Veritas Vytas

His time on the twenty-seventh season of CBS’s Survivor was dominated by host Jeff Probst’s inquiries about his relationship with his brother, but he’s out to show that his life is so much more than those few weeks in the Philippines. Caroline A. Wong gets down to the truth of Vytas Baskauskas.

Photos by Alexander Herman

Vytas Baskauskas emerges from a steamy yoga studio in Santa Monica amidst a milling crowd of his students soaked with sweat. He walks with the ease of one comfortable with himself and with his surroundings. Guess that’s what yoga can do for you.

It’s later, though, when I sit down with Baskauskas, 33, in his home to talk about what it’s like being a male yogi and about that brother rivalry highlighted on Survivor: Blood vs. Water, that I realize that he maintains that same self-assured ease even outside of his yoga-studio element. Even when he commands his Rhodesian Ridgeback, Kaya, to back away from sniffing at our crew’s lighting equipment, it’s clear who’s the master of the house. But behind Baskauskas’s confidence lurks a raw candidness about the ways in which reality television does—and doesn’t—affect its participants.

“It was an interesting experience,” Baskauskas says of the month and a half he spent in the Philippines for filming. “We’re on a remote island…completely cut off from the grid. It was fantastic. [But] as soon as [the show] went to the background of my mind, all of a sudden, then the premiere was happening. Millions of people were watching me every week. It’s almost like I got to experience Survivor twice—in person and on television.” The duality was not necessarily cathartic, however, and Baskauskas shares, “It’s not like I got famous from [being on the show], but I did get recognized a lot. And…all people really wanted to talk with me about was Survivor.”

In an age where most people are looking to capitalize on their fame—for example, Snooki’s multiple book deals, Lauren Conrad’s fashion lines, and don’t even get me started on the Kardashian empire—Baskauskas is a refreshing opposite. “You know, I love my life. I’m not looking to parlay [my television appearance] into anything else. I love teaching yoga. I’m a math professor part time as well. I’m really just happy doing those things.”

With such a zen-like attitude about life, it’s hard to remember that Baskauskas appeared on one of the most quintessential backstabbing shows. How did his yoga practice help inform his game? “The style of yoga I practice is a lot about training the body, but it’s mostly about training my mind. Survivor’s a game that’s very mentally taxing. People get really paranoid. You constantly have to be aware, and that’s what yoga is—about creating awareness, creating mindfulness. So I was fortunate enough to have a strong mind going out there.” While Baskauskas might have received criticism for being a yoga instructor on a show celebrating the supposed opposite tenants of yoga peacefulness, he believes that yoga didn’t take away from his ability to manipulate and backstab on the show as much as the show didn’t take away from his ability to remain true to his practice. “I enjoy playing the game. I enjoy calculating all the time. I enjoy those facets when you’re constantly running numbers and thinking six moves ahead. I like that stuff. But I wasn’t a prisoner to it. When I just wanted to take a moment and just enjoy the paradise that I was in or enjoy a sunset or sunrise or a night by the fire with friends, I was able to do that.”

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