Expert Spotlight: Nike Global Yoga Ambassador Leah Kim
A lot of you have been asking me about Yoga and since I come from a Pilates background, I thought it’d be cool to have someone else step in and inspire you to try something new. So I brought over the best of the best, my friend Leah who is Nike’s face for yoga. Here she is!
Name: Leah Kim
Occupation: yoga teacher; Nike Global Yoga Ambassador
Location: from California, based in London
3 words that describe you: spontaneous, intuitive, committed
Cassey: Briefly introduce yourself to our wonderful community here.
Leah: I’m a native Californian, and I started my teaching career in Santa Monica, California. I got the travel bug in 2007 and decided that I wanted to live in Asia, explore my ethnic roots. That summer, I bought a one-way ticket to Hong Kong, a place I’d never been to before and had no connection to. I had no job lined up, but I figured that either something would work out, or I would just go back to California. What was there to lose? About two weeks after arriving in Hong Kong, I was contacted by Pure Yoga, as they had heard about me being in town and were looking for new teachers. It was such a blessing not only because they gave me a full-time job, but also because they gave me the opportunity to live and travel in a completely new part of the world. In 2009, I got involved with Nike and spent the next year traveling, teaching, and leading events in Asia, the US, and Europe. It’s definitely been an amazing ride thus far, with so many surprises along the way. I’m now based in London, and loving life more than ever.
Cassey: What did you study in school and when/how did you decide to go into yoga 100%?
Leah: I majored in Economics, and minored in languages- English and Korean. My first job out of college was in Investment Management, followed by a short stint in Investor Relations. Both left me totally uninspired, so on an impulse the day before my 25th birthday, I turned in my letter of resignation, effective immediately. I had some savings that would get me through the next few months, but I had no idea what I wanted to do or where I was going. I had been practicing yoga for a few years at that point, and because I had so much free time, I just started doing more yoga. I had found my main teacher – Ally Hamilton – a couple years prior, and we became quite close. I realized that every day that I got to be on my mat and in the studio was a happy and liberating day, and I thought- I wish my whole life could be yoga. And then I thought- maybe it could be! With Ally’s support and guidance, I started studying more deeply and preparing to attend my first teacher training that December with Erich Schiffmann. I spent all my time at the studio. In addition to being a student, I worked there- first as a volunteer sweeping the floors and taking out the trash, and then as a receptionist, and then as a manager and assistant to the studio owner – Bryan Kest. About a year after leaving the finance world, I would have my very own class at that studio.
Cassey: How did you get selected to be in the Nike Training app? That’s awesome!
Leah: As with all my big decisions and life events, my relationship with Nike happened seemingly out of the blue. One day I received an email from Nike saying they wanted to meet me. They had heard about me through their network of teachers and trainers, and they were looking for someone to represent them as their yoga spokesperson and ambassador, not just in the US, but on a global basis. They had upcoming projects, including Nike Training Club, where they wanted a yoga perspective. I just happened to fit what they were looking for, and being involved with Nike has definitely been one of the best and most important decisions of my life.
Cassey: What do you love about teaching?
Leah: So many things. Connecting with other people. Sharing a space together where we’re all there to effect some sort of positive change…in ourselves, our relationships, our world, or more simply- the day, this moment. The room to breathe. Standing on my hands and head with other adults. Not being so serious about everything. Enjoying simplicity. It’s such an incredible privelege to be a part of someone’s yoga journey…witnessing their changes, in body and mind and heart. Learning.
Cassey: What’s the craziest thing that’s happened so far in your yoga career?
Leah: Meeting my husband on a Nike shoot in my hometown of Santa Monica, while I was based in Hong Kong at the time and he was from London.
Cassey: How many times should someone practice yoga a week to become more flexible?
Leah: Any amount of practicing yoga consistently will help your flexibility. I personally practice 6 times a week. I would suggest a minimum of twice a week, or if you have more time, every other day.
A lot of people (esp. men) tend to give me a weird eye when I tell them that Pilates and Yoga are hardcore! Tell us why Yoga is truly a sport and how it’s helped you achieve strength physically and mentally.
Totally know what you’re talking about, but I just tell people to go to a class first, and then let’s talk about it. 😉 With yoga, there are so many different styles and emphases. Some (actually, most) forms of yoga don’t include any physical practices. When we’re talking about the physical practice of yoga, though, it can certainly be extremely challenging and therefore transforming. I am often asked if I used to be a dancer, or if I was always really athletic. This always makes me laugh because it couldn’t be further from the truth! But I also love hearing it because it’s a testament to the fact that we can do and be anything at any point in life. When I first started yoga, I couldn’t touch my toes in a standing forward fold. It took me a year and a half to be able to truly do Chatturanga. I was not a ‘natural’ at this stuff. I struggled on the mat (still do!). At the same time, I was on the wrong job path and to get personal here, almost married the wrong man. I know it is not a coincidence that the more time I spent on my mat and got physically stronger and more open (ie flexible), I was connecting to my inner strength and wisdom, my inner knowing. There is no separation between the mind and the body. Yogis knows this, as do athletes, as does anyone who does anything with full presence and passion. I think both yogis and athletes endeavor to always be fully immersed in whatever they’re doing in the moment.
Fave pose: Child’s Pose. I know it sounds boring, but it’s true. Grounding (when else in the day are you bowing down to the earth?). Lengthening for the spine. Releasing for the low back, hips, legs. So good.
Fave healthy food: KALE!
Fave “bad” food: Kettle-cooked potato chips. I know- it’s so bad. But they’re so tasty, and the CRUNCH!
THANK YOU Leah for giving us all a sneak peek into your life and for sharing with us the world of yoga! POPsters, please post any questions you have for Leah below and we both will be taking a look and answering comments! I hope you decide to give yoga a try – there are so many different forms and you just need to look around, try around, and find the perfect fit for you.
Hope the start of your week is going well! Hope you’re super high energy and super pumped to live it up!!!! Great videos coming for you this week on both my channels. A new Bikini Blaster is coming on Thurs on Blogilates and a really cool, quick and easy DIY Shirt tutorial is coming up on BlogilatesTV. Make sure you’re subscribed to both to be the first to see em! By the way, I’ll also be at Vidcon in Anaheim this week. Is anyone coming??