After experiencing firsthand the harsh realities of a Russian invasion, Zuzana Kolinkova of Metta Yoga has made it her mission to do everything in her power to aid the Ukrainian people, all while helping those in our community uplift themselves in the process.
Kolinkova was a child born into the tyrannical era of Czechoslovakia, what is now known as the Czech Republic, in 1976. She grew up forced to adapt and survive in a way children should never have to face—she was raised under the thumb of communist Russia.
“What I remember most, what affected me the most, was the closed borders,” Kolinkova says. “There was no way to leave the state, period. Those who attempted were shot down without hesitation. I never experienced travel, other languages, Western entertainment–nothing. It was a very repressive state to live in.”
During this time, Kolinkova joined her grandmother in the practice of yoga, but not in your typical studio. She learned the art, philosophy and science of yoga underground, hidden and practicing with the risk of being imprisoned.
“With Russia being a communist country, they did not allow any religion, spirituality or sense of community,” Kolinkova says. “Yoga was considered to be a part of that and, as a result, was against law. So we used code names, met in different gyms underground and built a movement led by my grandmother so that we could practice.”
Once the Soviet Union collapsed, Kolinkova studied international trade and finance, worked a traditional corporate career but always held onto yoga. She focused on traveling, lived in and explored Egypt, Mongolia and eventually found her way into the United States.
“I never thought I would stay in the United States,” says Kolinkova. “I loved traveling, but then I met my husband here. We fell in love, and I decided to stay.”
With the help and motivation of her longtime friend, Petra Hetherova, Kolinkova opened Metta Yoga, a studio that has now been operating for 14 years and has grown to have locations in North Phoenix and at The Phoenician. The studio offers a multitude of classes to fit each individual’s needs, including a therapeutic aquatic class named one of the “Top Six Aquatic Workouts in the United States” by Vogue. Each lesson is designed with an individual’s goals and motivation in mind, whether they are looking to lose weight, better their mental health, manage bodily pain or improve their flexibility.
“I feel as if it is my mission in life to teach others that yoga is more than just its stereotype. It doesn’t always have to be hot or one traditional style; there are multiple ways to experience the art, people just need to try it out, and feel what resonates with them the most,” says Kolinkova.
Like so many others around the world, Kolinkova was shocked and disheartened at the full-scale invasion of Ukraine. The attack hit home for her. As a result, she gave Valley residents the opportunity to help make a tangible difference and become part of the solution. Metta Yoga is accepting donations until March 31 that will directly aid Ukrainian Women’s League and Ukrainian Orthodox Church St. Mary’s Protectress. So far, the fundraiser has had more 120 participants and has raised $13,500 for Ukraine.
“We are human, and need to recognize the people affected are also human,” says Kolinkova. “We must not turn our backs on Ukraine in their greatest moment of need. I urge all of us to identify, influence and deploy actions to ensure that the Ukrainian people can successfully defend their homeland and that Russia is held accountable.”
To learn more about Metta Yoga, visit newmettayoga.com.