Raluca Nicolaescu teaches yoga and dance among many other things: she draws, designs, writes. But the most surprising thing for us was to find out that she’s also lifting weights. Especially since she is a delicate appearance; she is a cloud of feelings and emotions which she transmits to others without even them realizing. At least, this is what happens to us every time we meet her: we also become a cloud of feelings and emotions. It’s a very nice feeling that stays with us for a while.
So, before pushing the ‘play’ button or continue reading, be aware that you may get emotional, too :).
You can listen to our conversation in Romanian or read it in English.
Suav: Hi Raluca, thank you for accepting my invitation.
Raluca: I thank you; I was happy, enthusiastic even when I heard about it.
Suav: I’ll go right at it! How did you discover yoga? What drew you toward it in the first place?
Raluca: I’d always been doing exercise, since I can remember: I wanted to be a professional sportswoman, but it didn’t quite happen; I wanted to perform athletics – sprint -, but I didn’t succeed; then I was into gymnastics and all sort of other things; then, for a few years, I did weightlifting, with big weights. I’ve been working out pretty intensively, with a trainer. I did this for about four years, I think. It was pretty intensive; I was practicing four times a week. From there, there was probably a transformation. I started to shift toward dance, toward a different form of movement… And all sorts of questions and searches appeared and I shifted once again toward yoga. And, little by little, I wanted to understand what happens, what is that yoga does. I’m still searching this 😊. It was just a need of mine, a personal search.
Suav: How is yoga different from performance sports or from dance?
Raluca: It has to do with the energy and the state you experience before, while and after working out. Plus, it is a continuous transformation, in the sense that the yoga I was practicing a few years ago, or what I was feeling then, has nothing to do with what I feel now when I practice. It is somehow close to me, to my soul, to my body. There is no connection between them (yoga and sports). Sometimes I still lift weights, when I feel the need, but I do it less and less; but, in terms of the internal state, there’s no connection whatsoever, they’re totally different.
Suav: So, yoga is actually related to your personal evolution.
Raluca: Absolutely. Both of them are related to my personal evolution. Because, if it wasn’t for the weightlifting, maybe I wouldn’t have gotten here, maybe I wouldn’t have this understanding of my body. It’s just that they are different moments, different directions. It’s a flow; it’s like a search; you start from the surface, you start to search, to look, to ask yourself questions about your muscles, to see what’s happening with them, you work them out, then you go deeper and deeper. For some people it’s the other way around, or maybe it happens in the same time. It’s a process. But, at least for me, they’re both part of my transformation.
Suav: How did you move from practice to teaching?
Raluca: It was funny. I was in Istanbul and I saw a poster promoting yoga training in a window and I told myself that this is what I have to do, because if I do this, I will have a trade for my entire life (laughs).
Suav: So, it was a career choice 😊!
Raluca: Something inside me was telling me that I have to be free and that I have to love what I do… it was not very clear yet, but something was telling me that I had to do yoga because yoga will give me freedom. That was my thought.
Suav: Did you attend that course, in Istanbul?
Raluca: No, I came back, I looked for a course here; things fell into place and I was happy because I was able to choose a particular studio where I practiced traditional hatha. The search continued even there, in the sense that I didn’t feel the poses. I mean, I was asking myself ‘what’s the idea with those poses?’…And I looked and looked until I found some answers. I have to try to explain, because it is related to my interior state, to my feeling: when I was practicing certain poses, I was feeling in a way that was not what I was searching for; I had an intuition that something was missing. In any pose, there was something missing for me. So, I went on searching: I looked into kundalini, into various forms of yoga until I found the practice I am doing now, which is traditional hatha. It is a practice that is in a way rough, atypical, but very close to the truth, to my truth, to what I have inside.
Suav: It’s beautiful how much you internalize yoga…
Raluca: Yes, I feel it, it’s a lot of inside practice for me.
Suav: This takes me to my next question: how is your yoga practice? Do you practice on your own, do you still go to training, to classes?
Raluca: I have a teacher who taught me my current practice; he was recommended by the teacher from my yoga school here, in Romania. I have the books that he gave me. I spent three weeks with him in Montenegro in a retreat and there I learnt, while practicing 6 hours a day, about breathing, about… I got back home totally different. I still remember my state, which dissolved eventually. It stayed inside me for a while, but then, after one or two weeks of Bucharest, it dissolved. Then I continued to practice alone. For me, it all depends on how I feel. There are periods of time when I feel like practicing every morning for two hours, there are periods when I feel like practicing one-two asanas a day in the evening… it depends very much on what I feel in that moment, I don’t have a routine. I did have a routine of practicing every day at 6 am, maybe I’ll get back to it… I have a few asanas I practice every day… it changed a little… there’s more meditation… actually, even the state during asanas changed completely.
Suav: There’s a topic I struggle with: in yoga, most times, you’re told to listen to your body and respect its limits. Whereas Instagram overflows with acrobatic postures that seem impossible to reach for a normal person. What’s your point of view?
Raluca: I can tell you what happens in my classes. In fact, most of us, I’ll include myself because it’s the polite way 😊, most of the people who attend the classes can’t sit on their knees, on their ankles, in between the heels, that is they can’t sit on their toes. I realized that I was teaching complicated asanas and I was trying to explain them things, but one day, while I was reading a book, looking for something, I realized that we don’t know really how to sit on our toes for 3 minutes. We don’t know how to touch the soles of our feet; we don’t know to feel during an asana. For me it is important to stay, to feel during an asana, not to run. At least this is my own experience. I mean, I also pushed myself; even now it happens to me sometimes; but, where I’m now, you need a lot of patience, it may even bore you and may seem repetitive and you may feel like you don’t evolve. I think that, after you spend a month sitting on your toes, incredible things will happen with you. Especially since the toes are connected to the head, to the brain. You know, it is said that ankle and toes flexibility mean open mind, a brain with no limits. So, that’s what I do: I start with massaging the toes, with feeling your own sole, with staying longer in a pose, with realizing how you feel. If you ask someone what they feel, they won’t know to respond. Because we’re disconnected: something tore and it’s very difficult to say where, what you feel. That’s my experience. And, regarding the Internet: I look on the Instagram because I like it, it looks beautiful; but sometimes it can become a little dangerous if you don’t have enough control or self-confidence, or if you are not at peace with you. It can become risky.
Suav: Indeed, I read a lot of articles about this. They started talking about yoga accidents and injuries, about the fact that, if you don’t enter correctly in an asana, you can hurt yourself.
Raluca: Regarding the asanas: they come last. Before that, comes the work with yourself, a lot of silence and trying to understand, even when you bend in a posture, who wants to push, which part of you wants to break your back or to reach a perfect alignment. Even more, if you’re studying carefully and pay attention to the anatomy, none of us is the same as the other. I mean, how I stay in a posture will look completely different than how the other will look and, if I look at the other, I’d get frustrated if I didn’t know some anatomy details. You must pay attention to yourself, that’s what I always say: pay attention to what you feel, to how you evolve from one posture to the other, to how your feeling evolves. Or to how nothing happens 😊. The important thing is to pay attention to yourself.
Suav: So, it’s OK if nothing happens, too.
Raluca: Absolutely! You must let nothing to happen. Many times, we don’t even know what is happening. And, at some point, bam! it appears like a breeze. You know how it appears? I also use to think that things are like explosions and they come over you and hit you… well, it’s not like that. It’s like… remember how the smell comes in the cartoons 😊? It’s the same inside you. And, at some point, from one day to another, you feel that something changed. And you feel different, and, when you get into a posture, is different than before and you can manage your feelings and be present with them. That’s what happens in yoga. And not only in yoga. For instance, recently I went into tai chi… Everything that is traditional practice kept like that; it’s a truth inside.
Suav: What do you wear at yoga and why? What are your criteria for choosing your practice wear?
Raluca: I also teach dance, improvisation. I love dancing. I look for clothes in which I feel good; I look for clothes that are different, that don’t necessarily look like sportswear; I look for nice clothes that give joy to me but also to the others. I think that’s what I look for.
Suav: Is there a difference between your yoga wear and dance wear?
Raluca: Sometimes, yes. I am a little more cautious at yoga. I don’t know why, maybe I shouldn’t. I mean, if I have a pair of leggings in brighter colors – I light strong colors – it would be nice to wear them at yoga, too, because people should experiment in everything, you shouldn’t impose yourself anything. I don’t think that the bathroom is bathroom and the kitchen – kitchen; I mean, it’s OK to have an armchair in the bathroom, you know? It’s OK to feel, to dress and to mix… I like a lot the natural fabrics; we talked before the interview about the pants you’re wearing and I told you I like them a lot… I like clothes that caress you somehow, with their color, or with their fabric…
Suav: I guess it’s the same with your street wear, it’s a principle for the way you dress.
Raluca: Yes. When I dress, most of the times, 90% of times, as I also work with kids, I think of a story; I think of giving them joy, because they get excited, unlike the adults, or at least they express their joy. It’s the same at yoga: I think of a story. And I put on certain colors or patterns that would tell the story of my feelings from that day. Because, in a yoga class, there are not only the asanas; it’s in fact the feeling of those in front of me. And not only in class, but in every human interaction; now, with you, it’s about what you perceive from me and what I perceive from you.
Suav: Thank you so much!
Raluca: I thank you; I was very excited!
Suav: So much emotion!