Advice by Sport
She measures her success not by her performance, but by how much she gives back to others. Despite having a rare genetic condition that gave her an extra build, she knows that it is this imperfection that makes her so unique. Find out how she gets to know and accept herself better by yoga.
Do you like to share your experiences with friends?
I don’t go out of my way to, but I do share things that I like on social media, just like everyone else. I was among the first generation of sports bloggers – I used to buy sports bras from overseas websites and post online reviews, or write about my day-to-day exercise routine. There was no Instagram back then, so blogs were still very popular. I had lots of followers, and many of them were inspired to get active.
You’ve been working in the sports industry for a long time – how have local sports trends changed over the years?
There was no such thing as ‘athleisure’ before – walking around in sports leggings or a sports bra would have definitely raised eyebrows. Now, however, people think nothing of it – when you go hiking you see loads of women dressed like that. Buying your first sports bra is a real motivation for getting into sport. However, discovering a passion for sport takes time. It’s not about how good you look, posting photos of yourself on Instagram or losing a certain amount of weight – the most important thing is that you enjoy yourself. After all, you do sport for your own benefit, so you have to enjoy it.
One of the biggest reasons people do sport is to stay in shape. what do you think?
What other people think definitely has an impact – people often ask me why I’m still so ‘fat’ despite exercising so much. I don’t agree with that statement. Just because your size is large, doesn’t mean that you are not active – there are also plenty of thin people who are unfit. This strange way of thinking has led to stereotypes of ‘sporty’ people. I recently discovered that my family has a history of a rare endocrine disorder called gigantism, which made me gain 50-60 pounds in just three years. Even though I was doing lots of exercise, I continued to gain weight.
I’m not obsessed about my appearance, but my weight had a definite impact on my performance and there are lots of exercises which I am no longer able to do. However, the extra time meant that I could train to become a yoga instructor, which has been a whole new experience for me.
Has yoga helped you to learn more about yourself?
In the past I was too busy – I always needed to do something or meet someone. However, yoga has taught me to slow down, and even made me realise that I didn’t know how to breathe properly. I used to force myself to run the half marathon and participate in relay races, but I never enjoyed long-distance events because I always struggled with my breathing. Yoga has taught me that you have to train your breathing technique. It’s not as easy as you might think, but it’s the first thing you need to learn in order to meditate. I always have lots on my mind – when struggling to sleep at night, I count my breaths to slow down. I would never have guessed that I would have to wait until 30 years old to re-discover my true self!
How is yoga different from gymnastics?
Yoga is an attitude – it aims to connect the body, mind and spirit. In addition to physical exercises, it’s also about training the mind, whereas gymnastics is essentially a physical sport. In the past I focused too much on training my body, but now I’m trying to find a balance and regain my inner strength.
Gymnastics has made me what I am today. Gymnasts always aim for perfection – it is an individual sport, so I’ve always set high standards for myself. With gymnastics, the good thing is that the sky’s the limit – once you complete a movement you can continue to make progress. It’s the same with yoga. You don’t have to follow a particular routine, so there are always lots of surprises.
What’s the most important thing that yoga has taught you?
In the past I was easily affected by stereotypes – I didn’t think that I was good enough to become a instructor, because I thought that you had to wear sexy clothes and nail all the difficult poses. However, I gradually realised that yoga is much more than stretching – it also requires a lot of mental effort to keep your students motivated. Maybe there are others like me who think that they’re not good enough to become a yoga instructor. No two people are the same. There are some poses that even yoga instructors can’t do! I’m not perfect, but my struggles might help my students feel more confident and motivates them to learn in this journey. I’ve always been too hard on myself!
I guess that would be the yoga products, such as the cork yoga brick or yoga strap, because they can help beginners with basic stretches and balancing exercises. They’re great for teaching and my own practice. They are also made from eco-friendly organic cotton or recycled materials, which resonates with yoga’s philosophy of harmony with nature.
Decathlon’s yoga knee & wrist pad is also a really good product, because it relieves the strain that some exercises place on the joints and helps to secure a more comfortable position.