By Mike Watkins//Contributor | Thursday, April 18, 2019
As an All-American swimmer at the University of California Berkeley, Emily Silver and her teammates incorporated yoga into their training as a supplemental way to stretch and strengthen their muscles.
So even after retiring from swimming shortly after winning a 400 freestyle relay silver medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Silver kept yoga as an integral part of her daily exercise and health regimen.
Now, a decade later, she not only teaches yoga classes in her home state of Washington, but she’s leading large international retreats.
And she is enjoying the discipline on a totally different plain.
“I just led my first ever yoga retreat in Mexico in March, and it was such an amazing experience,” she said. “I am going to continue to offer international and local retreats because I love it so much. Yoga was something that has remained in my life throughout, and ultimately led me to looking into teacher trainings back in 2013.
“When I moved to Montreal in 2013, I found a really incredible training through Naada Yoga. I started my 500-hour teacher training and haven't looked back. I've been teaching for almost four years now and absolutely love it.”
After living in Montreal, Canada, for a few years, Silver moved back to Bainbridge Island, Wash., her hometown, in 2015 and has been teaching swimming and yoga full time for about the past year. She and her boyfriend, Duncan, live together and enjoy hiking, camping, backpacking, gardening and just being outdoors.
For Silver, the Pacific Northwest has always been a special place and it “feels good to be near my family and friends again.”
“I really love it, probably more than when I was growing up there,” she said. “It has so much to offer in terms of the outdoors. I love the climate and the people. It's a great location and I love being near the water, I always have.
“All of that coupled with the fact that most of my family lives there makes it an ideal location for me. I would tell anyone to come visit and see for themselves. It's a very special place, and I feel grateful every day for the wonderful community I am surrounded by.”
And while she has loved her time working with the teams, she’s leaving the Washington Athletic Club this summer to help facilitate a program in Costa Rica with Beyond Sports – Girls Leadership Academy for Service & Sport (GLASS). She’s not expecting to return to coaching the teams when she comes home, although she will still conduct private swim lessons.
GLASS is a leadership academy that focuses on developing high school female athletes into the best version of themselves.
Led by former college athletes, these 10-day programs consist of sport-specific training, service-learning projects, leadership development workshops and adventure.
Needless to say, Silver is looking forward to this opportunity to work with young women interested ins sports leadership.
“This will be my first summer working with them, so I'm really excited to see what it's like,” she said. “Grant Leslie, who is a friend of mine from high school, is one of the founders and established Beyond Sports in 2010. They create mutually beneficial opportunities for U.S. student-athletes, international athletes and international youth to enjoy a life-changing cross-cultural experience through sport.
“I will be working as the Olympian in Residence and facilitating the swimming and yoga programs, as well as leading leadership development workshops for the entire group on a weekly basis.”
One of the reasons Silver isn’t returning to team coaching this fall is that she is planning to head back into the classroom to get her Master’s in elementary education – a different form of teaching than the work she does as a coach.
In fact, she’s of the mindset that whenever she can help someone understand how to move more efficiently through the water, she knows she’s fulfilling her purpose.
“Anytime I can help someone understand and enjoy a specific drill, or get faster or learn a new stroke, it feels gratifying,” said Silver, who said she seriously considered coming back to competitive swimming in 2011-13 while working at USA Swimming.
“I have always loved helping others and to do so through a sport that has given me so much means everything to me. The tools and knowledge I've obtained over the years are meant to be shared.”
Silver admits that the natural high she achieved from competition and athletic success is hard – possibly impossible – to duplicate, she knows that swimming gave her a core structure and functional skill set that pays dividends every day in her personal and professional life.
Swimming taught her the importance of resilience, hard-work, dedication, teamwork and empowerment through her physical body – among other things.
“There are so many valuable lessons, it's hard to express how much it has shaped me as a person and allowed me to excel in my personal life since then.,” she said. “Swimming gave me self-confidence that I wouldn't have found otherwise.
“I look back at myself as a young girl and think about how much being good at a sport allowed me to believe in myself in a way that I didn't get from anything else. This carried over into my swimming career, and I've never really found anything like that since.”