Meet Your Teacher: Simona Balan

ON March 16, 2018
Bay Area Best Yoga Teachers Simona Balan

Namaste Yoga + Wellness is a container for the Bay Area’s best yoga teachers to offer their incredible talent and wisdom to students of all backgrounds. These highly experienced teachers have dedicated their lives to sharing the gift of yoga with others and we couldn’t be more grateful. It is an honor to support them and to connect them with yoga practitioners like you.

We are excited to share this special new blog series focused on celebrating your yoga teachers and hopefully giving you a glimpse into the brilliant team that is the Namaste Yoga + Wellness family. We have over 55 teachers in our community and every single person offers something unique!

How long have you been at Namaste?
About a year and a half – a little over a year as a regular instructor

Bay Area Best Yoga Teachers Simona Balan

What inspired you to become a yoga instructor?
I’m a planner by nature, but I become a yoga teacher purely by chance. Comes to show you some things are just meant to be :).
I was first introduced to yoga as a child back home in Romania. Interestingly, I’ve later learned, yoga used to be banned in Romania, and yoga teachers and practitioners were looked down upon like near-terrorists up until a few years before my mother had me try it out to help with my scoliosis. After those initial lessons, the opportunity to take yoga classes didn’t arise again until I traveled nearly halfway around the world to pursue a PhD at UC Berkeley.

With $10 a semester I was able to take unlimited yoga classes at UC Berkeley’s Recreational Sports Facility (RSF). Thursdays 5:30 pm with Shy Sayar became my regular weekly yoga class (I now have been teaching it for about 10 years). In that massive, loud basketball court, with bright fluorescent lights and stinky mats, surrounded by up to a hundred other students, I fell in love with yoga. I loved how it made my body feel. How it improved my performance in other physical activities. How it helped me deal with the stress of culture shock and the demands of a PhD program. Even though I could only take classes once or twice a week due to my schedule, I right away started practicing daily. Less than a year into my daily practice my teacher was contemplating offering his very first teacher training and gave me a partial scholarship to help make it happen. This fairly unusual teacher training – 100 hours in the sun, wind and hail of Death Valley over Spring Break, and 100 hours on a remote property in Southern Oregon – was truly transformational, and I began teaching yoga soon after.

Bay Area Best Yoga Teachers Simona Balan

Do you have any go-to yoga and wellness books or podcasts?
My favorite yoga and wellness books include Timothy McCall’s Yoga as Medicine and Darrell Wolfe’s Healthy to 100. But my go-to books whenever I need some inspiration, guidance, or clarity are Pema Chodron’s The Places That Scare You and When Things Fall Apart.

Which teachers influence your practice?
My main teachers have been Shy Sayar and the Niroga Institute’s teachers (including Baxter Bell), but pretty much all the teachers I’ve taken classes with have influenced my practice and my teaching to one degree or another.

What does your yoga practice look like and how has it changed your life?
My yoga practice changes organically. The only constant is that I practice asana every morning, even if it’s just for 10-15 minutes before I catch the 6:30 a.m. train to Sacramento for work. I have a mini-studio at home complete with foam roller, massage balls, yoga balls, bosu ball – and I take turns incorporating them into my practice. Some days I explore more restorative or therapeutic poses, other days Vinyasa flows. I have a full time desk job, so I intersperse my day with stretching and moments of mindfulness. In the evenings I tend to practice self-massage and myofascial release.

Yoga has changed my life in too many ways to list here. The most obvious one is that I now live in the Bay Area. It was my introduction to the Bay Area’s yoga community that eventually made me get past the culture shock and feel more at home here than anywhere else I’ve lived before.

Bay Area Best Yoga Teachers Simona Balan

What is something you wish your students knew?
Limitations are impermanent, like everything else. Never underestimate the transformational effects of mindfulness, relaxation, and practice. Yoga poses that seem impossible now may simply be poses that the body-mind doesn’t yet understand.

What is your morning or evening routine? (whichever is your favorite..or both!)
It varies somewhat, but tends to involve yoga asana practice and purring cats.

What is your favorite thing about being a teacher?
Teaching yoga is immediately satisfying for the part of me that wants to heal the world, in particular the human relationship with the environment. I’ve spent years studying and working as an environmental scientist, but I often feel more of service teaching yoga. It’s helped me realize that any transformation of our relationship with the environment must start with an internal transformation of our relationship with ourselves, and with an experiential understanding of our connection to everything else.

Bay Area Best Yoga Teachers Simona Balan

What are you involved with outside the studio?
I’m an environmental scientist working as a civil servant for the state of California to implement the Safer Consumer Product Regulations. Basically, my group researches chemicals of concern in consumer products to regulate them as needed. Most of my work thus far has been on a class of fluorinated chemicals used in a wide variety of consumer products, including in stain- or water-resistant clothing and furnishings, and in greaseproof food packaging. If you’re interested, you can learn more about my work in this short webinar:

What is your go-to movement (asana, dance, hiking, etc.) that allows you to feel the most connected to yourself?
Yoga asana, with its many forms, and Aikido, a Japanese martial art focused on achieving harmony to resolve conflict. I’ve had the opportunity to travel twice to Japan and train in the little town of Iwama, where the style of Aikido was developed. I train several times a week at the Aikido Institute in Emeryville.

What is your favorite thing about the Bay Area?
The diversity of people and activities. The Bay Area vibe resonates so well with me that I’ve chosen to make this my home, even though I didn’t intend to when I first come here to start my graduate studies.


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