Sarah Helt has helped us introduce Chasing Nirvana Yoga on-site yoga classes to the west coast with her recent class in Los Angeles. The Iowa native has lived everywhere from Chicago to New York City to Australia, but she’s currently enjoying the L.A. chapter of her life. These days, she leads teacher training programs all over the country, as well as yoga retreats.
As an avid traveler, she makes sure to embark on a mindfulness-related pilgrimage each year to deepen her practice and understanding of the world. Last year was Nepal, this year is Peru. That’s just one small aspect of Sarah Helt’s yoga journey that will leave you feeling inspired to try one of her yoga classes!
How did you get into yoga?
I tried yoga for the first time when I was 19. When I moved to New York for college from Iowa, I was looking for something to supplement my workouts that could help me with stress and the culture shock of the city. As a performer, I’m naturally inclined to some of the movement and flexibility, but the patience and silence and strength in holding still was very hard for me at first. My first class was rigorous, but it was transformative.
Did anyone guide your yoga career?
I took an advanced studies clowning class -- I had to audition for it -- and I really bonded with the instructor over yoga. He studied clowning in France and had many adventures throughout his life, all in the pursuit of movement and entertainment and self-expression. He took me under his wing in a collegiate yoga class and eventually asked me to be a TA before he retired.
You’re so self-serving and self-centered in college that I wouldn’t have contemplated sharing this love of yoga if he didn’t encourage me to be his teaching assistant. He was planting the seed [of my career] at that time.
How did your career evolve from there?
I applied for yoga jobs and worked side jobs until I had enough yoga work to quit waiting tables. I knew I wouldn’t have a 9-5 thing like my parents, so I just let the universe speak to me and through me. When I was teaching yoga for marathon runners and other athletes in Chicago, I was approached about training paralympians through the Dare2Tri Paratriathlon Club.
I transitioned to a small-group and individual client base and began a disability-focused practice. I have clients with very specific needs who allow me to be creative with how yoga looks and sounds, so I have the opportunity to totally diversify my classes. I think yoga, at its heart, is a form of service. I have found a way to financially support myself while still being able to give back. I’ve also become the director of communication at a nonprofit called Accessible Yoga.
What are your yoga-related passions?
I’m passionate about creating safe spaces in the yoga industry for women. The stage is set for us to take on more. Our roles in society were introduced by the patriarchy. I feel like men are afraid that we’re going to take something from them, but all we’re asking is that they share the load. I lead yoga retreats, including ladies-only yoga retreats. This September, I’ll be bringing a group of women to Mexico for a yoga retreat.
What has life as a full-time yoga instructor taught you?
It’s a lonely profession that requires you to hustle and seek out opportunities on your own. And the once you’re hired, you’re hired just based on you and your skills. Having people who are pushing you and encouraging you and seeing little lights and sparks inside of you, those are the most important relationships to cultivate. This sense of community is important for me as a yoga teacher.
It’s so easy to be extroverted and not self reflect, which is a skill I’ve worked on. The more you invest time and energy into things that aren’t real -- like TV and social media -- the more you’re wasting time that could be spent looking inside yourself.
Stay tuned for more Chasing Nirvana Yoga classes in L.A. with Sarah Helt!