Koya Webb: From Self-Care Will Come Answers—and Purpose

By Lashaun Dale

koya-webb-let-your-fears-make-you-fierce-book-coverA back injury in college followed by a hamstring pull while training for the Olympic Games ended Koya Webb’s dreams of track and field Olympic gold. “All of a sudden, my dreams just came crashing down,” Webb says about the devastating loss of her athletic career.

While recovering from her first injury, Webb discovered yoga. Despite her initial skepticism, she quickly saw the mind/body benefits of moving meditation. When the second injury struck, she returned to the mat, this time to earn her teacher’s training certification.

Webb is now a sought-after holistic health coach, author, speaker and the founder of Get Loved Up, a lifestyle and yoga community. We sat down with Webb to talk about her mantra for healthy living: “Love yourself, love others, love the planet.”

Love yourself

koya-webb-portrait“Self-care is not selfish,” Webb explains. “The better care we take of ourselves, the better care we can take of others.” For those who feel overwhelmed by the number of self-care choices or think they simply do not have enough time, Webb says to “pick one, two or three things that make you feel good” and fit one in every day, whether for 10 minutes or two hours.

Webb also suggests making a “love bank,” a jar filled with 10 to 20 small pieces of paper with activities you love (such as play with the dog, take a long walk, listen to music and so on) written on each. If you’re frustrated, depressed or irritable—all signs that you could use some self-care—pull from the jar and do the activity for an emotional boost.

Love others

“When we come into this world, we have a breath. When we leave this world, we don’t,” Webb says. She believes that breath is the foundation to interconnectedness. Breathing connects you to your spirit. Once you can feel that within yourself, you can see it in others.

Breathwork allows you to release the negative energy that closes you off to other people. “Until you really process that pain, you’re going to be coming from a place of fear,” she says. As a black woman in a predominantly white field, Webb says she used breathwork to heal the wounds of systemic oppression. Once she was operating from love rather than fear, she was able to truly connect with the people around her.

“If one person is suffering, we are all suffering in some way,” Webb says. To her, oneness means taking care of yourself so that you can then teach the person next to you how to take care of himself or herself. If everyone were to live by this creed, Webb believes we would have a much healthier population.

Love the planet

In addition to basic tenets like “reduce, reuse, recycle,” Webb advocates for a plant-based diet because it’s better for both the body and the planet. While making the choice to change her diet was easy, there was a definite learning curve: I ate way too much soy,” she says. “Then I ate way too much processed food.” Webb suggests giving yourself the time and grace to figure out what works for you. “Just keep trying as much as you can and see where you land,” she adds.

Since meals sometimes get skipped in today’s on-the-go world, Webb says to always keep a protein-forward shake or bar, fruit and vegetable snacks, and a multivitamin on hand for quick but clean energy options. And so long as your base is healthy, Webb says you can indulge here and there.

Find purpose

Once you’re living the three-part lifestyle outlined above, Webb says you’ll be led to your larger purpose. “We all have a divine calling,” she explains. “We all are meant to give back and serve in a specific way.” The more you practice stillness of mind—through yoga, meditation, breathwork, whatever works for you—the more “divine downloads,” as Webb calls them, you’ll receive.

Webb says that once you’re operating from love, ask yourself, What makes me feel good and how can I share this with others? “It doesn’t have to be this grandiose, save-the-world [thing],” she says. “If you’re vibrating at a frequency of love, that is making a huge ripple effect on the planet.”

Webb hopes that through her work, she’ll continue to inspire those love ripples. Because the more ripples and the more they overlap, the more healthy humans there will be who see themselves as not just detached inhabitants but interconnected stewards of our awesome planet.

Vegan Vitality

Koya Webb is passionate about plant-based eating, but her transition was gradual and based on circumstances and curiosity. Her Muslim college boyfriend didn’t eat pork, and Webb was fine with that: I’ve got plenty of other things to eat, Webb thought, so she started trying new recipes. Then salmonella contamination in chicken made headlines and she started skipping poultry.

koya-webb-meditatingWhen a friend and fellow track athlete said he hadn’t eaten fish or eggs for years, she was impressed and decided to try plant-based eating. People said she glowed, and she felt better, so she’ll be celebrating her 15th anniversary as a vegan on March 25.

Part of Webb’s adjustment was finding the sources and balance of protein that worked for her. Supplementation was already part of her athletic regimen, and as a self-described foodie, she tried many powders to find the consistency, flavor and complete protein that she wanted.

After her own trial and error and conversations with friends and clients, Webb decided to develop her own product, Get Loved Up, a pea-based protein powder that Webb made sure was smooth and easy to digest. (Proof of Webb’s discerning palate: She hasn’t yet found the chocolate flavor that meets her standards, so Get Loved Up is only available in vanilla.)

koya-webb-making-a-smoothieIn addition to accepting that some days, it’s more realistic to grab a protein shake and a bar on the run, here are a few more of Webb’s tips for plant-based—or healthy—eating.

  • Stash whole-food snacks where you need them, in your car or bag. Webb is a fan of dried fruit like mangos and mulberries. She doesn’t have potato chips or popcorn in her pantry because she knows she’ll “devour” them—as well as ice cream—but she will indulge as a treat.
  • Instead of looking at nutrition as a question of not cheating, think of it as getting healthier each day. “You’re making healthy decisions,” Webb explains. When you decide to indulge, “go right back to eating healthy whole foods the next day,” she suggests. “It’s just a healthier way to look at life and nutrition.”
  • Try adding some protein just before bed. Webb finds that she and many of her clients sleep better and feel more energized with the overnight support for the body’s repair and recovery.

Video & photo credit: Tom Casey,
Hair and makeup: Chanel


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Lashaun Dale

Lashaun Dale loves yoga and fitness and finds magic in movement, music and mobs of people. She holds degrees in International Relations, Philosophy and Applied Anthropology, as well as an MPH from the School of Public Health at Columbia University in New York. With two decades of group fitness programming experience, Dale is former editor-in-chief of 24Life magazine, a regular contributor to SELF and Women’s Health and Fitness, as well as popular blogs and podcasts. She’ll teach yoga anytime she is given an opportunity to get her om on.