“People need to move daily and physical wellness should be prioritized in schools and at work.” with Lara Heimann and Candice Georgiadis

People need to move daily and physical wellness should be prioritized in schools and at work. Inactivity saps our energy and makes us grumpy and less inspired to do things for others. Movement is life and it improves life. We need to get our kids moving at school, they will learn better, they will get […]

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People need to move daily and physical wellness should be prioritized in schools and at work. Inactivity saps our energy and makes us grumpy and less inspired to do things for others. Movement is life and it improves life. We need to get our kids moving at school, they will learn better, they will get along better, and they will create more optimal habits.

As a part of my series about social media stars who are using their platform to make a significant social impact, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lara Heimann, an international yoga pioneer and Physical Therapist focused on evolving the practice of yoga to empower movement and balance amidst a modern lifestyle of technology and sedentariness. With an advanced degree in physical therapy and more than 25 years of yoga practice and education, Lara is redefining the modern practice through her comprehensive LYT (Lara’s Yoga Training) Method, emphasizing smart alignment, functional movement, and spiritual wellness. Sustainable, freeing and efficient, LYT champions smarter, safer and more conscious movement patterns and is practiced worldwide through daily online classes at her newest initiative, movementbylara.com.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

When I was in high school, I was on a varsity cheerleading team and two members of the junior varsity team were involved in a tragic car wreck. The girl who was driving was killed, while the other one survived with a fracture to her neck. I remember visiting her at home and being stunned by the sight of her in a cervical halo, which looks like a medieval contraption around her head with screws into the skull to keep the neck from moving. She was physically and emotionally depleted from the horrors of the accident, but I saw a glimpse of light in her when her physical therapist came by to get her up and moving. That memory impressed upon me how even in the darkest moments, we can find hope and renewal when we move our bodies. It would be another five years before I decided to become a physical therapist myself and another decade before I began teaching yoga, but I am sure that this earlier memory made an indelible mark on my path in wellness and the power of the body and spirit to heal.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began this career?

After I started my career in physical therapy, assuming that I would forge down a path of sports medicine, I was surprised to find a new interest in neurological rehab. I worked in a thriving clinical setting, where we had weekly meetings and lectures on different physical therapy techniques. One physical therapist was an expert in working with stroke patients, and she gave us a two-hour demonstration of how she worked hands-on using a technique called Neuro Developmental Treatment (NDT). This training is based on analyzing pastors and movements and teaching a neurologically involved patient how to develop control that would carry over into functional activities.
The treatment involves therapeutic handling, facilitation, and activation of key points of control at the core primarily. I was fascinated with this technique and the success of the tools implemented to enhance functional rehabilitation. I had always been interested in neurology but became a neuroplasticity geek. I went on to become trained myself and work with many stroke patients over the years.
It was during one at home physical therapy session when I was working on crawling with a very involved stroke patient, that I realized that this technique can be applied to anyone. We don’t have to have had a brain injury to benefit from the same principles. It was at this moment, that I began to bridge my neuro physical therapy knowledge with my yoga teaching and practice. It was also at this time that I had become a vegan, after years of being vegetarian. While I had assumed I was doing the least harm by not eating meat, I was unaware of the egregious treatment of dairy cows and chickens, whose hormonal products I had continued to ingest. Looking back at this time, it makes sense to me that as I connected more in my teaching and practice to the integrative core strength of the body, that I also connected more consistently to my core values of kindness and compassion.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I opened a public studio after having private clients in a home studio for many years. I decided to make this leap in my business for two reasons: I wanted to teach more people my LYT method of yoga, which was a blend of classical vinyasa and functional movement and I wanted to create a larger community of empowerment and compassion. When I first rented the public studio in my town of Princeton, NJ, I was only holding my yoga teacher training classes there while all of the remodeling details were not yet complete. I was eager to open it up to the public but decided to only have word-of-mouth marketing so that my existing clients could get used to sharing a practice space with more people. After a few weeks, I was going away for Christmas, and asked one of my teacher training graduates to hold a few classes of mine. While on a ski lift in Colorado, I received a frantic phone call from my front desk assistant, saying that the town planning board director had stopped by and wanted to speak to me. She relayed that I had not gotten a certificate of occupancy yet, so I shouldn’t have been holding any classes!
I spoke to the director, who was kind and didn’t penalize me, but I learned that you need to check all the boxes before you forge ahead!
I have gone on to open a larger studio with a vegan cafe, and I now ask as many questions as needed to make sure that I follow all procedures. You never want a missed detail to mess up your progress!

Ok super. Let’s now jump to the core focus of our interview. Can you describe to our readers how you are using your platform to make a significant social impact?

My platform is really about empowerment. I feel strongly that the body is the quickest and most successful vehicle of transformation. When we feel strong and connected to our bodies, we feel more productive, patient, resilient, enthusiastic, spirited and compassionate. My mission is to help everyone move in a safe, sustainable, and empowered way so that we can work together to improve the world for all beings. When we feel whole within ourselves, we can then truly give to others. In my many years of teaching, I have seen how small shifts in the awareness of movement patterns and connection to core strength results in profound shifts in personal lives and spiritual development. When you feel good about yourself, when you feel good in your body, when you move with ease, efficiency, and empowerment, you WANT to do good. You want to help. You spend less time on the little insignificant worries and self-talk and want to lead an impactful life. I have had women who felt unmoored by motherhood and confused in their own identity, find their mission in life that broadened their identity and gave them a greater sense of self. I have witnessed students overcome past trials and tribulations when they connect to their own physical strength, allowing the past to heal and be released of the pain. I have had many students explore and commit to veganism because they feel more aligned with their core values. We can all be bogged down by a lot of concerns that sap our energy. When we get clearer and stronger and feel empowered, it’s an inevitable step to becoming more consistent with our values.

Wow! Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted by this cause?

I had a woman who had endured loss, betrayal, and carried a great amount of bitterness in her external shell. She practiced with me for several years, and one day asked to speak to me after class. She revealed that she had gone through many years of therapy, had even tried different medications, but it wasn’t until she practiced this form of yoga that she felt a giant awakening. With tears in her eyes she told me that, even on the days that she didn’t want to come to class, she showed up because she always felt better after it. All of those moments of showing up led to a greater shift. She found forgiveness in her heart, she felt like she no longer wanted to blame or stay in the cycle of anger. With that change, she relayed that she had also began to explore eating a plant based diet. I remember her quote and it is the fabric that reinforces the power of this practice. “When I started connecting to my core strength, and grew more determined to get on my hands in a handstand hop day after day, I rewrote my story. As I have gotten stronger, I have become softer. I didn’t even realize it was happening, but I knew that it felt so good and I so I kept coming back. And now I am different. I am more whole and I like me.”
I receive messages like this all the time and it is such a privilege to witness personal growth. My job is to provide the tools, encouragement, and ask the question — if we can be more aligned in our bodies, can we take that in to other aspects of our lives? At first, some people might think of my yoga method as just a physical practice. But, if they stay long enough, they know that the practice is so much more. It is an open invitation to change your movement and behavioral patterns; it is a movement to be awake in your body and spirit and to spread more compassion to all beings. And while my mission is committed to veganism, I invite everyone to discover what pulls on their heartstrings. The message is to be aligned, feel your power, and use your passion for your own calling.

Was there a tipping point the made you decide to focus on this particular area? Can you share a story about that?

When my husband and I biked cross- country in 1999, I sensed a new chapter in my life and new purpose. Leaving a wonderful and stable job as a physical therapist was against my “play it safe” instincts, but once I crossed this threshold of creating my own destiny, there was no turning back. I gained a fierce pulse to choose the path less known and design a life that was truly in line with my values. On this three-month journey across the United States, we mostly lived with what we could carry, and it was easy to see that what we actually needed to be happy was our health and our experience. From our bikes, we witnessed much more of our surroundings that we would have from a car. We felt connected to nature in a profound way, journeying through so much beauty in our nation and literally sleeping on the earth every night. We also saw some of the factory farms that are hidden in the vastness of the middle country, and my husband and I both spoke of what we could do in our lives to bring more awareness to the realities of the animal agriculture. So many magical seeds of inspiration were planted on that trip and we even rescued a kitten who had been dumped by the side of a road. Nute remained in our lives for many years and served as an ambassador to remind us of our dreams.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

People need to move daily and physical wellness should be prioritized in schools and at work. Inactivity saps our energy and makes us grumpy and less inspired to do things for others. Movement is life and it improves life. We need to get our kids moving at school, they will learn better, they will get along better, and they will create more optimal habits.
Better food choices are needed everywhere! When we eat plants, we vibrate at a higher frequency. It’s not woo woo, we know this to be true. Eating a hamburger is dead energy, a robust green salad makes you feel vibrant. We should be putting money into producing and subsidizing vegetables.
Science supports that a plant-based diet is the healthiest for our bodies and the optimal choice for our planets survival. All of our legislative and economic decisions should be supporting the cultivation of a plant-based lifestyle. No more urban food deserts, no more cheap fast food burgers that are contributing to our health crisis and deforestation of massive rain forests.

Movement in your body and spirit is my ethos and I would love to see these tenets supported by society in all realms.

What specific strategies have you been using to promote and advance this cause? Can you recommend any good tips for people who want to follow your lead and use their social platform for a social good?

I promote empowerment and alignment in my daily classes at my studio in Princeton and on my online classes. Since the body is such a successful vehicle for transformation, I am dedicated to helping people feel more embodied in their personal strength and strive to model this in my own practice and teaching. I also encourage my students to take the best version of themselves in to the world because we need all the good hearts and hands on deck!! In my trainings and teachings, I inform people about the beauty of veganism and how it can improve their own health while also helping the environment and the plight of billions of innocent animals. While I don’t proselytize, I share my own journey into veganism and how the switch to a vegan lifestyle almost 18 years was the greatest spiritual awakening of my life. I essentially say, “hey, I am here to support you on the journey to align your values with your choices”; and by working with people to get stronger and more awake in their yoga practice, I have seen how organic the message is received. My only tip is to speak from your own experience without judgment and be the model of what you want to see in the world.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? Please share a story or example for each.

Three things come to mind:

1) Get help — don’t burn out because you think you can do it all. You can always find a helping hand willing to be paid or trade services. I had people who helped at the front desk at my studio from the beginning, some who were paid and some who wanted to work in trade for yoga classes. I also knew that offering vegan food at my studio was important to me to provide people with cruelty free nourishment. Although I am a certified natural foods chef, I knew that I would be spread too thin if I added that to my work plate. So, I collaborated with a friend who is a caterer and sells her food at the studio.

2) Don’t be afraid to ask questions! I learned early on that you need to ask questions to grow and thrive in your business and in your mission.

3) The customer is always right. No matter what the situation, try and figure out a way to stay above the line when interacting with people. How they behave is much more reflective of their own stuff. Whether in a business transaction or an interaction about veganism, I have found that being kind and not reactive helps you maintain your power and alignment without hurting another.

You are a person of enormous 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? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would inspire a movement of Empowered Compassion! My message would be simple: Move for yourself and all beings! When we care about our own heath and wellness, we are more prepared and capable to expand that caring to other people, other beings. I firmly believe that when we invest in our own physical and spiritual growth (which ARE connected), we have so much more energy to give to causes that we believe in, and veganism is a cause that included ALL beings. We do not have to contribute to suffering if it truly is not aligned with our core values.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Growing up, I had a poster on my wall with Nadia Comaneci performing some crazy balance beam move, with a quote underneath “ Do not pray for an easy life. Pray to be a strong person.” The image and the message were encoded in my moral fabric. I think I knew even at a young age that your personal strength and work ethic could help you become anyone you wanted to be, overcoming any challenge.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

I have many on the list, but I would love to have a private lunch/dinner with Natalie Portman. She is a highly intelligent and passionate vegan activist who I admire tremendously. I would love to collaborate with her to bring the vegan message to the whole world!

How can our readers follow you on social media?

I am on Instagram at @lara.heimann and @movementbylara

My website is www.movementbylara.com where you can also find my daily online yoga classes ( LYT- Lara’s Yoga Training daily).

This was very meaningful, thank you so much!

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