HOUSTON -- Morghan King was a soccer player, hurdler, triathlete and marathoner, and now she is one of Team USA’s top weightlifters with sights set on making it to the 2016 Olympic Games in the women’s 48 kg. class.
Through her various athletic careers, one passion has remained the same: yoga. King started practicing yoga eight years ago after being influenced by her mom. And now she can’t stop. The yoga addict has plans to become a yogi after her weightlifting career ends and wants to start a practice where she helps athletes incorporate yoga into their lives.
After competing at the 2015 IWF World Weightlifting Championships this week in Houston, King shared with TeamUSA.org some of the many reasons she believes everyone can benefit from yoga in their lives.
1. It’s Social
King has Twitter and Instagram accounts dedicated solely to yoga, which she keeps separate from her weightlifting accounts. That way she can post all the poses she wants without bothering anyone, plus she can follow her favorite yogis and join in the virtual conversation.
“All of the women and men I follow do these crazy poses in these awesome spots,” King said. “There’s a guy who does these jumping lotus poses in the snow and under waterfalls, and he travels around the world and does yoga.”
Social media is King’s strongest connection to learning yoga these days, rather than attending an in-person class.
“One of my good friends, Sandra Arechaederra, is a mom and a weightlifter. She got me into doing these yoga challenges and she came up with a hashtag #doyouryoga, and she’ll post every day for me to do one stretch a day and that was kind of to keep me doing yoga because I’m doing recovery every day and seeing a physical therapist, and there’s a lot of other things going on in my life that I sometimes get away from yoga, and that helps. You become part of something and don’t want to let her down.”
King also learns all sorts of new poses through videos posted online.
“I did a challenge a couple months ago that was learning how to pull myself up into a handstand without kicking up into it and it was 30 days of just kick-ups and then it was against the wall, and by the end of it I was able to put my feet on the ground and put my hands next to them and pull myself up. Handstands are always fun.”
2. It Applies To Other Aspects Of Life – Like Being A Weightlifter
Every athlete has their own pre-workout warm-up or pre-competition ritual. For King, yoga does the trick.
“A lot of the power yoga and the vinyasa flow helps with weightlifting and gets the blood flowing,” she shared. “And it’s an easier warm-up. A lot of the time you’ll see all these funky warm-ups people are doing, so if you can do a flow or hip stretches, it’s easy and fast.”
Yoga has also helped King to control her breathing and improve her body awareness, two elements crucial to her sport.
“When you’re standing up in the jerk, you don’t want to overextend your body, you wan to soften your core and be able to tighten your core and your back without losing your breath, and that’s where I think yoga and Pilates help a lot and people don’t understand that.”
3. Want To Focus? Do Yoga!
Yoga has helped King become more focused in her everyday life.
“I joke around with my mom and say yoga is my church,” she said. “It’s where I go to get centered and bring myself back to reality, and I think we get very scatterbrained and that helps me focus and bring myself back.”
It also provided her a hobby to dedicate herself toward outside of weightlifting.
“It’s just a ying and yang in my life and I think that’s really important to have. My boyfriend and I have always joked that I need to find a hobby outside of weightlifting because weightlifting is very stressful and I have been able to find a balance using yoga.”
4. You Can Be A Ballerina Or A Figure Skater
No, really. Not only does it help in weightlifting, but the unique poses yoga offers have allowed King to (temporarily) imagine herself competing in other sports as well.
“I love dancer pose, that’s my go-to move,” she said. “When you pull your leg back, kind of like how figure skaters do and then they twirl. Obviously it’s not as graceful as that, but it’s so fun to do because you do feel like a ballerina a little bit. There’s so many fun positions; any kind of upside down position is awesome. It’s fun to do.”
Added bonus: the poses have fun names. King says dolphin pose and tree pose are some of the most unique names King has heard. And then there’s the whacky full names like Eka Pada Koundinyasana.
5. No Gym Needed
Yoga can be practiced anywhere, which is perfect for the busy life of an Olympic weightlifting hopeful. King has found no shortage of locations to bust out a yoga move or two, showing off her skills everywhere from her home at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, to the Pan American Games in Toronto.
“I think that’s a really cool part about this online community,” King said. “All of the women and men I follow do these crazy poses in these awesome spots. I’ve ended up finding a spot at the OTC, it shows off Pikes Peak. …
“We drove across the country and we stopped in Kansas City and Nashville. I did some handstands outside the Country Music Hall of Fame. At the Pan Am Games I did some, which is really cool. Anywhere we go, I tend to.”