: What’s your favourite yoga quote or mantra?
Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu
May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all.
Shivam: If you could change 1 thing in the world today what would it be?
Christina: Liberation is not a place; it does not exist in the heavens, the earth or the spirit-world. Freedom has no space, no time, no location; it can only exist in the now, in the present moment. Moksha (liberation, freedom) is the state of non-ego, where the “me” vanishes and one stands free from all desires, actions and consequences in a total state of oneness. If I could change one thing today in the world, I would "pierce the veil" of maya so that everyone could see the transcendent nature of reality and achieve Moksha. So that all beings on earth be happy and free.
Shivam: If you were to be reborn as an animal which animal would you choose and why?
Christina: If I was to be reborn as an animal I ‘d like to be a dolphin cause of my great love for water and also because of their great intelligence and empathy skills, their peaceful attitude and freedom.