My journey into yoga: Mircea Nicoară

aug. 10, 2019

Mircea is the pioneer of Air Yoga in Romania, among many other yoga-related things. He speaks so passionately about yoga that you get caught into conversation and you loose track of time. That’s the only logical explanation for the length of this podcast, which we eventually split into three different posts.

My personal favorite part is the one about 108 Sun Salutations practice, which changed my perception about it (now I feel ashamed of my shallowness 🙈 ).

As usual by now, you can listen to him in Romanian or read his word in English.

1.Discovering yoga

Suav: Hi Mircea, thank you for accepting my invitation; I’m very happy. As I told you, we’ll talk here about your journey toward yoga and within yoga. I propose to start from the beginning, which is: how did you discover yoga, what attracted you to it?

Mircea: The story started about six years ago. I knew about yoga before, but I didn’t want to find out more, because there were some preconceived ideas which I still hear around me. I knew about MISA and that was about it. And I knew I didn’t want to get involved in those things, based on what I heard on TV. Therefore, I wasn’t too interested; and nobody in my circle practiced, so that they could change my perception. The change came in the United States, where, by 2011, this practice was perfectly normal. One of my acquaintances I stayed with in Boston was practicing yoga. And one night, when I was there, they were preparing to go to yoga practice and they told me they loved it and it was very normal to practice yoga in their city. It was the first time I thought ‘hm, maybe there’s something different about this practice’. Then, when I got back to Bucharest, my girlfriend at that time had started to attend a yoga class, close to where we lived, and, when she came back from her first class, she remembered perfectly the final part of the practice, the savanasa, the final relaxation. And she guided me through what seemed identical to what the teacher said during the class. She memorized it perfectly. She paid full attention to it. I don’t know is she managed to disconnect during the meditation, but she paid attention and what she told me relaxed me deeply; I loved it. It was the first meditation or relaxation of this kind I had ever found and I told myself ‘hm, it seems there’s something very beautiful in this practice’. In addition, she showed me my first sun salutation; I practiced with her and I also loved it. So, it might be a mix between the fact that I liked the practice and that she showed it to me; it came from someone very close to me and this opened a gate for me. And I think it is important for people you know that practice and are happy about it to appear around you, people who can tell you how the practice helped them. This way, you’re more open to try it. And the first class, the first impact is very important. As many other experiences, this can give you a boost to continue or can tell you ‘it’s what I knew and I don’t want to have to deal with it’.

Then I started to practice at World Class, because I was looking to get a subscription to a fitness studio and there were many types of classes. I started the first yoga classes at World Class and I loved them from the first try. I loved the class so much, it was so different from any other type of movement I had been doing until them (I have been very active all my life, I practiced professional tennis, ski, running, but this was totally different). And, somehow, in my mind, from the first class, it was like this: from the moment the door closed until it opened (it was a very well defined interval there; it started at :00 and ended at :00 and Ovidiu, the teacher, insisted that nobody entered after the class started) I knew that the door closed and nobody would enter and I knew it was just me and my mat, like I was inside a bubble. It was the first experience of this kind, when I knew I had a very clearly limited time within which I would do things that calmed me and I didn’t care about anything else. No matter how busy the day would be, I knew that, from 10 to 11, let’s say, I was there and nothing else mattered. And this allowed me to be present and let myself infused easily with this experience.

This is how it started. The moves were very new for me, the practice gave me a feeling of great peace, which I liked a lot. But, at World Class, teachers don’t talk about other aspects than the physical ones, with small insertions of aspects related perhaps to breathing or the intention you set at the beginning of the class, and this was satisfactory for me, as I was still very pragmatic and anchored  in my rational mind.  So, it was the perfect beginning for me because it made me develop my physical practice and be more and more open towards yoga. For me, the week was inconceivable without 2-3 yoga practices. It continued like this for about three years. I was calling my friends ‘come to see’, so I was spreading a lot this practice among my friends.

S: At World Class.

Mircea: Yes.

2.Teaching yoga

S: How did you get to the next step, from practice to teaching?

M: Like in some important moments in my life, my mother had an impact. She was the right person at the right time – maybe that’s the magic of our relationship, to be there when she needs to be. She sent me an article – she is also interested in this kind of practices (I even found out recently that she practiced yoga when she was pregnant with me; I was surprised she didn’t tell me before; she only told me after I started to practice). There were books before, but yoga was practiced in very small groups and rather at home – you would try some postures that were good for some conditions or situations. She gave me an article about an older gentleman, over 80 years old; the typical article that says ‘how I reached this old age perfectly healthy’. The gentleman said he would do inversions every day, in addition to following a very healthy diet. He had a chair for inversions – it was the first time I heard about it. It is a normal chair, without backrest, with a hole in the middle. You put your head in the hole and turn with your head upside down, perpendicular to the floor, with your shoulders supported by the rims of the hole. He was talking about the importance of brain’s constant oxygenation as you get older and that it’s good for internal organs to reverse the gravity pressure. So, I thought ‘I like this idea’. Because, since I was 19, I started thinking about how to get older healthy. Maybe it is a strange age for these thoughts, but I considered I couldn’t continue to be spontaneous in my actions, because this comes with a cost. I saw around me that people over a certain age started having many problems; they didn’t think how to prevent some things and dealt with them as they happened. For me, this was not working, I thought I should take preventing measures and I was looking into articles about how to become healthier in time, how to keep your health. And I said ‘I want to do inversions’ and I started looking for the inversion chair, but I didn’t find it anywhere. But I found the inversion hammock, which became the pillar of my practice. I ordered it that very night. After it arrived, I spent all the time in it, I stayed for hours a day and I loved it. This coincided with the moment I was trying to get out the corporate environment. I thought ‘I love this practice, it’s still young in Romania, I want to bring air yoga practice to people’ and I started thinking how can I teach air yoga.

S: So, you wanted to teach air yoga.

M: Yes, I thought it’s a practice with a lot of potential, it’s not known in Europe, at least in the Central and Eastern parts of it, and it would be a very good way for me to specialize and to be able to bring this way of moving and the sensations that come with it to more people, because the people that came over to my place loved it, but their number was limited. So, I thought about the necessary steps: I needed better yoga and air yoga training so I took the yoga teacher and air yoga training. The big click came when I started this training. Especially the yoga teacher training, which was very good (I took the one at Fitness Scandinavia). It was very rigorous and then I started reading many books and articles and I started to understand what other aspects are approached by this practice, which had an important physical aspect, that I had already discovered, but there are also other aspects I didn’t know, but with which I resonated, because by now I was open. Before, for me there was this barrier of religion which drew me back and I didn’t know how to look at it from another perspective. (The training) offered me another approach. For my mind, what worked was to connect this way with the more subtle elements and I think it’s important to find in your life an element that is detached from everything that happens to you at the physical and pragmatic level and to have that element of magic that you perceive around you. Beforehand, for me, the only magical aspect seemed to be in religion, which I didn’t connect with, so it was a great joy for me to realize that I can find this if I look at things a little bit different and it comes from the practice that I already love.

3. Personal practice

 S: How do you practice now? I imagine you also have an individual practice.



M: Yes, I teach a lot, which gives me daily an additional practice, but my personal practice is pretty fragmented, in the sense that I have 30 minutes segments and it’s based on meditation during postures. I rather choose very few postures which I maintain for a long time and I try to connect with the intention of that posture. Because each posture, having a certain shape, transmits a certain mood. By maintaining the posture longer (a specific element of hatha practice) I can unravel that posture and let it work naturally without trying to change it or imagining something. I just know this is a posture that supports a certain aspect and I let it work. That’s my practice now. Otherwise, I play a lot. I love vinyasa, for instance the Sun salutation series. For me, it’s important to have an intention, to know how I start to work when I have a posture. Otherwise, for me it’s sterile to move without having a focus point, be it the breathing or, in my case, something more profound.

For instance, 108 Sun Salutations, which was a very powerful experience, recently, during an event I held on 21st of June; if I wasn’t teaching and had to talk, I would have been crying. It was so intense because I had read before about its meaning, how it was practiced and its story; about how it’s related to the 108 conditionings of the human being, or desires of the mind, which always distort the reality because one looks at them as they want to see them. Every time you set a desire, you put a filter. If they were colors, there are 108 colors and you never see the true nuance. Each repetition of the sequence dissolves one conditioning. And I can say: now I dissolve my anger, then I dissolve aversion and then any desire I know I have and I meet in my daily life. It can be from the positive specter, for instance, the desire to self-development, to be more, or from the other specter – the desire to respond aggressively to someone. So, when I go through the sequence, it’s like washing that desire and, when it’s done, I put it aside. Each sequence leaves you with less attachment and you feel an increasing sensation of dissolution  which I, at that moment, I felt very intensely and I realized it is a very powerful way of practicing, but it involves this openness to allow the dissolving to happen – for some people it comes faster, for some, slower. If what you were holding was more superficial, you can let it go easier; if it was deeper, you hold on to it more and it’s more difficult to let go. For instance, if I say ‘my biggest desire is to become the best in yoga in Romania’ (if there’s anyone thinking like this), when you go through the sequence, you might think ‘what happens to me if I let this go, what will I be without it, what if I stop practicing?’; because this desire makes you move forward, but it is also an attachment that might determine you make some sacrifices along the way, sacrifices that might not be good for your peace or of those around you. It depends on what each person projects. What I noticed is that this practice with intention and especially the one that implies letting go is very powerful but also very challenging. It depends with what you start. Because the stronger the desire, the stronger the feeling, the effect. And maybe it’s better to do this in a retreat, in an environment that supports you to let go to something you strongly hold on to. When you do this by yourself, maybe you start with something lighter, to have traction and to start feeling something.

S: You explain beautifully the 108 Sun Salutations practice.

M: It is a physical effort. In my case, after 30 sequences, there was an effervescence that was new to me. It was easier to open, easier for things to happen. It is as Ty Landrum, a teacher dear to me, whom I met in India, said. He has a PhD in philosophy and is very good in yoga mythology and he can explain in an easy to understand manner what these characters we hear about – Shiva, Shakti – symbolize. The rational mind doesn’t work with symbols; the more profound ones does. Ty says that yoga practice helps you dissolve the barriers you built involuntarily and which prevent this deep interior force to manifest in your conscious mind. With this practice, as you open up, it is easier to connect with this energy, intelligence, intuition that comes from within and which is a wonderful thing, I think. In the few moments I had the opportunity to experiment it, I realized the world is very different from what the pragmatic mind perceives. It is like the diagram of an iceberg. And even there, the tip is too big compared to what we know. After all, what we know rationally is limited to what we experience during our lives. We’re young and there’s a limited number of experiences we lived and through which we look at things, but we are on this earth as a life form for infinitely longer, so the knowledge is infinitely larger than the one I know at the rational level. So, with yoga practice, I think it’s about having these experiences that open you up and then, at the right moment, to have an experience so strong that resonates with the pragmatic mind. They say that experience is so strong that it changes the mind you use daily. Otherwise, there’s our daily behavior, and then there are a few short moments when we feel we are connected with more elements around us, but they go away. And we think, ‘yes, there’s an effect, but I behave the same with my parents, at work I’m still stressed’. Maybe, in general, you behave the same, but something changed. It’s difficult to assess the difference in the level of stress from five years ago. Maybe you’re still stressed, but maybe you’re at 88% compared to five years ago. Maybe you don’t perceive the 12%, but they happen. That’s why it is important to continue, because it transforms, and we can’t control rationally the pace of the change. You can ‘t say ‘I want the change to happen by the day after tomorrow’. This is another desire that occurs as a door in front of what develops naturally inside you. It is hard to take the foot off the gas pedal and let things happen naturally, but that’s the best way: just practice without a purpose, without planning for something to happen by tomorrow and let the nature of your body to find solutions for change.

S: I think it is a long way from your beginnings at World Class to what you’re talking about now.

M: It’s that moment when your experience is deep enough to change the things you think of frequently or the way you do things. It is a huge step. It’s like climbing a mountain that has several hills, with the highest peak coming the last. At the first hill, you climb, climb, climb, without knowing how far to the top, and, at some point, you see something you’ve never seen before. And this gives you strength to go further. You don’t know how many peaks there are, you only have the joy to know that change happens and that something might come, which will open your horizons in a new way. It’s as if you worked in a secret agency and you know things nobody else knows. And this brings enthusiasm, but also responsibility to manage these things afterward. Because we have things to do, families, jobs… how do you manage to get back and not stay in your bubble? Because many of those who have a spiritual practice tend to be bohemian, un-anchored in whatever else they have to do; they think material life is not important, that what happens here is not important, that it is transient anyway. And, for those around them, it is difficult. Because they’re still involved in these things and, if you’re disruptive, if you ‘re the one floating while the others are grounded, it’s difficult to fit in. So, the challenge is to be involved in the reality, but still maintain this quality, like a perfume diffusing around you, teasing the noses of those around you. The challenge is to keep this balance. It’s important to still be pragmatic, to still run a business and to bring my practice in the things I do by creating a new way of doing things. Maybe the way I do things or I talk to people feels different inside me and, consequently, reflects differently around me. I think it’s like during the practice when I pay attention to my breathing and I intervene when something changes. If you make periodical adjustments, you can maintain this work-spiritual life balance. This is the challenge of the new generation; because we’re confronting with very different things than two thousand years ago; how do we refrain from going in the mountains or stay only in retreats?!

Suav: What do you do?

Mircea: I feel my life is at a point of change, because it is still bohemian; I only teach yoga and I don’t have a job, I only promote this practice through various means – in companies, at studios or events. The most I am involved in this modern life is by interacting with people from companies; I try to find solutions for them to take on some elements and change the way they do things at work or how they interact with others. But I have this desire to make more external projects, to transfer this practice in several types of projects. The ones I’ve done so far are of small scale and I did them by myself. But the ones I’m planning can’t be done alone and that is my challenge.  And maybe that’s why I was procrastinating. But maybe it was not procrastination, maybe I prepared for the moment I will do something on a bigger scale. And hopefully I will have better skills to manage it while keeping this easiness to be, to see and do things without getting caught in the storm of a tensed or agitated business life.


To be continued…