Lover of all things yoga, we were so excited to chat with the inspiring and awesome, Leah Kim. We admire her huge career leap from studying economics at university to becoming a yoga teacher; she has travelled around the world to teach and enthuse others with her incredible passion. She is now Nike’s Global Yoga Ambassador and A NIKE MASTER TRAINER! We caught up with her to discuss all things yoga, health and Nike…
Let’s talk yoga… how and when did it come into your life?
I started taking yoga classes and doing yoga videos at home in my teens. For several years it was just something I dabbled in and out of as part of an overall fitness regimen. I thought it was okay, but it was no more interesting to me than being on an elliptical machine. Then when I was about 22 years old I met my now-mentor. She and her class changed everything for me and how I experienced yoga.
Your Nike’s Global Yoga Ambassador (amazing!)… what does that role involve?
Thanks! It’s the best job I could ever have asked for. I get to do a variety of things with Nike. I teach live classes at Niketowns, go on global tour to teach live events to thousands of people, appear in the Nike Training Club App, design yoga workouts for the App, shoot advertising campaigns, consult with design teams on products, help launch products such as the Studio Wrap… to name a few.
You’re also a Nike Training Club (NTC) Master Trainer… could you tell us more about that?
These roles are intertwined. My work within the NTC Master Trainer network revolves around yoga and being a voice of NTC Yoga, and creating a perspective on yoga that fits in with what NTC stands for.
What benefits do you feel yoga can bring to the body on a physical level?
First and foremost yoga will teach you to breathe more effectively, which benefits pretty much every physiological function and activity in your body. It also balances any high impact training you might do. It helps reduce muscular tension, pain, and helps improve mobility.
… and on a mental level?
This is my favorite part of what yoga does for you. It makes you feel better, less stressed, and more connected to yourself. One of the most wondrous things I experienced when I started practicing yoga every day was how much kinder and more patient I became in general. I was so curious at how a form of “exercise” could have that effect. Of course, yoga is so much more than simply exercise.
What is your favourite yoga pose for relieving tension and stress in the shoulder and neck area (those of us that work slumped at our desks all day)?
I hear you! I don’t think there is anyone on the planet that doesn’t have some degree of neck and shoulder tension. I love doing a Standing Forward Fold with interlaced hands. Stand with feet at least hip width apart, knees soft (or even bent if your hamstrings or lower back are tight), interlace fingers behind your back, draw your shoulder blades in towards each other and keep the shoulders away from the ears, fold the torso over the legs and let the head be heavy. Reach the arms up and forward towards the floor in front of you, still keeping the shoulders away from the ears. Breathe big.
How would you define your style of yoga; which practice do you lean towards?
I definitely lean towards a flow or Vinyasa style of yoga, that’s not too slow but not too fast. I love a combination of fluid, heat-building movement as well as deep stretches.
What was it like getting back into yoga after having your little one?
It was extremely hard and heart-breaking, to be honest. I had to have an emergency cesarian and I didn’t heal brilliantly or quickly. The first time I stepped onto my mat at about 7 weeks postpartum, I fell to the floor trying to do a Plank, my entire body screamed in Down Dog, and even a simple supine spinal twist caused searing pain. After a few minutes, I curled into a fetal position and cried on my mat. I was too traumatized and afraid to try again for another several weeks and even then, I tiptoed back into my practice. I basically just unrolled my mat and did easy movements on it for about 20 minutes and didn’t ask more of myself. It’s been a very slow work in progress and poses are nowhere near as easy as they felt before, but I have pretty much everything back. And I have so much more respect and gratitude for my body and the human body in general. I realised I had taken so much for granted. Because I never had a six pack or obvious muscles anywhere, really, I just never thought I was really that strong. It was only when I couldn’t do things I had been able to do before that I realized that I had been super strong and should have given myself more credit!
How do you juggle looking after your son, alongside your amazing career and fitting in lots of exercise?
This is also extremely hard. I travel a fair amount for my work, sometimes taking the little one with me if it’s a longer stint away, sometimes leaving him at home. He got really sick on our last trip out in Portland and we had to take him to Urgent Care. Luckily it wasn’t anything serious, but he was not well for the entire week, and because I was so busy, I had to leave him with a babysitter that he did not know, in a place he did not know, for 12 hours a day. I spoke to my clients to see where I might be able to stay home with him, and thankfully they were really understanding, and I did my best to shuttle back and forth between mommy and work duties. It was so frustrating and stressful because when I was with my son, I felt like I was letting my clients down. And when I was at work, I felt like I was failing as a mother. But each morning I took a moment and asked myself what the best, most right thing was. I was fully transparent with my clients, I asked for help and flexibility, and then I tried to be as fully present as possible in the moment, wherever that was. I recognized that it was all a challenging compromise, and tried not to beat myself up about it. The exercise piece luckily is not as challenging for me, since my work revolves around movement, exercise is basically built-in to my job. When I’m home with my son, I get my workouts in while he’s sleeping or in school.
What does your typical day look like?
My days are so varied as it depends if I’m in the middle of a big project or mostly doing mommy responsibilities. If I’m at home in NYC, I get up with the little one in the morning, take him to school, take a yoga or barre or spin class, and get my work meetings or calls in before picking him up around lunchtime. Then during his nap time I try to read, study, or take care of admin. Afternoons are usually spent running around at a park, and then I might have a client or teach a class in the evening. I try to cook dinner most nights, otherwise I order sushi.
When you’ve had a hectic day at work, how do you wind down and chill?
It might seem kind of odd but my idea of winding down has nothing to do with yoga, meditation, or exercise, since that’s what my work revolves. Instead, chill time for me is basically being a couch potato. I love watching funny but smart comedies, like 30 Rock. Or having a glass of wine and catching up with my husband. Or reading a magazine like Vogue or Cereal.
Find Leah Kim on instagram here!
image – Nike