Olympic snowboarder Elena Hight has done it all. At just 13 years old, she became the first female to land a 900 or a 2.5 aerial rotation in competition at the Breckenridge Grand Prix. Since then, she went on to become the youngest Olympian at the 2006 Torino Games and is the first snowboarder (male or female) to ever land a double backside alley-oop rodeo in competition. (BTW, here's why you should start skiing or snowboarding this winter.)
Despite her impressive résumé, Hight failed to qualify for the Sochi Games in 2014. "That experience took a lot out of me, but I learned a lot from it," she says. "I would say this time around I'm less focused on the outcome or about winning a medal but more so on just enjoying the process as a whole."
Now, Hight is feeling more prepared than ever for the 2018 Winter Games, and that's in part thanks to yoga. (Related: Elena Hight's Advice to U.S. Olympic Snowboarders)
"It's funny but I started my yoga practice out of necessity," she says. "I'd had a string of little injuries—a sprained ankle, sprained knee, shoulder problems—that were all keeping me off my snowboard. So I was advised to start yoga to see if it would help. I fell in love with it so much that I've been doing it pretty much every day since."
Snowboarding as a sport involves a lot of power and strength, but it's also very graceful. "That's why flexibility is the key to optimal performance," Hight says. "Yoga is something that's helped me with that while allowing me to stay injury free."
On top of just helping out physically, it's the mental aspect of yoga that's really pushed Hight to be the best that she can be. "Competing as a snowboarder is 75 percent mental. That's what helps you get across the finish line," Hight says. "For me, that's where yoga comes in. I actually use a lot of the techniques from my mat on my snowboard—whether that's breathing right, centering myself mentally and maintaining my focus by coming back to the present moment. All of those things are taught heavily in yoga and are a big part of snowboarding as well."
Hight finds time for yoga no matter where her work takes her. "I travel everywhere with my yoga mat because it's an important part of my training regime," she says. "I'll try to get into a yoga studio when I'm on the road, but it can be hard sometimes. Either way, I always do a 30-minute yoga routine in the morning and spend another 30 minutes doing a recovery flow after coming down from a hill. It's the most important thing I do for my body and mind, both as an athlete and as a person."
When she's not practicing yoga or snowboarding, as a Volcom pro athlete, Hight has been spending her time quality testing and approving the brand's 2018 Snow Collection. "The best thing about snowboarding is that we get to be outside all the time. But with that comes the cold, wind, and all of the other elements of winter," she says. "That's why it's so important to have the right gear that is functional but also makes you feel comfortable and confident."