Before becoming a yoga guru and devoted mother, Leah Kim found herself in tears daily as she trained to be an accountant. But since taking the leap into yoga teaching, she hasn’t looked back. Leah has been Nike’s Global Yoga Ambassador since 2009, travelling the world as their spokesperson and head trainer. She has also started designing yoga programs for the Nike + Training Club app.
Here Amodrn chats exclusively with the passionate and inspirational yogi to discover her favourite workouts and food philosophy as well as get an insight into how she balances a career and motherhood.
Meet Leah Kim
Have you always been fit and healthy?
Yes and no. From a young age, I became very conscientious about what I ate. Partly it was media brainwashing, which made me wish I were as skinny as all the girls in magazines. Partly it was because I love animals and was mortified to discover how meat came to be. I became vegetarian at ten years old, and asked for a treadmill for Christmas when I was thirteen. So my body and health has been of interest to me for most of my life.
How did you get to be involved with Nike?
It was magic! I just received an email one day saying that Nike wanted to meet me. I thought it was spam and didn’t read it when I first saw it. When I looked again, I realized it was for real. They were looking for a yogi that could represent yoga for them, and amazingly I was their girl.
How do you balance having a career and being a mom?
Lots of organization, pre-planning, and support. Managing our life logistics is like its own job…it’s no joke! Every weekend, I plan the week ahead. Everything from cooking meals and scheduling activities and playdates, to when I’ll workout and when I’ll see clients. On top of being a working mother, we’ve just moved from London to NYC, so I’ve had to interview new nannies and babysitters. It really does take a village to raise little humans! One unexpected side effect of becoming a mom is the way I value my time. I used to put so much pressure on myself to always be DOING – to be working as much as possible and when not working, to be hustling for more work. I felt this abstract need to be “busy”, as if that gave me and my life more meaning. After the little one arrived, I felt anxious and rushed to get back to this previously busy schedule. But then I started to ask myself, why am I doing this? Why do I feel like I have to be teaching several classes every single day? Why am I paying someone else to sit at home with my child while I get up at 5.30am, run around town, work and get exhausted? I felt this need to prove to everyone that I could still do everything I did pre-baby, that I hadn’t lost my ambition and work ethic. I had to come to peace with the fact that my life was different now, but that it was in my control to make it what I want it to be. I feel happier and more fulfilled than ever before now.
What are some of your favourite workouts right now?
I dip in and out of doing non yoga workouts, but I can’t help it. I just love love love a simple, classic yoga practice. My free time is so limited, and it’s important that I practice everyday, so for me, being on my yoga mat is always going to be top choice. That said, I have been doing Reformer Pilates and it is pretty amazing and teaching my body to work in new ways.
I think it always starts in the mind. I psyche myself up to just get out there and get it done. If I’m practicing at home, I set a time, mentally commit to it, and unroll my mat and step on. If I’m going out to a class, I tell myself, all I need to do is get there. Go. Know how much better I will feel at the end of it, despite how unmotivated I may feel beforehand.
How important is healthy eating for you?
Super important. I lost this when I was pregnant. So many foods that were my favourites made me sick to my stomach – particularly steamed greens. And so many foods that I would never even have wanted to eat I felt like I had to stuff in my mouth immediately – like Cool Ranch Doritos. Ugh! It felt so bizarre to be so strongly influenced by hormones, and even after giving birth, I had to re-train my tastebuds. I could finally understand why some people have a hard time breaking unhealthy eating habits. What you eat has a snowball effect. The more sugar or salt you have, the more sugar or salt your body will want. The more healthy foods you have, the more your body will want that. I try to make sure I get good stuff in me every day, and if I still want some dark chocolate or Pirate’s Booty after, I’ll have some.
What is your biggest indulgence?
Coffee. Coffee. Coffee. Normally I would say a super creamy latte, but one of my Nike sisters who’s been helping me with this last bit of post-baby belly flab has strictly cut out dairy. It was a hard breakup but I still love a good black coffee. Mmmmm…