With just four days to go until thousands of women will be flocking to Billingsgate, London with their girlfriends in toe for Be:Fit London, a women’s only health and fitness festival; I for one am counting down the days until Friday 28th March 14! I have already shared my thoughts on the classes that have caught my eye during the three day festive, you can read the article here but have always been intrigued about the ambassadors and high profile athletes own fitness journey…
Through my own initial inquiry and expressed interest in completing a possible interview with the likes of Leah Kim, Nike’s Global Yoga Ambassador, I was extremely delighted to learn that a telephone interview would be set up for me to speak to Leah on Thursday 20th March ahead of the Be:Fit London Festival on all things relating to yoga, health, nutrition and beauty.
Now it is not everyday one is given the opportunity to conduct an interview with a globally known Nike Athlete, but saw this Q&A session as a fabulous insight for my readers and followers who practice in and express a keen interest in yoga to learn and take something away from her years of experience.
For those who use the Nike Training Club app, you have probably seen her pop up on your tablet or smart phone as she effortlessly walks you through a series of stretches and yoga poses.
Having not practiced yoga myself in the years I have been active, I was extremely intrigued to find out what it entails as well as finding out how Leah made that change from a career in finance to a yoga master trainer, her approach to nutrition whilst discussing beauty secrets.
After briefly introducing myself and minor chit chat on how our days were going, I began the interview with the following question:
Before you became a world renowned yoga teacher / practitioner, you graduated from UCLA with an Economics degree and obtained a job within this field.
What was the decision behind getting into Economics?
Looking back it just seemed like a rational choice that would afford me the ability once I graduated from college to get a good, stable job that made decent money.
What led to the decision to ultimately turn your back on an Economics career and working life in a busy office environment in favour of becoming a yoga teacher?
My career was actually in Finance and I found myself extremely unhappy. It wasn’t interesting and I felt that I wasn’t helping anybody.
I was already a yoga practitioner at the time and found that yoga made me most happy, so I wanted to find a way to do more yoga.
Economics and Yoga are two very different worlds.
How did your family and close friends react to the news when you announced your decision to change careers?
In general everyone was really supportive because they had seen for themselves how positively yoga had affected me, especially my parents.
They had seen how much more calm and contended I had become by doing more yoga and even though they expressed concerns whether or not I would be able to make a viable career out of it, they saw how yoga influenced me so were really supportive.
My friends were super supportive too! They thought it was really cool and were some of my first students.
Throughout your childhood and teenage years at school and college, have you always been the sporty type?
I have always cared about my health but I was not really sporty, like I’ve never played a sport in my life. I have never played a team sport, never did dance or anything active aside from running on a treadmill.
Yoga was the only thing that really got me.
Can you remember your first encounter with Yoga and was it an enjoyable experience?
My very first encounter with yoga was at a class in a hotel in Hawaii. I was a teenager at the time and I actually found it really boring.
It was very slow and we sat down for most of the class. It just wasn’t something suitable to me at the time as I was young and just wanted to be active but I continued to dabble in and out of yoga.
My first experience where I really connected with yoga was when I took a class with a teacher who became my mentor, Ally Hamilton.
I remember that particular class like it was yesterday, because it completely changed my life. It was a 90 minute class and I can remember everything about that class, down to what I was wearing and even what she was wearing.
That class was truly a life changing moment for me as the style of yoga and teacher was right for me and my needs as a yoga practitioner.
You have studied and practiced under many renowned yoga masters and teachers throughout the world.
Who has been the most influential person throughout your career?
Definitely (Ally) Alley Hamiltion, she has been the single most influential teacher in my life. She is the one that motivated me to even start thinking about teaching yoga in the first place and after more than a decade she is still my main teacher and is now one of my closest friends.
Also, there are two other teachers that are super important to me, one whose name is Erich Schiffmann.
He is globally known within the world of yoga, very well respected and probably one of the oldest, modern / western yoga masters out there.
The third teacher is Bryan Kest. His studio was my first home studio if you like. This is where I did all kinds of jobs from manning the front desk to sweeping the studio floors to eventually having my own classes on his schedule.
All of these yoga teachers are really special to me.
Yoga has been around for thousands of years and is constantly evolving into different types of styles.
For those new to yoga, can you explain what makes the array of styles available to practice different from each other, and what style do you recommend for an absolute beginner like me to practice in?
There are definitely endless styles of yoga.
People are coming out with newly branded styles all time but if you were to think of yoga within a few different categories one is going to be more Dynamic which is the style I personally love; it can also be known as Flow or Vinyasa or Power. Ashtanga is the style all these dynamic styles come from.
Then you have more static styles like Hatha, Yin and Restorative.
For a beginner it firstly depends if you are already at a good level of fitness and if you actually like dynamic movement then I would say to go for something like a flow class because your body will be used to moving an you will hopefully find it interesting.
If you’re used to dynamic movement and you go to a static class you might find it boring but then again if you’re an individual that isn’t used to moving much and are not super fit then I would recommend that a static class might be most suitable.
It really does depend where your level of fitness is and what you are interested in yoga for.
Yoga is a personal choice and if I meet people that say I didn’t like yoga when I tried it; it’s not right for me and they have only ever taken one class, I would highly suggest taking at least one or two more classes before you completely write it off for there are sooo many different types of styles.
It’s like eating an orange and writing off all types of fruit and saying you don’t like any fruit.
You can say you don’t like oranges , or you don’t like that one style of yoga but there are literally so many different types of styles so I would recommend to anyone to be patient and find what works for you.
Over the years you have practiced and perfected many yoga poses.
What pose did you find the most challenging to successfully learn and hold with ease?
I would say that arm balances as a category of poses have always been the most challenging for me.
The flexibility poses came more naturally to me whereas the strength poses didn’t. I would probably cite crow pose as the turning point for me. It was the gateway point where I was able to do more arm balances, which means anytime you are balancing on your hands.
It took me a year and a half to properly get the crow pose down but once I got it, it kind of woke up all of these muscles which gave me body awareness and through that it made me successfully complete other complex arm balances.
What is your favourite yoga pose?
*ponders for a bit* Hmmm that’s a hard one!
That’s a really hard one *laughs*
Ok this is kinda boring but I would have to say Childs Pose.
It’s such a lovely pose and makes you feel very supported. It’s a nice stretchy pose that opens up the spine and the hips and you can do it anytime, anywhere and I find it extremely calming.
I do this pose a lot of the time first thing in the morning whilst in bed just to awaken the body and get the energy flowing to the body.
I love sooo many poses but Childs Pose would have to be my favourite and at the top of my list!
You are currently a Nike Global Yoga Ambassador having accepted the position back in 2009.
For those not already familiar, briefly describe how this amazing opportunity came about and what this role entails?
So basically I am Nike’s Yoga Athlete / Ambassador and I represent yoga for them on a global basis.
Ever since I first signed with them I have been getting involved with designing yoga programmes, whether it would be teaching at a conference or at an event or training other Nike trainers that don’t have as much yoga experience by helping them incorporate yoga into their classes and to teach their clients.
I also design yoga programmes for their app called Nike Training Club. I get to do anything yoga related and was involved in the consultation stages when Nike introduced the Studio Wrap for Yoga and Barre classes.
I definitely did not design it for their amazing footwear specialists and design team were at hand to do this but they brought me to consult with the design and to advise them on the technical elements of the wraps.
I get to do a lot of cool stuff like appear in their ad campaigns amongst many other different things.
It’s been without a doubt the coolest opportunity I have ever been given and am forever thankful.
Out of the many different cities and countries you have travelled to whilst teaching yoga, what has been your most memorable experience and why?
*ponders* Gosh that a hard one! *laughs*
I think any opportunity where I get to go back to where I am originally from which is Santa Monica / Los Angeles…that is just so special because that is where I found my yoga practice and where I started training to teach.
Nike actually sent me there in 2010 to do a photo shoot and whilst on set, this is where I met my now Husband so for me Santa Monica is pretty special and magical so any chance I get to go back home is the best!
Even though I live in London now and like living in London, England, I’m a California Girl at heart.
What is your approach to Nutrition and what would a typical day’s food diary look like for you?
The main thing I think about with Nutrition is to load up on good things (whole-foods) as much as possible.
You shouldn’t be restrictive and think ‘oh I can’t have this’ or ‘I’m not allow that’ but instead approach it by questioning if you got your portions of green veggies in, or if you got a good portion of clean protein in today etc and load up on these foods rather than worrying too much about eating a slice of cake or a cookie for example.
I personally find if I load up on the good stuff then my body will naturally crave more good stuff anyway.
For a typical day I would make sure I always have a slow pressed green juice that is made with mostly veggies.
I drink matcha tea every day religiously and also make sure I have a raw, organic superfood powder full of good nutrients just in case I don’t happen to eat enough steamed greens or salad throughout the day.
By doing this I know that my body has had the nutrients it needs. I always try to eat a good portion of clean protein, weather its organic eggs or wild salmon. I’m a huge fan of quinoa and brown rice too.
It’s kinda boring but I like eating simple stuff that I know is good for me and my body.
Yoga aside, what other sporting / fitness disciplines have you yet to try but would love to should the opportunity arise?
Ooooo, I really want to learn ballet.
I actually already have a personal ballet teacher lined up but as I have been travelling so much I have been unable to fully commit. That’s my little thing that I want to master just for myself.
Just to be student again and to be taught something really beautiful and different from anything I have ever done, although people have said there are a lot of similarities between ballet movements and yoga poses.
Using just two words, how would your family and friends describe you?
Heart-driven and Honest
You look much younger than your actual age!
Do you have any beauty secrets you would like to share with us?
I’m a natural products advocate so I don’t use any beauty, skincare or hair-care products that have chemicals in them, for example parabens, sulphates etc and I swear it helps!
What you put on your skin is super important so I stay clear of all products that have chemicals in them.
My favourite brand is REN Skincare. Their products are totally amazing and I never knew about them before moving here to London, England.
I know that yoga helps too as well as sleep. Sleep is very important for the body and makes a huge difference.
What are your favourite past-times?
Oooo I love cooking and spending quality time with my Husband being lazy.
You recently wrote your first book entitled ‘From Office Hell to Yoga Heaven”.
How long did it take you to write and complete this book and what is the message you wanted to get across (if any)?
The book took a few months to write, and I wrote it a few years ago whilst I was in between teaching and travelling.
It’s a very short read. The publishing company approached me and they specialise in ‘How To’ books and wanted a ‘How To’ book on making that career change and using my story to inspire others from changing careers in finance to teaching yoga.
The overall message my book displays is having the courage to get out of something that is not right for you, to also recognise that you are doing something that is not right for you and to find passion in your work.
It is also perfect for people that are interested in teaching yoga, it gives an insight and touches on the different steps that I took to get the successes that I have.
Are there any upcoming products you are currently working on that you would like to discuss?
I have put together my own teacher training programmes which I lead and certifies people to become teachers, that has been a huge part of my work and am on a mission to ultimately create more yoga teachers in the world which I think is awesome.
The more people we have out there teaching, the more people they can touch to find yoga. I mainly do these programmes across Asia but would love to bring it to London.
I also want to write more books too.
*telephone interview concludes*
Having been blessed with the opportunity to interview Leah via a conference call gave me an insight into her personality. She is an extremely down-to-earth, humble and sweet individual and look forward to meeting her in person at the Be:Fit festival this Friday 🙂
My interview with her unearthed some strickingly similarities between us in terms of our approach to nutrition, being a natural beauty and skincare advocate who loves nothing more than spending quality time with our loved ones when not working and on the go.
Leah’s story, in particular her career change in doing something you love and are passionate about really struck a chord with me, to the point where it as made me stop and seriously think about my own career… for my day job as an Assistant Facilities Manager is also a world away from what I truly LOVE doing *teaching kickboxing and writing on topics such as Health, Fitness, Green Beauty and Wellness*
It is fair to say Leah has no doubt inspired me and has given me some serious food for thought *thank you Leah!*
If you too have been left inspired by this interview and want to find out more about Leah Kim, Leah can be found online by visting her official website, Leah Kim Facebook or by simply following her on Twitter.
Should you be interested in purchasing her ebook ‘From Office Hell To Yoga Heaven, you can do you by visiting the Amazon website.
Leah will be at the Be:Fit London Festival where she will also be taking her Dynamic Flow Yoga class. Tickets are still available, so if you haven’t already booked your place, tickets can be purchased here *be quick before they sell out*.
I would like to conclude this article by sending a Huge Thank You to Eva Cook from Wire Media for setting up this interview with Leah Kim.
Disclaimer: The images used in this article were sourced with permission from Leah Kim’s website under the Gallery Section of her site.