Koya Webb decided at a young age that being athletic was her ticket to a better life. “I just had a very intense work ethic,” says the Tennessee native. “I am involved in everything, passionate and consistent. I love to work hard and I believe that whatever I put my heart and soul into will lead to success. ”
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Webb joined her high school basketball team and spent a full year warming up the bench before she was finally allowed to play. After she broke up, she was unstoppable and by her senior year she had secured the team’s MVP title. Webb also ran athletics and received several scholarships that enabled her to attend the college of her choice.
However, her academic year didn’t go as planned – but not because of her talent. “When I was little money was tight, so we lived on powdered milk and never really had a lot to eat,” explains Webb. “Now I was in a buffet school and had access to everything I could eat – so I ate it all!” Webb quickly gained 25 pounds, and that extra weight was affecting her athletic ability. She was no longer able to outdo herself at her events, which included high jump, long jump, shot put, and javelin. Worse, she was bullied. “I’ve been bullied all my life – because I was tall, thin, because I wore shabby clothes,” she says. “A couple of sorority women bullied and berated me for finding out I was a legacy and wanted to join. It completely kept me from the promise. ”
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A sophomore year transfer to Wichita State gave Webb a fresh start. She made better dietary choices and soon her career was back on the upswing. But one day when she was walking home from class in her junior year, she had severe lower back pain. “I thought I was shot,” Webb recalls. “I fell to the ground in excruciating, sharp pain.” The diagnosis was a stress fracture of her L4 vertebra, largely due to a lack of recovery and poor sleep. She was out for the season.
A cumbersome intro
Webb was devastated and fell into a depression. She decided to seek counseling and after a few sessions her counselor suggested yoga to cope with it. But Webb was doubtful.
“I’m a Southern Baptist girl and I was afraid I was going to worship some strange deities,” says Webb, chuckling. But her counselor assured her that yoga is nothing more than stretching. “So I went to this yoga class and couldn’t even touch my toes. I remember trying to do a headstand and feeling like my brain was oozing out of my skull! I didn’t fit in with it. I was so intimidated. And I thought: this is not for me. I am an athlete, not a yogi. These people say it is blissful. And it’s not painful. “
The instructor saw their frustration and suggested that Webb focus on breathing work. Together they took a deep breath and let it out deeply and slowly. “I felt these chills flow down my body,” says Webb. “I didn’t know that I hadn’t really taken a deep breath since then [the injury] happened. I realized that even if I couldn’t do the poses, I could just breathe – just sit there and connect to my breath. And that really changed my life. “
Dashed Olympic Dreams Soon, Webb was healed enough to swim and ride a bike, and a year later she was able to return to the track. She began winning conference titles in the heptathlon and high jump, and led her team to its first ever women’s athletics championship.
After college, Webb decided that she wanted to make a difference and inspire people to adopt healthy lifestyles and moved to California to pursue her Olympic dreams. No one at the Olympic training center had ever heard of her, but she was able to secure a coach by promising to “get better every day”. And she did – at first.
“Soon I was back in the same position as before the injury – worn out and scratched my bum,” she says. “I trained personally from 5 to 10 am to pay my bills. Then I was on the track from noon to 3 p.m. and worked at night from 5 a.m. to 10 a.m. to make ends meet. My yoga fell by the wayside. “Lo and behold, she pulled an Achilles tendon.
She quickly resumed her practice and healed her injury, but instead of continuing her Olympic training, she had a new goal in mind: to be on the cover of Oxygen magazine.
To achieve her goal, Webb started fitness modeling. On a whim, she decided to enter a bikini contest. “I spent every last penny on an outfit and a ticket, flew all the way to Florida and slept in a car because I couldn’t afford a hotel,” she says. She went on stage and had a blast in her division, but didn’t know she wasn’t done yet. “The promoter mentioned that they didn’t have enough participants in the figure contest and suggested they give it a try,” says Webb. “Right here and there he showed me how to bend, turn and pose – and I went up again!”
To her great surprise, Webb took first place in both competitions. “They gave me flowers and medals and I just beamed,” she says. “People congratulated me and asked where my family was. I had to explain that I was here alone, that I felt like my family had tried to talk me out of it or laughed at me for trying. “The show’s host was so moved that they paid to have her hotel room and she was finally enjoying her win.
Let yourself be loved
Ultimately, Webb decided that body competitions weren’t their jam. “I didn’t really enjoy being on stage and comparing myself with other women,” she says. “It was the practice, the commitment and [training] Persistence that made my heart happy. ”
Striving to share the transformative power yoga had in her life, Webb set out to earn her certification as a yoga teacher. “I wanted to go deeper spiritually and share the gift of yoga with the world.” With certification in hand, Webb founded her own multidisciplinary health and yoga school called Get Loved Up in 2017.
“I feel like most yoga training skips the spirituality and focuses only on the asana, but yoga is so much more than poses, so I wanted to mix it all up,” she says. “I also wanted to see more black women teaching classes in front of classes to add diversity to yoga.”
Now Webb gives Oxygen readers the opportunity to love themselves with their new six week course, the Wellness Warrior Workout, which brings together all of the disciplines Webb knows and loves. “I include my favorite yoga poses and all of my favorite things I do to stay in shape mentally, mentally, and physically – including mindfulness tips,” she adds. “The training units last between 10 and 60 minutes, do not require any equipment and are ideal for people at all levels. I also offer delicious herbal recipes for the nutritional component of the plan. Hope you sign up and begin or continue your journey towards achieving optimal health and wellbeing. “
Date of birth: July 30, 1981
Current Location: Marina del Rey, California
Height: 5’10 ”
Certifications: NASM, E-RYT 500
Q&A with Koya Webb
Q: How is your diet these days?
ONE: I’ve been vegan for 15 years and follow almost the same eating plan every day: a superfood smoothie for breakfast, a huge salad for lunch and a “beauty bowl” for dinner. This includes more complex carbohydrates, vegetables, and a delicious sauce.
Q: What’s your secret vice?
ONE: Pizza! I love California Pizza Kitchen’s cauliflower crust pizza, but I also love making my own. I load it with all sorts of vegetables – except onions, I don’t like onions.
Q: Are you a daredevil
ONE: Oh yeah! I went skydiving and loved it. But I also did bungee jumping and wouldn’t do that again! I tried shark cage diving but didn’t even get off the boat – not because of the sharks, but because I was so disgusted by the bloody, cut fish they put in the water to attract them. I curled up in a blanket until it was over.
Q: What is your favorite vacation spot?
ONE: Egypt. I floated in the Red Sea and rode a quad bike through the desert, and my spiritual experiences of visiting temples changed my life forever.
Q: Is there a yoga move that you haven’t mastered yet?
ONE: Frog pose. I’ve got tight hips from the track and all these sprints so I still have a long way to go.
Q: What’s the craziest thing in your handbag right now?
ONE: My “happy weapon” – you know, one of those hand-held therapeutic massagers. It’s so great.
Q: What message would you like to convey to people on earth right now?
ONE: You are enough the way you are. You are loved.
Could your strength and stamina use a boost? Are you looking for ways to better connect your mind and body? Let yourself be guided by Koya Webb – an internationally recognized yoga teacher, holistic health advisor, writer, speaker and vegan activist. She has partnered with Oxygen to create Wellness Warrior Workout, an exclusive six-week program that includes progressive workouts, weekly guided yoga flows, guided meditations, breath work, and mindfulness instructions. Plus, she shares over a dozen of her favorite plant-based recipes. Register today!