Stela Balaban, 500RYT, School Director Asst., IT Director

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Yoga as Fitness

I discovered yoga at age 24 when I came across a Rodney Yee yoga DVD in a friend’s basement. I think that my introduction to yoga was pretty typical in the sense that I was drawn to the physical aspect of the practice. Having had a brief gymnastics training as a child in Romania, my body maintained a level of flexibility that made yoga ‘easy’ for me. And I think that’s the reason I stuck with it in the beginning. I viewed yoga as the gateway to fitness, which was sorely missing in my life at that point. I practiced with some regularity and enjoyed discovering new teachers that could challenge me. Looking back, I never really went ‘beyond’ yoga, since asana gave me everything that I needed (and more), but it did give me the confidence to tip a toe in other movement disciplines like gym classes, martial arts and dance.

Yoga as Unity

Even before my asana practiced started, I remember an unease and a curiosity about the world around me. I started looking for answers to yet unformed questions in books, often outside of my school curriculum. One of the first authors that captivated me was Mircea Eliade, a brilliant historian, philosopher and anthropologist. This was the first time when I had a glimpse of the universality of human emotion and human expression. He provided an elegant framework to explain human behavior in relationship to what is sacred, which resonated greatly with me. Fast-forwarding a decade or so, time during which my search continued, I found the same essence in Holly and Matt’s 500h YTT. While the search still continues, the direction of the search is now inward, rather than outward.

My Contribution to the Shala

My goal is to bring the Shala into the age of technology by making the content of the trainings available on a digital platform where students can interact with one another as well as with the trainers, exchange ideas and continue to grow the knowledge base that was started at the Shala.

I completed my 200 hour YTT in 2011 at the White Lotus Foundation in Santa Barbara, CA and the 500 hours YTT at Jane’s House in collaboration with Circle Yoga Shala in Aug 2015. In addition, I hold a B.A. in International Studies & French from Mount Union College, an M.A. in Politics from New York University and an M.S. in Sociology (Migration and Ethnic Studies) from University of Amsterdam (Netherlands).