Swimmer Rebecca Soni competed in the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games for Team USA. She was first introduced to yoga as a student at the University of Southern California, but didn’t fall in love with the practice until after she graduated in 2009, when she took a free outdoor class in a Hollywood Hills park.
By 2010, she was supplementing her swim practices and training sessions with Yin and vinyasa classes up to five times per week. “I was exploring what worked for my body and what didn’t work…fine-tuning my out-of-the-water regime. Yoga started to play a really big role in that,” she says. Regular yoga practice delivered physical profits, like toning and definition, while also facilitating recovery from her workouts.
“It really helped me to connect into my body and learn about how to function best,” she says.
Soni also relished the peace of mind yoga provided. “I realized I was coming out of [yoga] classes just really mentally refreshed,” she says. She practiced yoga throughout her Olympic training and it paid off in 2012: She brought home two gold medals and a silver.
“I had greater self-awareness [and] I had really dialed in my pre-race and post-race routines, including some yoga elements for improved preparation and recovery,” she says. “And I had the mental ability to be more present with and aware of my thoughts, which ultimately was a game-changer in my final races.”
Today, Soni lives in Bend, Oregon, and operates RISE Athletes, a youth mentorship program she cofounded with fellow Olympic swimmer Caroline Burckle in 2015.
“Yoga is still a big part of my daily routine, and I’m trying to get myself on the mat each morning,” Soni says. “[Doing yoga] really eased the transition away from sports and allowed me to connect into the part of me that does this just because I enjoy moving my body, not because I have a meet coming up.”