The Preston yogi teaching pregnancy yoga in pyjamas and sharing the gospel of female empowerment
Yoga has been part of Sarah Smith-Sergeant’s life for over two decades.
She started out with home videos, exploring a few poses in her living room each morning and enjoying both the physical and mental benefits that it brought. But it wasn’t until 2012, when she experienced a nervous breakdown due to stress at work, that she really threw herself into her yoga and she hasn’t looked back since.
“I’d always been interested in yoga both physically and philosophically and it’s the best investment I’ve ever made,” says Sarah, 44. “I’ve always been an active and sporty person, but I’ve had a few back problems from having grown up riding horses, falling off a lot, and carrying heavy things, so yoga allowed me to move more freely and feel like I was getting into my body and out of my head.
“What really appealed to me about it was the fact that getting on the mat is only a small part of what yoga is; it’s about starting to get more in-tune with your body and your breath,” adds Sarah, who lives in Fulwood. “Breath practices can help reduce anxiety by bringing you back into the present moment because a lot of anxiety is projecting thought onto what you perceive is going to happen.
“Yoga kept me in the present and finding that stillness has really helped.”
Appreciating more and more keenly the positive well-being that yoga can provide, Sarah completed her 200-hour Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga teacher training with the Emily Young Yoga School in 2017 to become a yoga teacher before earning qualifications in pregnancy and postnatal yoga with Creative Calm Training’s Janine Hurley.
In 2019, she took the plunge and became a full-time yoga teacher, founding Sarah Smith-Sergeant Yoga.
“Going full-time was scary because you’re going self-employed and into the unknown given that I’d always worked since the age of 16,” says Sarah, who now offers a wide range of classes in pregnancy, postnatal, mother-and-baby, kids’, Vinyasa, Hatha, and Ashtanga yoga. “But, at the same time, it was exciting; it was an opportunity to have the freedom to run my own ship.
“Lots of people said I was brave, but I didn’t see it as that - nothing changes unless you change it, and I was ready for a change after teaching for 20 years,” she continues. “It was the right time and I wanted to do something different. And it helped that I was going into something I was so passionate about.”
Having held all of her classes in person prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, Sarah switched to online classes last year and says that a lot of her work now is pre and postnatal yoga classes which involve gentle movements to ease tension and build strength, breathing techniques, and guided meditation, whilst allowing people to meet other mothers.
“Going online has gone surprisingly well and the feedback has been really good,” explains Sarah, who also offers mother-and-baby yoga classes for postnatal recovery, reducing stress, reintroducing exercise, and establishing a strong connection with a person’s newborn. “People can practice in their pyjamas and then slip into bed afterwards without having to worry about going out into the cold!
“I want women to have the tools to look after themselves,” she continues, having become a mother herself in 2013. “Our bodies have gone through the biggest thing they’re probably ever going to go through, so the classes are all about moving very gently whilst also improving strength and flexibility whilst the body deals with both welcome and not-so-welcome changes.
“The main thing is to enable women to feel empowered throughout the pregnancy when they might feel vulnerable and to encourage them to tune-in with how they’re feeling and be able to connect with their babies,” Sarah says. “You really see people go on a journey, and that’s lovely.
“There’s a lot of pride in helping people through that process.”