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The past year saw a huge shift in the way we practice yoga and it also saw a huge change in the landscape in which it is practiced. Many have settled into life at home, living rooms were quickly converted into yoga studios, and many learned to expect the doorbell to ring when they just started their session.

The current ongoing situation has increased a surge in mental health concerns, with anxiety and stress-related disorders strongly associated with increased financial difficulties, bereavements, and social isolation.

If mental health was not a priority for yoga teachers before, it certainly is now.

While yoga is not a cure for mental health problems, the mindful approach and stillness cultivated by a regular practice can help alleviate stress and anxiety.

We have managed to catch up with Daniela Bystron Mihalciac, Certified Yoga Teacher from Transylvania, Romania, to get a glimpse into how yoga has helped in her career.

Niji: Shall we begin with a brief introduction? Tell us something about yourself, especially focusing on educational and professional fronts.

Daniela: Hello, my name is Daniela and I am talking to you from the city of Cluj-Napoca – Romania. It might be easier for you to imagine where I am talking to you from if I will mention that this Cluj is in Transylvania. I wish this interview to become an inspiring answer for you about yoga and about the potential of human beings, about something bigger than ourselves. But let’s get started with my personal approach to yoga.

Believe it or not, I would have never imagined myself enjoying my life with such pleasure as now. Talking on the educational fronts, I graduated in Philology, then I got a Master of Arts in Journalism. I’ve been a teacher of Romanian and French for 7 years, then a teacher of yoga for another 7 years. Meanwhile, I wrote to newspapers in Arad, in the field of education and health. I like to make a good fist at sharing love, joy, abundance, and equilibrium.

My aspirations came to life in high school when I’ve been also introduced to the study of the History of Religions in Oradea. During the years of studying philology, I attended the Elta University classes on Metaphysics, Astrology, and on Health. Focusing on healthy eating habits, I started to experience what is to be a vegetarian from the age of 16.

Niji: How did you discover Yoga? When did you come face to face with Yoga for the first time?

Daniela: Yoga entered into my life naturally and gradually. During high school, I discovered the book ”Yoga – Source of health” written by Constantin N. Tufoi, one of the pioneers of yoga practice in Romania. I started to practice by myself every morning before going to school and I was fascinated by the effects it had on me. After some time, I attended yoga classes with a dear friend Sanda Stănescu – a student of David Swenson – here in Cluj in 2011. I was fascinated by how happy, light, confident, and joyful I was feeling after each session.

I was attracted to the nonphysical part of yoga, before the asanas. The thirst for spiritual food, made me come in touch with the spirituality and meditation practices of Raja Yoga. It was 5 years before hatha yoga that I was attending the learnings of Sri Ram Chandra Mission and Heartfulness – a Spiritual Institution coming from India and having been spread in Romania and all over the world. These were the years of introspection when I realized that my mission is to help and serve people.

Niji: Was it love at first sight? Or did you take time to attract to its concepts and practices?

Daniela: The love at the first sight with the whole concept of Yoga, has been transformed into a daily habit and into a lifestyle. By graduating from the Hatha Teacher Yoga in 2016, I came closer and closer to my dream and felt clearer that my mission is to help people shine.

I can’t just measure practice in working postures on the mat. The asanas, the shapes we make with our bodies are physical tools we use. Same as the mindful tool is meditation. This conquest of the world from within is still a process to dig down and to internalize my values: health and harmony through nature, joy, serenity, happiness, one human family, cooperation, confidence, teamwork, practice, spirituality and creativity, self-renovation, self-awareness, self – knowledge, and freedom.

Niji: Have you been to India, the spiritual home of Yoga? Would you describe the steps you have taken to perfect the practice of Yoga?

Daniela: The 2010 journey to India proved, in time, to become the journey of my life. I was sent for a Scholarship Spiritual Training program for one month in 2010 at Sahaj Marg Spirituality Foundation in Chennai and it made me melt my heart and reborn into a new me. As I entered into the spiritual home of yoga which is India, my soul felt as if coming home. To study yoga sutras, the immerging into lives of saints and masters, interacting with so many elevated souls filled my heart with eternal love and gratitude.

Then each of my four visits to India meant transformation, milestones for spiritual future development, a time when I understood that yoga is also a skill in action. Love for the children gave that immense energy in order to progress, as I came back from the first trip to India, I started to teach spiritual values and yoga to children. The next major step in my yoga development was to direct my energy towards teaching yoga to adults and here I needed to work on my confidence. Thus, I enjoyed deepening other facets of yoga because they are all in harmony. My perspectives have been expanded by studying Hatha, yin, vinyasa, and ashtanga, different styles of yoga, inspiring human beings to stay sane mind in a healthy body, to express the infinite potential with courage, and to enter into each moment anew.

Niji: Yoga is essentially an Indian system, where beliefs and spirituality are far different than in Europe. How easy (or even feasible) for a European to embrace Yoga. Is there any cultural divide?

Daniela: Coming back from India after the first trip, I realized how serious people from Europe are. In the West, they dress in dark clothes and they live more mentally and not so much by listening to their hearts and emotions as they do in the East. Then I changed my perspective…because all human beings are equal in front of life. sharing the energy of love within One Human Family is defined as one of my main values in which I believe. Yoga has no borders, it has nothing to do with division, not with the systems of Europe or Asia, with different religions, different nationalities, yoga does not divide, yoga unites. Yoga is the bond between individual consciousness and universal consciousness. In the soul, many are one.

Niji: What changes – tangible and otherwise – do you think Yoga will bring to a person? And how long it takes to witness self-renovation through Yoga?

Daniela: First of all, yoga considers that it is one of our basic responsibilities to care for the homes we inhabit – our bodies. We can then go deeper and explore our infinite energy by letting go of the limiting thoughts of the mind. Yoga would bring focus and concentration so that you can do your work in a shorter time. Yoga is self-knowledge: you can also open up and help yourself to face your inhibitions and vulnerabilities and work mindfully on them. By integrating a ritual of at least 20 minutes daily of yoga and or breathing, slowly the practice will become constant and will evolve. After a few months, you could feel how yoga makes you happier, more stress-free, and more enthusiastic and confident, thanks to self-understanding and self-knowing.

Niji: Now, would you tell us about your experiences of being a pioneer and flag-bearer of Yoga in your regional community?

Daniela: I am grateful I connected my Indian yoga mentor, Mukesh Kothari to Transylvania! It was spring of 2017 when I invited him for the first time to spread knowledge on Ayurveda to a workshop in Cluj-Napoca. From 2018 we keep organizing Yoga Teacher Training with his school from Rishikesh: Bindusar Yoga. We have faith to make this possible also this year. In this way, more people and more families could benefit from the spiritual values coming from the science of Yoga, Ayurveda, pranayama, philosophy. We need this more than ever: spreading inner transformation, learning how to be the master of your mind and not its slave, improving the quality of life.

If you would like to know more about the Yoga Teacher Training in 2021 in Cluj Napoca, see more info on our website: https://magicnatura.ro/teacher-training/.

I would love to mention another step towards my mission – to spread and share the love for nature, health, and harmony – in our regional community – the contribution with our center of wellbeing and healthy products in our town: Magic Natura, www.magicnatura.ro.

Niji: The Covid-19 outbreak occurred around one year ago. How did it affect your Yoga classes? And how do you view Yoga’s role in keeping the mind and body calm and fit during such troubled and frequently isolated times?

Daniela: Covid brought uncertainty, uncharted waters. We were and we are here, offering support, remembering to all: when you feel in the darkness, know that you are not alone. Covid took from us only the freedom of physical gathering, but not the freedom within. Coping with this pandemic time – this long” retreat”- we took the opportunity to shift the yoga classes to online. The isolated time brought more introspection, spending time with families, trusting the unseen future, focusing on the present. Due to yoga, we train to remain as steady as possible as we navigate into an unknown future and keep equanimity through turbulences.

Niji: There have been debates in India regarding the scientific foundation of Yoga, especially since some political parties started to use it as a propaganda tool. What is your take on the science behind Yoga? How scientific is Yoga?

Daniela: Derived from the Sanskrit word “Yuji,” meaning yoke or union, yoga is an ancient practice that brings together mind and body. It incorporates breathing exercises, meditation, and poses designed to encourage relaxation and reduce stress. Yoga helps to maintain bone strength, joint mobility, and joint stability. It improves posture, muscle strength, coordination, and confidence. Yoga is known for its ability to ease stress, promote relaxation, reduce anxiety and provide good sleep. In fact, multiple studies have shown that it can decrease the secretion of cortisol, the primary stress hormone. There are recent results based on health and neuroscience, research projects made at the University of Illinois. According to researchers such as Damoiseaux and Gothe, yoga has a positive effect on the brain and memory. Degenerative and age-related illnesses can be reduced by regular yoga practice. In addition to improving your mental health, some studies suggest that practicing yoga may reduce inflammation as well.

Niji: On to the final question now. What is your message to people who are interested in the practice of Yoga and don’t know where to begin?

Daniela: Yoga is to be benefited by all ages; anyone can do yoga. Everybody can enjoy fully their life and potential. Forget the stress, get the energy of the practice, have fun while practicing. Find a good teacher who will guide you to discover and get in touch with your own real potential. Those who are at the very beginning of their journey, have patience, self-acceptance, easiness, consistency, courage, enjoy attainable goals, and forget expectations. Make personal change and contribute to the improvement of the world. Fully live your life, seize the moment and make this world a better place.

Thank you to all the students, teachers who influenced my life, helped me grow and expand!

Thank you, Picante News, for this interview opportunity! Thank you for facilitating the popularity and reach of yoga!