How Yoga Made Me A Better Athlete And Person, As Told By Olympian Elena Hight
Admittedly, Winter X Games star and two-time Olympian Elena Hight's first encounters with yoga were not the most enjoyable.
The 26-year-old snowboarder tells Elite Daily,
Some five years later, the answer to her question is clear.
In both her personal and athletic lives, yoga has made a very tangible and positive impact.
The fitness practice has been so good to her, that as the Hawaii native sits down for this interview in the athletes' lounge at Buttermilk Mountain, the site of the 2016 Winter X Games in Aspen, a conversation about yoga produces just as great a smile as does a mention of the single most notable moment of Hight's professional career.
When speaking of the intense focus and concentration that help her land such tricks, Hight says,
And that feeling is just one of the many reasons Elena Hight says yoga made her a better athlete and person.
Most snowboarders tend to have notable strength in certain muscles to help land impressive flips and spins, but that strength often brings a stiffness that makes it hard for athletes' bodies to absorb hard impacts and falls, Hight says.
A limitation of flexibility ensues, she explains, but the five-time X Games medalist asserts yoga reverses that effect. She explained,
Sure, it's helped her physically, but yoga also has a "huge mental aspect," she was quick to remind us.
Yoga, and the practices that come with it, like meditation, helped Elena up her concentration. How she's been able to improve in that regard has "correlated so much with snowboarding."
According to Hight, "If you can't keep your mind focused on what you're doing you definitely can't land your tricks."
And it's makes sense, too. As opposed to other sports where athletes are expected to perform over an extended period of time, snowboarders like Elena must impress during runs that last no more than a minute. She says,
Concentration during those specific moments, then, is key.
Hight extended the concept of concentration into a conversation about "being present," and how important that is for those who practice yoga.
Always being present, she says, is what comes with internalizing the eight limbs of yoga, particularly pratyahara, the fifth limb, which demands a control of one's own senses.
And for Hight, it seems clear that an effort to perfect pratyahara has helped her clear her mind of all things that don't matter, especially in crucial moments. She said,
Practicing yoga brought a benefit to Hight's everyday life that has helped her cure one of her more relatable qualities: a lack of patience.
Hight made it clear why she continues to explore new avenues in yoga. Her simple explanation?
Now, the woman who counts hot yoga, Vinyasa and Ashtanga yoga among her favorites, is ready to take the next step.
This summer, she'll aim to become certified, which will allow her to teach yoga. And, if yoga really has had as positive an impact on her life as she claims, Elena Hight is likely to become an even better athlete and person for it.