7 Stories in 7 Days: Day 1 - Movement as Medicine, Sarah Smevog's Story
Sports have been a part of my life since I was able to walk.
My mom enrolled me in gymnastics when I was two years old.
I started t-ball and soccer with my cousin when I was five.
I played softball from age 8-12 and have played volleyball since I was 13.
For 20 years of my life, the majority of fitness and movement for me has been focused on
performance, whether that was going to the batting cages or the park to get extra reps, extra strength and conditioning workouts, or hopping in private lessons or club practices for volleyball. Sports have been my outlet for movement since I can remember.
While my story is far from unique in terms of the work that athletes put in to get better, what
people often don’t talk about is the anxiety, depression, and self esteem issues that can come along with the pressure to perform and constantly improve.
I’ve always felt emotions very deeply, unable to hide my tears and have constantly worn my
heart on my sleeve (even to this day). In sports, when I have felt like I’m not meeting my expectations, I often would get frustrated and cry, whether that was striking out, not digging as many balls as I would have liked to, or if I let my coach's comments get in my head.
My earliest memory of performance anxiety occurred when I was about 10 years old. I remember getting on base at my travel softball game and having to be carried off second by my coach (who happened to be my dad) because I broke down in tears and had a panic attack on the field. While I don’t remember exactly what triggered this to happen, I do know it was related to feeling the pressure that I put myself under even at such a young age.
While having high expectations for myself has carried me all the way to division 1 volleyball, all conference recognition, and academic accolades, I would be lying if I said that the emotions I felt when I was 10 years old don’t still arise in me today. The biggest difference between me then and me now is that I have found an outlet for my pent up emotions and the pressure I feel as an athlete.
Yoga and meditation has changed my perception of the role that movement can play in my life as an athlete and, most importantly, as a person.
During my senior year of high school, one of my teammates' mom (Leeza Villagomez) invited
our team to do a yoga class at her studio The Yoga Den in Corona, CA, where I grew up. I was exposed to new movements that I had never tried before that merged grace, strength, and balance which sparked my interest right away.
It was on that day in 2017 that my passion for fitness and movement evolved into something
deeper than the physical. Within a month or so of taking that first class, I enrolled in the teacher training program with Leeza. Just like with volleyball, I fell in love with the process and fully immersed myself with learning as much as I could before I left for college. I learned about the importance of breathing, alignment, mindfulness, empathy, intuitive movement, and so much more.
This yoga training program helped me fall in love with my body, not for what it looks like, but for what it is capable of. Of course practicing the poses help me make cool dive moves without getting hurt and help me get more depth in the weight room, but most importantly I have gained an awareness of my body that helps me recognize how I’m feeling and how I can embody my best self everyday. Yoga has taught me how to mentally and physically release stress, tension, and emotions through breath and movement. Yoga continues to teach me balance; the balance between strength and flexibility, inhales and exhales, and when to hold a competitive edge and when to let go. I am constantly learning more about myself and those around me through awareness/mindfulness that I am grateful to experience daily.
Movement is no longer just what I do to perform my sport, I now see movement as medicine and it has become a tool that I can utilize on and off the court to live a life guided by love and not by fear.