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Spotlight: Leigh Coates


by Sophia Ciancone February 06, 2017

Leigh Coates

After suffering a knee injury in a car accident, Leigh was drawn to the healing powers of yoga.

Earlier in her life, Leigh was a professional snowboarder, competing in the X Games and traveling all over the world enjoying the early days of the snowboarding craze.  She specialized mostly in Boardercross, but she also loved Big Air and Half Pipe competitions and had many injuries as a result.  But it was a freak accident in a parking lot when she was hit by a moving car and her leg pinned between two cars that she suffered the ACL knee injury that took her out of the competitive snowboard lifestyle.  

Feeling lost and unsure of what her future held, Leigh moved closer to home in 1998 for knee surgery and decided to go back to school to study marketing.  She took on a part-time job as a driver for a “Hands on Healer” named Gloria who she drove from Santa Barbara to Los Angeles every week.  Gloria turned out to be much more than just a passenger. She introduced Leigh to yoga by teaching her a sun salutation and giving her the book “Light on Yoga” by B.K.S. Iyengar who believed that everyone’s body could eventually reach every pose with enough practice, patience, and perseverance.

A few years later, Leigh decided to move to Hawaii where she happened across one of the best helicopter schools in the country and decided to chase a new dream.  She focused all her energy on learning to fly helicopters and her yoga practice fell by the wayside.  But after a few years of training and instructing to gain hours and experience, Leigh’s new career and adventurous spirit brought her to Alaska!  She became one of the only female utility helicopter pilots who specializes in the very precise niche of Precision Long Lining (which means, she carries very heavy objects from a belly hook and line below the helicopter and sets them into place).  Leigh also figured out that she could work hard enough in the summer in Alaska, to warrant taking 6 months off in the winter.  

So, yoga came back into her life in 2008 in full force when she decided to start spending her winters back in Hawaii doing yoga every day!  She now creates her own kind of “yoga retreats,” by finding a good studio that she can take a morning and evening class and fill in her days with her other passions like hiking, freediving, adventuring, surfing, reading and meditating.  In 2011, Leigh became a 200-hour RYT (registered yoga teacher) by taking a one-month immersion training in Costa Rica.  

She has gotten into a comfortable groove of flying helicopters in Alaska in the summer months and yoga “retreating” in Hawaii for her winter months.  But with this back and forth lifestyle, it was hard for Leigh to hold onto her dedicated yoga practice year round. That is until she found Instagram Yoga in January of 2015.  

She stumbled upon an amazing community of people who helped keep her accountable, motivated and inspired to keep up with her home practice even during her Alaska work months.  In fact, she started doing her yoga practice outside on beautiful glacier filled mountain tops while she waited for her passengers and she found that she truly loves outdoor yoga!  

These stunning photos make Leigh’s Instagram a “must follow” page. Her feed is full of colorful photos, impressive poses, and eye-catching backdrops. She started her page to keep herself in check. By participating in yoga challenges, she was forced (in a good way) to try new poses every single day. Instagram is where she was introduced to “fancy” poses and now she finds herself practicing these fancy poses all the time for fun photos and after a session of poses and photos, she’s fit an entire workout into her day!

She doesn’t post on Instagram to gain followers or likes. But, she does like that her page has turned into a place that inspires other people to practice yoga.

Leigh struggled to find herself after her career-ending injury. But with the help of a healer and a book, she was able to find a way of life that guided her back to happiness. From Alaska to Hawaii to Lake Tahoe, Leigh is a free spirit who inspires other people by doing what she loves.




Sophia Ciancone
Sophia Ciancone

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