Candace Cordelia is a Pennsylvania-based journalist and on-camera broadcaster/host, with…
The LYT Yoga Method is the only form of yoga created by a physical therapist – Lara Heimann. Heimann, who created her now-expansive yoga fitness brand in 1999, tells Athletech News all about her origin story, stress points, greatest accomplishments and more for our CEO Corner series.
Physical therapist and LYT Yoga Method founder Lara Heimann is the creative mind behind her pioneering platform. Making her start in fitness at the age of 18 as an aerobics instructor, Heimann moved on to postgraduate studies in the field of neurodevelopmental physical therapy and a career as a physical therapist before founding her renowned LYT Yoga brand, which has become a phenomenon in the fitness and health community since its inception in 1999.
She told Athletech News that everything LYT Yoga Method is today, from the practice itself to the podcast fashioned from Heimann’s philosophy and innate curiosity, started with a “seed” that “snowballed.” “One thing led to another because it was needed. Over the next nine years it really just took off,” she recalled. “I started an online platform. I started traveling and teaching, and doing workshops and retreats and training. Then I started an online teacher training [platform]. I had to turn [my business] into a brand and then that brand became bigger.”
That platform turned into a remarkable business, one which, with a team Heimann continues to successfully lead, has grown to include online and offline training, workshops, and guidance via her “Redefining Yoga” podcast. With LYT Yoga as the only yoga method created by a physical therapist, Heimann is now on the move to expand the brand’s corporate initiative to bring it to even more individuals. Thankfully, Athletech News was able to gain a moment of Heimman’s time for our CEO Corner interview series in order to learn more about LYT Yoga Method, how she became an entrepreneur, her role models, and how her colleagues describe her leadership skills.
Athletech News (ATN): Tell us about your background
Lara Heimann: I always say I was a reluctant entrepreneur because I did not come into my professional life with the intention of running my own business. 28 years ago I graduated from graduate school at Duke University and became a physical therapist. I started physical therapy work and then I went back and got my postgraduate certification in neurodevelopmental physical therapy — focusing on neurological rehab, understanding the brain, understanding how the brain impacts our movement, impacts everything.
Simultaneous to that, I began practicing and teaching yoga. I’d always been into fitness. I ran in college and I was a dancer and had been teaching fitness classes already. Then I haphazardly discovered yoga and really loved it. So, I really started that journey at the same time and for a while, I had been in two different lanes. I was teaching yoga, following the standard, more traditional style based on teachings and books that I read. Then when I started to look at it more with my PT lens, I noticed there were some gaps there. People were coming to practice yoga and when they would come onto the mat they were bringing in their already existing imbalances and habits, which we all have. Like I was doing with my neurological rehab clients, I started doing some of that developmental time of work and infusing that in my own practice and it changed my practice completely. Then I started teaching that and then I created this methodology that fuses those two things.
ATN: Please tell us about your current company and how either your role or the company (if you are a founder) came to fruition.
Lara Heimann: It grew from being in a studio on my own, to hiring employees and eventually going online. Once I had an online platform I was pretty much the only one on it, but I wanted to highlight it to other people. I wanted people to see other bodies, other voices that still had that quality assurance that I think was lacking in the fitness realm. That just continued to expand and grow; more and more people were interested in going through the training. Now I have over 800 trained teachers from the past two years alone, from my online platform, everywhere in the world, except Antarctica. I have a Director of Education and Programming who handles all the training.
The training is actually probably our biggest revenue generator and we’re always looking at ways to support our network, not just have somebody come through but really stay with us. I had minimal marketing when I had my brick-and-mortar studio. [Now], I have an e-commerce team, I have a marketing/email team, I have an operations director, a senior LYT teacher who helps out all the teachers that are on our live [Zoom classes], a tech person, and an audio person who does all my filming, editing, podcasts, and I have a podcast team. My role is to oversee all of those people.
ATN: What was your journey like to get to this point?
Lara Heimann: When I had my brick-and-mortar studio I was going out and doing some trainings. Someone that was in one of the trainings was a marketing person and she said, “You have to offer this to more people… you really need to put it out there.” She really helped very much to develop the brand and the mission to develop this online platform, which we started [at] the end of 2018, beginning of 2019. It started off as a platform, an app, and then once we knew we were going to do that, she said, “You need to do a podcast. You have so much knowledge and expertise.” I started the podcast at the same time I started the online platform. Once I was doing the online platform, more and more people were saying, “Well, I can’t come to your teacher training.” So I developed over nine months a very robust 200-hour, ten-week online platform for training. We launched that in 2020. That really exploded.
Along the way, I’ve learned a lot about how to build a brand, how to build a business, how to have employees, how to figure out what you’re good at [and] what you’re not good at, how to delegate.
ATN: What is your greatest accomplishment?
Lara Heimann: I would say my life as it is right now. That includes my children, my family, my ethos. We have built a beautiful home — it’s environmentally friendly. We’re all vegan. We raised our kids to be vegan. I would say what I’m most proud of is the accomplishment of really walking my path with clarity and confidence and very much in alignment with my values. My practice and my teaching speak a lot about that.
Of course, I’m very proud of this brand I’ve created, kind of haphazardly, and my husband who supports me unconditionally.
ATN: How would your colleagues, your co-founders, describe your strengths as a manager?
Lara Heimann: I think they would say that I’m working as hard as anyone. I’m very hard-working. I’m very compassionate and I think they would say that I’m just a leader. I’m really always trying to build people up. The hardest work I’ve ever had to do is give feedback because I’m from the South and I just want to be effusive. I see the good in people. I really had to learn [that] yes, you can see the good in people but you can also inspire them by giving them constructive criticism.
I think they would say I’m really fair and really encouraging. I’m also pretty laid back as their boss.
ATN: What was your first job?
Lara Heimann: Waiting tables was my first job. I waited tables before I went to college and then all through college during my summers at different restaurants. I started off at a chain restaurant (Chili’s) and then I ended up going into a more elegant, fine dining [establishment]. I actually got more stressed there than I ever am here! [laughs] Maybe it prepared me for pleasing the customer [and] keeping your head level because it is a very stressful situation feeding people, having the food come out on time, and all the different personalities. I did that [waitressing] as a way of making money through college and then also teaching aerobics.
ATN: What makes you stressed? How do you manage stress?
Lara Heimann: What makes me stressed is when there’s a lot on my plate and I don’t feel organized to get it done in the manner I want to get it done. It doesn’t happen often, quite frankly, because I have so much support. Honestly, my practice of yoga and my practice of really taking care of my body keep me in a very balanced state. So I don’t have too many moments where I really feel like I’m going to pop.
My husband used to have this saying when I had a studio and so much less on my plate, “Lara, it’s just yoga.” So, I just always go back to that. At the end of the day, I’m doing a great job. It matters that I honor myself, that I’m really consistent in my beliefs and my values, that I treat my employees well, and that, overall, we’re having a joyful experience. If we have moments of stress, I don’t let it get me down.
ATN: Who is your mentor? Role model?
Lara Heimann: My mentors really are my parents. My dad is no longer alive sadly; he was my guru. He was a surgeon and a very busy man, but always had time for the family and always had time for his patients. He really modeled the importance of listening and being there for someone. A lot of times people would call him in pain and he would sit on the phone for an hour and he’d hang up and he’d say, “They just needed to be heard.” There’s very few people who really model that in such a beautiful and easy way, that was just his way. I try to infuse that as well. To lead with our heart and be open-hearted is really challenging because it also makes you vulnerable.
My mom is just the most intelligent person I know. I’m one of four [children]. I’m a triplet, I have two identical brothers and me. So, she raised four kids and she did it with such passion and joy.
I think both of them, in different ways, modeled ways to live that take care of you, but also help you be better for other people.
Candace Cordelia is a Pennsylvania-based journalist and on-camera broadcaster/host, with a reporting background in wrestling, entertainment, and lifestyle. Her reporting work has been featured on websites and in publications such as Bustle, Pro Wrestling Illustrated, New York Daily News, am New York, ABC News, Yahoo!, Good Morning America, Madame Noire, Sister 2 Sister, etonline.com, Diva Dirt and The Everyday Fan. Her favorite workout influencers include Chloe Ting, Cassey Ho, Pamela Reif and Mary Braun. She still can’t stand burpees and Rebbl Dark Chocolate Immunity Elixir is one of her favorite post-workout protein sips. You can follow Candace on Twitter @CandaceCordelia and on Instagram @thatgirlcandace16.