Yoga for Athletes

2018 Olympic Hopefuls Share the Yoga That’s Helping Them Get to the Games

The 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, are less than two months away—and USA hopefuls are preparing with yoga, of course. Here, 5 female yogi-athletes share details about their practices and favorite yoga styles. Get a sneak peek at who’s who at PyeongChang 2018 before the opening ceremony on February 9th!

Jamie Anderson

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USOC/NBC Olympics

Age: 27

From: South Lake Tahoe, California

Sport: Snowboarding

After winning gold at the Sochi Olympic Winter Games in 2014, Jamie Anderson continues to dominate women’s Slopestyle and Big Air snowboarding. During the 2015–16 season, she won an X Games silver medal in Slopestyle, three World Cup events—including the Slopestyle Olympic test event in PyeongChang—and the World Snowboard Federation’s World Championship titles in both Slopestyle and Big Air. She started the 2016–17 season on a similar note, taking a World Cup Big Air win in Copper Mountain, Colorado. She will look to defend her Olympic Slopestyle title and add to her medal haul as Big Air snowboarding makes its Olympic debut in 2018. 

Next: Learn about her yoga practice.

Jamie’s Yoga Practice

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USOC/NBC Olympics

“For me, it’s all about finding that balance,” Anderson shares. “I work out with my trainer and make yoga a priority. Depending on the day, I do workouts in the gym, snowboard on the mountain, yoga usually before or after, and meditate in mornings and afternoons. I do Core Fusion and Vinyasa. My favorite poses are variations on Handstand and Scorpion (because you have to use your whole body, and they are physically and mentally challenging). Yoga helps keep me balanced and fits into my lifestyle on and off the mountain. It’s also a huge help when I am traveling and competing. I love to take time before events to clear my head. I do a little meditation, and always have crystals on me. I crochet crystals into my beanie or wear a necklace to have balance and energy with me.”

See also 10 Questions for Sochi Yogi Jamie Anderson

Brenna Huckaby

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USOC/NBC Olympics

Age: 21

Hometown: Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Sport: Paralympic Snowboard

A competitive gymnast before losing her leg to bone cancer in 2010, Brenna Huckaby has proven herself as the one to beat in PyeongChang. Huckaby rose quickly to the top of the women’s snowboarding field after picking up the sport in 2013. Just two months after being named to the U.S. national team in 2015, Huckaby won her first world title in snowboard-cross followed by a silver in banked slalom. In 2016, she took time off to give birth to her daughter, Lilah. Huckaby wasted no time on her comeback, returning to training just six weeks later and winning double gold at February’s 2017 World Para Snowboard Championships in Big White, Canada. With her back-to-back world titles and resilience in life and the sport, the Olympic hopeful has established herself as a medal favorite heading into the 2018 Winter Games (she will find out if she qualifies in late February). “I was diagnosed with cancer when I was 14 with a small chance of survival,” she reveals. “When I began chemotherapy, everything was OK, but then my body started taking a turn. My tumor ate the chemotherapy like food, and the mass grew from a golf ball to a softball. I was told there was no other choice but amputation if I wanted to live. I cut my leg off and began more chemo, different drugs, and my body again didn’t respond. I am now at risk for leukemia. We stopped chemo way before my treatment was over, so every day is a worry that it will come back.” Her best advice: “Live for the day and dream about the future. Basically you can only control what you do today—if you put in the work, the future will work out.”

Next: Learn about her yoga practice.

Brenna’s Yoga Practice

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USOC/NBC Olympics

“I like to practice Zen Yoga,” Huckaby says. “It’s something I began doing in preparation for snowboarding competitions. It not only helps me stretch and relax my muscles, but it also allows me to really focus on what my body is telling me. Zen Yoga also helps me turn my mind off to the noise and chaos of competition. It helps me stay grounded in the most energetic or stressful times while traveling on the road. Practicing Zen Yoga helps me stay focused on the important values of life, which are my health and my family. Yoga is an important piece of my Snowboard training and [plays] a key role in how well I perform.” 

See also Asana for Snowboarders: 4 Poses to Shred the Slopes

Erin Hamlin

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USOC/NBC Olympics

Age: 30

Hometown: Remsen, New York

Sport: Luge

A three-time Olympian and 2014 Olympic bronze medalist, Erin Hamlin comes off a stellar season that further solidified her place as one of the world’s best in the sport of luge. Her resume includes two world titles, four world championship medals, and numerous World Cup wins. She’s made history on multiple occasions, becoming the first American singles luger—man or woman—to medal at the Olympic Winter Games when she took the bronze medal in 2014. Hamlin ended last season ranked fourth in the overall World Cup standings for the second consecutive season, capping one of the best years of her career. She earned gold at the 2017 FIL World Championships in the women’s sprint, breaking an eight-year American medal drought at the event. She also added a silver medal in the women’s singles event and helped the U.S. earn its first medal (a silver) in the team relay, becoming the most decorated U.S. woman in luge history. She has qualified for her fourth U.S. Olympic Team in 2018 and has expressed plans to retire after the season.

Next: Learn about her yoga practice.

Erin’s Yoga Practice

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USOC/NBC Olympics

“Yoga has been such a great part of my training,” says Hamlin, whose favorite poses are Pigeon and Lord of the Dance. “Every time I fall out of a regular routine, I can instantly tell a difference … I end up more scattered and my body is stiff and not as stable. Having it so adaptable is great as well. Days I want to be really challenged and come out exhausted, I can do that, but days I need more recovery I can achieve that instead. I mostly practice Vinyasa or Ashtanga, nothing too intense or crazy. I love to use yoga not only as a restorative tool to keep my body feeling good, but also to take a mental break, especially in season. We are traveling and training and competing on a such a hectic schedule that often times I just need to slow it all down, take a breath, and regroup. I am in hotel rooms and in cars and on planes so often then my own space and quiet time are often hard to come by. Even just a quick 10-minute practice when I can find time is great to center myself. Athletes always say elite-level sports are just as mental as they are physical, so yoga is a perfect 1-2 punch for me! Flexibility, core strength, and stability are key components to not only being in great shape for my sport, but also staying healthy. In my 18th year competing, I don’t always recover from tough days like I used to, so adjusting my training and incorporating restorative practices are big factors in my success.” 

See also Everyday Yoga for Athletes: 6 Post-Workout Hip Openers

Jacqueline Wiles

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USOC/NBC Olympics

Age: 24

Hometown: Portland, Oregon

Sport: Alpine Skiing

Jacqueline Wiles made her Olympic debut in 2014 after notching World Cup points during her rookie season, including a top 15 finish in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy. She finished 26th in downhill at the Sochi Olympics, paving the way for more than 20 top 30 World Cup finishes from 2015–17. In 2016, she earned her first top 10 World Cup finish in Super-G (a faster version of slalom skiing), and in 2017, claimed her first World Cup podium with a third-place finish in downhill in Altenmarkt-Zauchensee, Austria. Known for her ultra-fast speed on training days, she will look to translate that velocity to her race-day routine as she prepares to make her second Olympic appearance in PyeongChang (she will find out if she qualifies in late January).

Next: Learn about her yoga practice.

Jacqueline’s Yoga Practice

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USOC/NBC Olympics

“Outside of my normal training schedule, I do yoga, get massages, meditate, and study nutrition,” Wiles says. “I was introduced to yoga five years ago, when my mother became an instructor. Since then I have loved incorporating my yoga practice into my current training regimen. I believe the philosophy of yoga is to love, honor, and maintain one’s health through a lifestyle of practicing yoga. Attaining a strong body is my goal, and maintaining a strong body is paramount. Yoga has not only helped me stretch and strengthen my muscles, but it has also given me inner peace and focus, which are vital to competing at intense moments in my sport. Specifically, I enjoy hot yoga because it helps detox and cleanse my athletic body, leaving me ready and better equipped for my next workout!”

See also Everyday Yoga for Athletes: 9 Post-Workout Poses to Balance Core Strength

Alex Rigsby

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USOC/NBC Olympics

Age: 25

Hometown: Delafield, Wisconsin

Sport: Ice Hockey

Alex Rigsby was the last goaltender cut for the 2014 Olympic Winter Games, and has been striving to be the team’s top goaltender ever since. She has helped Team USA win four gold medals (2013, 2015, 2016, 2017) at the IIHF Women’s World Championships, and was named one of the top three U.S. players in the 2016 tournament and U.S. Player of the Game while earning a 1–0 shutout in the gold medal overtime win over Canada. While at the University of Wisconsin, Rigsby helped guide the Badgers to the NCAA Division I title in 2010–11, was a top 10 finalist for the 2012 Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award, and was the first goalie to be named captain at Wisconsin (2013–14). She has played three seasons of professional hockey with the Minnesota Whitecaps (2014–17), and is looking to make her first U.S. Olympic Team in 2018 (she will find out if she qualifies in early January).

Next: Learn about her yoga practice.

Alex’s Yoga Practice

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USOC/NBC Olympics

“Yoga is my favorite hobby,” Rigsby says. “I don’t have the best flexibility, but I like to do Yin Yoga, where you hold poses for about 3 minutes at a time. It is extremely relaxing, and I love the time to reflect and connect with my body. I try and go once a week with a friend at a studio. I am a huge believer in mental skills and imagery, and I believe it is a major component to succeeding at this level.” 

See also 9 Yoga Poses to Keep Athletes Injury-Free

To learn more, visit Teamusa.org. The Winter Olympics begin on February 8th, 2018.