Daily yoga and movement — I move daily and often with my whole community via livestream. Feeling the aliveness in my body sparks a renewed sense of hope and connection so I can be kinder and more compassionate to benefit myself and all beings.
As a part of my series about “Learning To Finally Love Yourself” I had the pleasure to interview Lara Heimann.
She is a physical Therapist and the pioneer of the modern evolution of yoga, is redefining yoga with her comprehensive anatomy-based LYT yoga method. LYT, which stands for Lara’s Yoga Training, is sustainable, freeing, and addresses the imbalances of our modern bodies. Yoga practitioners in dozens of countries around the globe log onto LYT Daily to take online yoga classes with Lara because of her emphasis on intelligent sequencing, smart cuing, alignment, and functional movement. Lara honed her methodology through 25 years of practice and more than a decade of teaching tens of thousands internationally during workshops, trainings, and retreats. She founded Movement by Lara and LYT with the mission to help everyone find personal freedom through smarter, safer, and more conscious movement patterns so they can feel better and in turn, help uplift others. Lara leads yoga teacher training certification courses online and in-person at her studio, YogaStream, in Princeton, NJ and she hosts workshops and speaking engagements around the globe. Learn more at movementbylara.com
Thank you so much for joining us! I’d love to begin by asking you to give us the backstory as to what brought you to this specific career path.
When I was 18 years old, I ran a marathon that I didn’t train for. At mile 20, I realized that the only thing that could stop me was my mind — and the only thing that could keep me going was also my mind. Since then I’ve been obsessed with the brain-body connection. My father was also an orthopedic surgeon, so I grew up learning a lot about the body. I become a Physical Therapist and specialized in neurodevelopmental treatment to work with stroke and neurologically impaired patients. Early in my career, I started taking yoga classes and loved it — so much that I become a yoga teacher. The real magic happened when I started to combine the two disciplines. I put my physical therapy “hat” on while teaching yoga and over the last 25 years honed my own style of yoga, called the LYT yoga method. It stands for Lara’s Yoga Training, and it is designed to be sustainable, freeing, and address the inherent imbalances of our modern bodies. When I started teaching yoga, I taught out of my home and could fit 5 students. Today, I have a large yoga studio in Princeton, NJ and plus a brand-new online studio, called LYT Daily, where I teach and frequently live stream daily classes to students around the globe. LYT Daily and all my training courses are available on my Movement by Lara platform.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you hope that they might help people along their path to self-understanding or a better sense of wellbeing in their relationships?
I’m always working on new projects! My most exciting one right now is LYT Daily. There is a different yoga class with me every day plus monthly live streamed classes all taught in my signature anatomy-based style. It is designed to help people find personal freedom through smarter, safer, and more conscious movement patterns. The body is always present — so I use that as the gateway into mindfulness and self-awareness for my students. My yoga classes are not a place to “tune out,” there is so much focus and concentration involved that it forces students to completely tune IN to their bodies and thus the present moment. Beyond that, students gain so much confidence practicing this method because they learn to engage their physical and spiritual core in ways they haven’t previously accessed. When people tap into the power of their core, they not only find self-acceptance — but also unshakable confidence. Often, when people are stuck in a negative spiral, it is because their core is weak — metaphorically and literally. When students can stand taller at the end of a LYT class, it actually convinces the mind to be more confident. Our minds are very persuadable, especially through the body. That is why “power posing” works — it physiologically raises the confidence hormones in the system which ultimately promotes a better sense of wellbeing.
An interesting and empowering phenomenon that I’ve noticed over the years is how getting into a handstand (or even beginning to weight-shift onto the hands) can completely change someone’s life. It seems like such a difficult thing to do, that once a student does it, it changes their whole outlook on what is possible in their lives. I’ve seen people get into a handstand and then demand a raise, leave a partner, quit a job — it is so empowering.
Do you have a personal story that you can share with our readers about your struggles or successes along your journey of self-understanding and self-love? Was there ever a tipping point that triggered a change regarding your feelings of self acceptance?
I was very lucky that from an early age, my mother told me to “never say a bad thing about myself.” It was so valuable for me and important for everyone to consider because we listen to our own internal voice the most.
That said, one particular practice of self-love that I’ve struggled with is wanting to make everyone else happy, sometimes at the expense of myself. Practicing saying “no” and setting boundaries, knowing I can’t be everything to everyone, has been one of the most loving things I’ve done for myself. It is an ongoing practice and what I’ve noticed is that every time I say no to something that isn’t a “hell yes,” my self-love cup is a little fuller.
According to a recent study cited in Cosmopolitan, in the US, only about 28 percent of men and 26 percent of women are “very satisfied with their appearance.” Could you talk about what some of the causes might be, as well as the consequences?
I think we are all born perfect and at some point, someone says something to us that just sticks and then grows into something bigger. I have a 16-year-old daughter and 13-year-old son, and I know how mean kids can be, especially in those early years. The subconscious mind stores all of those early impressions, so giving your kids a strong foundation of self-love is such a gift. Feeling unsatisfied with your appearance is also caused by the “not enough-ness” monster. It is a thought-form that sneaks into the subconscious and tells us we aren’t good enough as we are. Nearly all marketing feeds into this. Businesses point out what we are “lacking” in order to sell their products. This unfortunately bleeds into the culture and into the playgrounds, and then later, the work place. The consequences of feeling like not enough are immeasurable. When we don’t feel like we are enough, we don’t speak up, we don’t take chances, we play it safe, we struggle with vulnerability, and most unfortunate of all: we are stuck in our own heads. The lens is turned internally on our own “problems” instead of focusing on helping others or making an impact in the world.
The quickest way out of the loop is to be of service. I have several students who have struggled with this in their lives, and they said that going vegan is actually how they started to find acceptance in themselves. They showed the compassion to the animals that they couldn’t give to themselves — and in doing that, found the compassion, love, and value for themselves. Service is a side-door into self-love.
As cheesy as it might sound to truly understand and “love yourself,” can you share with our readers a few reasons why it’s so important?
The main spiritual reason why it is so important to love yourself is that you are the universe in human form. When you fall in love with yourself, infinite possibilities become available to you because the whole world begins to reflect back to you that same love. On a more cognitive level — you are the person you spend the most time with, so it is really just practical to love yourself and get curious about understanding your inner being. In relationships, you can only love others as deeply as you can love yourself. If you struggle with loving and accepting yourself, you will constantly seek validation and praise from external sources, and let’s be honest, that is just exhausting.
Why do you think people stay in mediocre relationships? What advice would you give to our readers regarding this?
There are so many reasons that people stay in less than optimal relationships: financial, habitual, religious, moral — the list goes on. A big underlying factor is fear of the unknown. Thinking about what life would be like without that person can induce fear. Fear resides in our root chakra and when it is imbalanced everything is out of sorts. So even accessing the intuition and inner knowing that leaving a relationship would be smart, the fear mechanism determines it would be better to stay. It is an evolutionary thing really — it is meant to protect us. The mind fears what it doesn’t know in favor for the known. The best advice I can offer here is to expand what you think is possible in other ways. For example, if you think a certain yoga pose like a handstand is impossible, or you feel fear every time you attempt hopping — move through that and you will expand your possibilities off the mat.
When we talk about self-love and understanding we don’t necessarily mean blindly loving and accepting ourselves the way we are. Many times self-understanding requires us to reflect and ask ourselves the tough questions, to realize perhaps where we need to make changes in ourselves to be better not only for ourselves but our relationships. What are some of those tough questions that will cut through the safe space of comfort we like to maintain, that our readers might want to ask themselves? Can you share an example of a time that you had to reflect and realize how you needed to make changes?
Self-reflection is so important and for me, a daily and even moment-to-moment practice. Some tough questions to ask yourself are:
- Am I being hypocritical?
- Could I be more compassionate?
- If this was my last day on earth, did I do or say everything I wanted to?
- How can I be more fully present?
- Are my reactions my true self?
- How can I be less reactive?
The single biggest reflection I had was when I was proudly vegetarian, and someone told me that eating cheese is just as bad as eating veal. I had a real moral crisis of internal hypocrisy. I was vegetarian because I loved animals but had knowingly neglected to learn the realities of the dairy industry. It was a tough moment of realization, but 16 years later, it has been the most important and impactful shift of my entire life.
So many don’t really know how to be alone, or are afraid of it. How important is it for us to have, and practice, that capacity to truly be with ourselves and be alone (literally or metaphorically)?
Being alone with oneself is a serious practice. Even people who meditate regularly will encounter days where it is extremely difficult to sit and drop into their deeper self. The voice in our mind tells us hundreds, if not thousands, of reasons why we shouldn’t stop or be alone. The first thing to recognize is that voice in your head isn’t the real you. Beyond that voice is your deeper awareness. And when you can get there, it is peaceful and blissful. But getting there is a true practice. This is where movement and yoga has transformed my life and others. Sometimes the only way to get past the noise in your head is to tune into the body.
Often the fear of being alone stems from childhood — being left alone as a newborn can be super traumatic in a baby’s mind. A newborn may irrationally feel he or she may die because their life depends on the mother and/or father’s attention. This can create a subconscious fear of being alone. The best practice here is to recognize that the core fear is irrational because you are a fully functional adult capable of taking care of yourself and all your needs. Sit with the fear. Breathe with the fear. And see how it transforms.
How does achieving a certain level of self-understanding and self-love then affect your ability to connect with and deepen your relationships with others?
The more you love and understand yourself the more secure you will feel. From that place of ultimately security, you can have deeper and more meaningful relationships that are built on your dreams instead of your pain-body or learned insecurities. From a place of self-love, you are complete as you are so the relationships around you don’t complete you, they complement and elevate you. You are also more likely to meet other people who love themselves. So instead of codependence you can experience coexpansion. The beauty is, even if you are around other people right now who don’t love or want to understand themselves, just your presence can inspire them. You don’t have to do anything — just be the example.
In your experience, what should a) individuals and b) society, do to help people better understand themselves and accept themselves?
You probably already know my answer: move your body! You should move your body if you want to better understand yourself. And do it in a deliberate, conscious, really tuned-in way. Only through absolute presence can we get past the voice in our heads and start to understand our inner knowingness. The body is the shortcut to presence. If you then want to help others, simply be the healthy example! When people see you thriving, they will want to know your secret.
As a society, I believe the key is we have to stop trying to inspire people and start empowering people instead. Inspiration can play into a lack mindset and the “not enough-ness” monster by tapping into a comparison game or highlighting what you don’t have. Empowerment however, gives others the tools to be their own hero and lean into their ultimate place of power and self-acceptance.
What are 5 strategies that you implement to maintain your connection with and love for yourself, that our readers might learn from? Could you please give a story or example for each?
5 strategies I implement to maintain my connection and love for myself are:
- Daily yoga and movement — I move daily and often with my whole community via livestream. Feeling the aliveness in my body sparks a renewed sense of hope and connection so I can be kinder and more compassionate to benefit myself and all beings.
- Walking in the woods — I’m fortunate to have acres and acres of preserve land behind my house. Nature is an amazing way to clear the mind, get perspective, and decompress.
- Playing with my dogs — animals are my greatest teacher and my two dogs are always present. Playing with them allows me to drop into the moment which helps me find that deeper place of self-love and joy.
- Mixing it up in the kitchen — I’m a certified natural foods vegan chef and trying new things in the kitchen ignites my creativity and it feels so nourishing to my stomach and soul.
- Setting clear boundaries — like I mentioned earlier, asking myself “is this a hell-yes?” is one of the most loving things I can do for myself.
What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources for self-psychology, intimacy, or relationships? What do you love about each one and how does it resonate with you?
My current favorite book is “Becoming” by Michelle Obama because she shares so many interesting glimpses into private moments that shaped her and through her reflections you can see some of yourself. A book I always recommend to people is “What The Health” by Eunice Wong. It is the official companion guide to the documentary and has additional insights and information. I think analyzing the way we eat is a great tool for self-discovery and getting curious about why we do things the way we do. I also really love Oprah’s Super Soul Sundays podcast. She has such amazing guests — like Eckhart Tolle and Brene Brown and each episode is like balm for the spirit, helping awaken a new layer of understanding.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? Maybe we’ll inspire our readers to start it…
Well my brand is called Movement by Lara and I want everyone to Be the Movement in whatever way they feel called to be. I want people to move better and feel better in their bodies — so that they can focus their awareness outside of themselves and help others. That said, personally, I feel that kindness and compassion towards all beings is where we can make the most impact. As yoga practitioners, we practice ahimsa, or non-violence. Choosing to not eat animals is the easiest decision we can make on that front. For environmental and health reasons, it would do the most amount of good to the most people. And as I mentioned earlier, loving the animals can actually help us love ourselves.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote” that you use to guide yourself by?
Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life and how our readers might learn to live by it in theirs?
One of my favorite quotes is: “If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.” — Vincent Van Gogh
I love this quote so much because we all have self-imposed limitations and limiting beliefs that prevent us from living our lives to the fullest. Our brains are very persuadable though, and once we realize that, we can consciously train our brains to do and think what we actually want. A huge way to move towards self-acceptance is through reframing your mindset by flipping the script in your mind to the positive. Even if you don’t believe it at first, your mind can be convinced. Silence the negative voice that says you cannot do something.
Thank you so much for your time and for your inspiring insights!