Sea Lion Spotlight of the Week: Meet Sara Mickaelian

Photo Courtesy of Sara Mickaelian.

Point Loma Nazarene University’s intramural yoga instructor and current student Sara Mickaelian, also known as Sara Joy (her middle name) and @saraxjoy online, is social media famous with over 341,000 YouTube subscribers, 86,900 Instagram followers and 191,900 TikTok followers.

Born and raised in San Diego, California, Mickaelian is familiar with PLNU. Her family has ties to the university, which is one of the main reasons why she chose the school.

Mickaelian’s grandpa, Darrel Falk, was a biology professor; her grandma, Joyce Falk, worked in admissions; and her aunt, Cheryl Hareb, is a 1994 graduate.

Mickaelian came to PLNU and initially declared a business major; however, she was unsure of what she wanted to pursue. Within two years, she switched her major three times: from business to media communication, to biology and then settled on psychology.

Mickaelian said biology negatively impacted her mental health and she didn’t know what else to pursue. Her friend of three years, Tess Schrupp, a third-year communication major with a Christian studies minor, suggested majoring in psychology, which Mickaelian said changed her PLNU experience.

“[Mickaelian] is really good at sitting and intentionally being with people,” Schrupp said. “She’s so good at listening and she loves everyone she meets. With all of her experiences and how much she’s grown, it seemed like there was a spark in her to go help others on that journey.”

Mickaelian and Schruup met their first year at PLNU and now consider themselves “sisters,” Schrupp said. 

“When you’re friends with [Mickaelian], you’re watching someone who cares so deeply to be an intentional presence in someone’s life,” Schrupp said. “Being around [her] helps me learn to slow down and recognize the way that God shines in everyone.”

Having switched her major three times, Mickaelian embraced the journey.

Mickaelian at her first session as an instructor at PLNU’s McCullough Park on Sept. 9, 2023. Photo credit to Ally Gilmeister.

“I’m so happy I did try out all those majors, though, because now I have no ‘what ifs’ and no regrets,” Mickaelian said.

Before yoga, Mickaelian’s primary form of exercise during her first year at PLNU was running. 

In the summer of 2022, she discovered yoga. She began attending classes and quickly developed a love for it. 

“As I kept going, I realized how much the [yoga] instructors changed the quality of the class for me,” Mickaelian said. “It made my day when they sought out relationships and I liked how I’d feel so energized afterward; whereas after running, I’d feel drained.” 

In the summer of 2023, Mickaelian participated in the CorePower 50-hour sculpt training program where she received her certification for yoga sculpt.

According to CorePower Yoga, yoga sculpt is “a class that incorporates hand weights and high-intensity cardio bursts.” 

Mickaelian’s favorite part of yoga sculpt is the integration of music and the instructor’s personality. She said she enjoys making her yoga classes curated to what she likes.

Mickaelian tried out to be a part of the CorePower yoga sculpt team in San Diego but received an email from the PLNU intramural director, Rebecca Matsch, about teaching classes and decided to do that instead. 

“I’m so glad it worked out that way because it feels good to be involved with the community [of PLNU],” Mickaelian said.

Mickaelian’s yoga classes consist of mainly first-year female students.

“A lot of them go without knowing anyone and they get to meet each other, then go to the Caf after, and that’s my favorite part — seeing all the friendships that come out of [yoga],” Mickaelian said.

Ashlyn Bennie, a first-year psychology major with a music minor, has been attending Mickaelian’s class since the beginning of the year.

“I like how it’s a workout but [Mickaelian] still included breathing into it,” said Bennie. “It was like connecting your mind with your body, so it allowed me to push my limits harder.”

Bennie’s favorite part of Mickaelian’s classes is how encouraging she is during the workout.

PLNU intramural yoga takes place on Saturdays from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. at McCullough Park. Occasionally, Mickaelian hosts a “Sunday Sunset” yoga class on Sunday evenings.

In addition to her classes, Mickaelian attends CorePower Yoga in San Diego four times a week.

Mickaelian said she enjoys meeting people she normally wouldn’t get to talk to and how yoga is a constant fast-paced movement with a group of people to hold her accountable.

Once she graduates with a degree in psychology, Mickaelian’s dream is to have her own company combining therapy with yoga.

“With all the diversity in mental health today, there are so many different therapies out there now that are beneficial for people that is case-by-case compared to corporate,” psychology professor Tim Hall said.

Hall has been one of Mickaelian’s most impactful professors as a new psychology major.

Due to the variety of mental health disorders today, Hall said there is a need for a variety of therapy treatments.

“Each person is different,” Hall said. “I’m starting to see art, animal and yoga therapy — all these things that get people involved with psychology. It’s really cool to see these students using their interests and applying them to psychology.”

Mickaelian said yoga is a spiritual avenue for her.

At the end of her yoga classes, Mickaelian ends with  Savasana, a post-workout practice  of resting  your body. 

According to the yoga journal, Savasana provides a time when the body can reach complete relaxation which improves mental health and memory.

“It’s a time I leave all my outside worries and breathe,” said Mickaelian. “It’s my favorite time to talk to God, connect and feel peace after.”

Mickaelian said she also plays worship music during that time and wants to begin speaking Bible verses.

With a high following on several social media platforms, Mickaelian said she doesn’t have a desire to pursue it as a career but would use her experience and platforms to market herself and her company in yoga therapy.

Having sponsors including Cliff Bar, Nordstrom, Amazon, American Eagle, Hollister, Health-Ade Kombucha, Reebok and several more, Mickaelian has been able to pay for a lot of her education on her own.

She began creating YouTube videos around the age of 10, posting vlogs, giving advice, fashion inspiration and lifestyle content.

It was when one of her videos about a room transformation reached nearly one million views that Mickaelian realized she could do something with her hobby.

“I wanted to be a good influence for my audience which were younger girls,” Mickaelian said.

Mickaelian’s other social media platforms such as Instagram and TikTok, increased due to her YouTube content. She said she likes YouTube the most because there’s more possibility to see “real life.”

As Mickaelian’s audience consists of primarily young females, her intention with her platform is to be a good influence and share her faith.

“I add a Bible verse in my videos or share about mission trips I go on in hopes it would spark interest and help people in that way,” Mickaelian said.

Mickaelian said her content is inspired by her daily life and the people she surrounds herself with.

Mickaelian also participates in intramural basketball, homeless ministries and attends Park Hill Church on Sundays where she is a part of a small group that meets once a week. 

In the summer of 2024, Mickaelian will be serving on a short-term mission trip to Zambia and Malawi through LoveWorks; a PLNU organization where teams of students serve in different parts of the world for a month.

Mickaelian wanted to join the team in December 2023 but the application deadline had passed and she was determined to find a way. 

“I felt in my heart that I needed to go to LoveWorks, so I prayed about it and knew I needed to find a way,” Mickaelian said.

To try and find a way, Mickaelian reached out to her psychology professor, Tim Hall, who has led numerous LoveWorks trips over Christmas break hoping he would help connect her.

Hall reached out to the LoveWorks director, Brian Becker, and Mickaelian got a spot on the Africa team for the summer of 2024.

“I usually would feel so much anxiety but I’ve only felt peace and excitement for this trip,” Mickaelian said.

Mickaelian said her mom, Shelley Birch, has impacted her life in many ways, including being the reason why she is empathetic and joyous in life. 

“It’s all come from how much she’s poured into me growing up,” Mickaelian said. “She’s the most bubbly light you’ll ever meet. She’s my rock.”

Some of Mickaelian’s other hobbies include camping, hiking, rock climbing, running and thrifting.

Her favorite place to thrift in San Diego is the Salvation Army.

A piece of advice Mickaelian would give to young women who are navigating the uncertainty of the future and studies would be to embrace the journey.

“College is supposed to feel like a rollercoaster,” said Mickaelian. “Without the deep lows you won’t have the high highs. Looking back at all my major switches, I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s good to feel those deep emotions, so hang on — junior year is the best.”