By now, you’ve probably noticed that we have a fun initiative going on, where you can win a spot on our Sur la Sol wellness retreat in Nicaragua. A big part of the retreat will be daily yoga, and so today we wanted to introduce the inspiring woman who will be leading us through each asana. Her name is Koya Webb and she resides near the beautiful beaches of California. It’s not so easy to pick a yoga teacher for such a job, but we were immediately drawn to Koya’s infectious smile and knew she was the one for us. I’m going to let Koya’s words speak for themselves — and let me tell you, she has one amazing story. Read on for a look into who she is and what you can expect from her classes on the Sur la Sol retreat. And don’t forget to head on over and enter for your chance to win!
Tell us a little bit about your background and how you came to yoga?
I was born and raised in Humboldt, TN about 30 minutes from Memphis. I grew up in a trailer with my two brothers and sister. My parents worked hard to get us off powdered milk and the helping hand and when I was eight years old we moved into a house. Seeing my parents’ work ethic and learning the true value of a dollar at a young age developed the will and determination I have to achieve my goals and make a difference in the world today. I’m extremely grateful for my family and the struggles I had during my childhood that inspired me to always follow my heart and listen to my soul. After high school I went to college at Wichita State University on a full track and field scholarship. After visiting California during spring break I committed to moving there when I finished college. I graduated with honors in Exercise Science and Business Administration and have always had the dream of seeing the world and being healthy and happy.
Yoga came to me as a gift, a painful gift that I didn’t want to open. I remember my first class… I cried. I was a track and field athlete in college who put my body through everything it could handle until one day I dropped to my knees from a striking bolt of pain that I later found out was a stress fracture in my 4th lumbar vertebrae. My season was over… my full scholarship threatened, and all I had to offer the world at that point was an overflow of tears.
A concerned counselor suggested I try yoga. I’d never really heard about it before and remember my first class being full of pain and tears. Somehow I found myself halfway on my head and I thought it was going to explode. I think if I had a way out I wouldn’t have returned for a second class but I signed up for the semester, so I was stuck.
Day after day, inch after inch, I saw myself improving. After a week I’d cried all the tears my body was capable of and my teacher suggested I focus on my breath. I stopped thinking about the poses and only thought about fully breathing the entire class. After a month my spirit was lifted and I added swimming and biking to my routine to heal my body. I forgave myself for being so hard on my body and after a year of therapy and self-love I returned to the track to win three championship titles in the high jump, heptathlon and mile relay and lead my team to Wichita State’s first Women’s Track and Field Championship title. I continued practicing yoga and became an instructor to help others strengthen their mind, body and spirit as well.
What kind of yoga do you teach, and what do you love about it?
I teach Ashtanga-inspired vinyasa flow, Acro Flow, and SUP Flow Yoga classes. I love Ashtanga because the focus is connecting the poses to the breath and each pose is held for 5 breaths, which gives you time to really focus on and experience what’s happening in your body and mind. I love Acro Flow Yoga because you build trust, connection, strength, and increase flexibility while releasing fear. I love SUP (stand-up paddleboard) Yoga because you’re surrounded by water which is spiritually cleansing. SUP yoga also increases balance and circulation and you can take a big splash after class to rejuvenate your muscles.
You also hold certifications in nutrition. What does a typical day of meals look like for Koya?
On a typical day I like to start with a quart of lemon water, followed by a green superfood smoothie after my morning yoga and fitness. Then I normally have a huge salad for lunch or a veggie dish if I’m eating out. I’ve been vegan for eight years, so for dinner I like to get creative and make fun dishes with whatever I have in the fridge. I’ve come up with some pretty cool creations and wrote Koya’s Kuisine: Foods You Love That Love You Back in 2008.
What can our sweepstakes winners expect from your classes at the Sur la Sol retreat in Nicaragua?
I love to check in with my students before class and see what they need that day. I teach many levels at the same time in my classes, to allow room for beginners to take their time and advanced yogis to have room to play and grow. We hold most poses for 5 breaths and I offer adjustments to go deeper in poses if desired. I love to end the class with a 10 minute meditation and invite students for Acro Yoga play.
What is one thing you wish everyone knew about yoga and wellbeing?
I wish everyone knew the healing and connectivity power of yoga. Yoga is an open opportunity for you to directly communicate with your soul while cleansing, stretching and strengthening your body. The world would be a healthier place if everyone knew that well-being starts on the inside.
Do you have a favorite yoga pose?
My favorite yoga pose is the handstand, because I once told myself I couldn’t do them because of my height and other limiting beliefs. I love practicing handstands because they challenge me and at the same time my daily progress reminds me that I can do anything I commit my mind, body and soul to.
When you’re not practicing yoga, what else do you like to do?
I love to travel and experience different cultures and lifestyles. I like swimming and raising awareness about the health of our ocean. I can be found “mermaiding” a couple of times a year. I also love triathlons; running, biking, and swimming are a fun combination.
Lastly, what does it mean to be free?
Being free is following your soul and letting it guide you to your next destination in life. I love experiencing life organically, one breath at a time.
Photos by Aaron Kleinerman
Check Out Koya’s Website
Follow Koya on Instagram @KoyaWebb
Follow Naomi on Instagram @NumieAbbot
Check out Naomi’s blog Numie Abbot