Alexa Liebegott is a sweet little yogi and Instagrammer extraordinaire (@alexaraeyoga). I can't remember how I found her, but I'm so glad I did. I've been following her for the past several months and she has become one of my very favorite people to track with!
Just like all of my other favorite yogis on Instagram, her appetite for yoga is infectious. She makes me want to challenge myself more. She's gorgeous and determined, but also playful and doesn't take herself too seriously. I feel especially drawn to her posts because of her positivity that comes from her faith in Jesus.
I had the opportunity to hear more about Alexa's story over email and I really think it's one that you guys would benefit from!
Sweat Stretch Eat- First off, tell us a little about you. Where are you from? What's your story?
Alexa - My name is Alexa Rae and I was born and raised on Long Island, New York. My parents divorced when I was two years old so my beautiful mother primarily raised my older sister and I. (Unfortunately, I never had much of a personal relationship with my father after the divorce.) I was a typical suburban raised child – I was super involved in my public school where I played tennis, performed in musicals, engaged in student government programs, and excelled in classes. Though everything seemed normal from the outsider’s perspective, my mother’s second marriage and my home life were falling apart. When I was 16, my mother divorced for a second time and my sister, mother and I were on our own once again. My biological father cut off all contact during this time as well – it would last for nearly five years. It was during this time that my eating habits became scarce and abnormal, though I didn’t realize it at the time. During my senior year, I started dating a wonderful guy who is still my current boyfriend. At the time, our relationship became the only stable thing in my life. However, as I left to go to a university in a different state away from the one constant in my life, my insecurities and trust issues flared up. Every feeling of not being good enough, smart enough, pretty enough - for anyone or anything - took complete control of my mind. At college, I began to eat less and less and exercised for hours at the university gym. I became extremely depressed and spent most of my time crying in my room – I hated myself more than anything. I was more miserable than I had ever been so I decided to make an appointment with the school psychologist. After informing her of my daily unhealthy habits, she expressed her concerns that I might have Anorexia Nervosa. The school doctor also agreed and I was promptly told to seek treatment or get thrown out of college. I agreed to treatment and with the love and support of my family and boyfriend, I entered a residential treatment center where I would fight tooth and nail against their recommendations for 7 weeks. I left and quickly relapsed. I entered treatment again a year and a half later and was ready to fight the battle. Though I relapsed after I left, I was saved by the grace of God just a few months later in January 2012. My life has never been the same. I dedicated my life to following Jesus and I have never looked back. God slowly took away my desires to restrict my food and to self-harm. He has shown me that I am worth more than I ever thought. I am deeply grateful to God – both for my struggles and my recovery. He is faithful.
SSE- How did you first discover yoga?
Alexa- The first few times I ever did yoga was in my residential treatment center back in 2010. However, it was in February 2013 that my spark became ignited and I began to teach myself yoga at home. I became inspired by Instagram yogis (notably Laura Sykora), and I continuously challenged myself in my practice where I fell more and more in love with it all.
SSE- How has your faith in Christ affected your practice?
Alexa- When I originally practiced yoga in my residential treatment center, I was a lifelong atheist and the spiritual part of yoga never interested me. However, when I began to teach myself yoga in February, I was now a dedicated follower of Christ. I began to understand the spiritual side of yoga and instead of meditating I began to dedicate each practice to Jesus. Yoga truly does align your mind, body, and spirit – I’ve felt closer to God since I started practicing yoga then ever before. I even teach a Christian-based yoga class to some friends!
SSE- Name your top 3 favorite poses that challenge you.
Alexa- Handstand – the hardest inversion for me that I have yet to master!
Forearm Stand – particularly in scorpion, it’s my absolute favorite one to nail – but it’s challenging!
Hanumanasana (Seated Split or Monkey Pose) – Ah, my beautiful inflexible hamstrings, I will conquer you one day!
SSE- Who are some of your favorite teachers/who do you look up to in the yoga world?
Alexa- My Yoga Teacher Trainer, Desiree P. is the best yoga teacher I’ve ever had, hands down. She makes classes interesting and fun and brings a relaxed energy to the room. As far as Instagram goes (I’m a bit obsessed), I adore Laura (@laurasykora), Masumi (masumi_g), Carson (@carsonclaycalhoun) and Rachel (@yoga_girl) for my daily inspiration!
SSE- What caused you to decide to pursue a YTT certification?
Alexa- Once I began to deepen my yoga practice, I knew that this was what I wanted to do with my life. Yoga completely aligned my mind, body, and spirit. Yoga taught me how to love my body and I so desperately want to bring yoga to other people for the same reason. I considered taking my YTT certification and I prayed heavily about it. However, God gave me sign after sign that now was the right time to pursue it! I am blessed that my hopes and dreams lined up with God’s plan for me too.
SSE- How would you describe the temperament of your yoga practice? (playful/spiritual/serious/challenging)
Alexa- Definitely playful and challenging! I’m always striving to push myself further in my practice and really challenge myself, but through this I often face plant and fall – which makes it rather hilarious! I’m usually laughing at myself in yoga – you can’t take life too seriously!
SSE- How has yoga affected your life?
Alexa- Yoga has completely changed my life. Yoga really helped me overcome the final hurdles in my recovery from Anorexia – body image. I went from a girl who hated the way her body looked, to a woman who loves and appreciates her body for the amazing things it does – and yes, even how it looks! In addition, yoga has totally changed my dreams, passions and my life’s path. Yoga and the yoga community really sparked my interest in nutrition and healthy living. I went from studying International Affairs at a university in New York City to just recently studying Nutrition at a local college. I now hope to be a yoga teacher and health coach who helps people learn to love their bodies and themselves.
SSE- What's the best compliment you've received?
Alexa- Just yesterday, a friend told me that I am “a GLOWING human being”. That’s one of the nicest things anybody has ever said to me.
SSE- What is your favorite healthy recipe?
Alexa- I have an obsession with a Kale and Chickpea Salad that I make! It’s simple: mix kale, chickpeas, grape tomatoes, bell pepper and drizzle honey balsamic dressing on top. It’s easy, delicious and full of nutrition!
SSE- What would you say to someone who is curious about yoga, but maybe a little scared or intimidated?
Alexa- TRY IT! The worst that could happen is you don’t like it (but I doubt it!). If you’re too shy to try a yoga class in person, I highly recommend taking classes on Yogaglo.com or even trying out some yoga flows on YouTube!
SSE- Well, thanks for sharing all of that with us! So, what's next for you?
Alexa- Well, I am continuing with my YTT until I finish in March 2014. On the side, I will be continuing my Nutrition studies at my college and teaching yoga classes to curious friends! Once my training is done, I hope to go full swing into teaching yoga both privately at home and publicly at a studio. I’m excited to see where God will take me next!