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I was a D1 athlete in college. Since then, I've replaced HIIT workouts with yoga and feel better than ever.

Chloe is dressed in a cheering uniform that says "Oregon" on the top. She holds silver pom poms, and both male and female cheerleaders cheer behind her.
For over 15 years, cheerleading was my passion.Hailey Pratt
  • I started cheering competitively at age 6 and cheered for the University of Oregon in college.

  • Although I loved the sport, cheerleading took a toll on my body.

  • After graduation, I started taking yoga classes and have experienced lots of benefits.

For over 15 years, cheerleading was my passion. I started cheering competitively at 6 years old and eventually went on to cheer at the University of Oregon, a major D1 university.

Cheering in college took my sport to the next level, from the difficulty of stunts to the training schedule, which consisted of twice-daily practices in the summer, HIIT workouts, weight lifting, and drills.

I was stronger and more fit than ever, but the physical pressures of collegiate sports — plus the decade and a half of tumbling, dancing, and getting tossed 20 feet in the air — did some lasting damage to my post-grad body.

Although I loved the intensity and achievement that came with university athletics, this didn't translate well into my everyday wellness in the "real" world. My body was run down, in chronic pain, and recovering from an unhealthy relationship with food.

After exploring different types of workout classes, I found yoga, which I've been practicing regularly for over five years now.

Here are a few things I learned after swapping out my HIIT workouts for yoga sessions.

I don't need to be dripping sweat and sore every day to be fit.

Chloe, wearing a two-piece light blue workout set, does a yoga pose on a green mat.
Yoga taught me that there are many ways to practice movement.Chloe Caldwell

Going from high-intensity cardio and weight lifting to stretching, breathing, and flowing was contradictory to everything I had always believed about fitness.

I thought that if I didn't push myself to the point of exhaustion and feel immediate results the next day, then it wasn't a good workout.

I still love a good sweat, especially from a hot yoga or yoga sculpt class. Overall, though, yoga helped me understand that there are many ways to practice movement and a healthy lifestyle.

The physical benefits of yoga helped to relieve some of my ongoing pain.

Chloe extends her right leg up and to the side. She touches her toes with her right hand, and her left hand is extended outwards.
I've found that yoga has helped me to manage my joint pain, stiffness, and inflammation.Chloe Caldwell

While I still have occasional aches and pains from the toll cheerleading took on my body, I've found that yoga and other low-impact exercises like walking have relieved an immense amount of my everyday discomfort.

Rather than draining my body, yoga helped me support it in a way that worked best for me. Some physical benefits of yoga include increased flexibility, muscle strength and tone, and improved breathing and energy levels.

Personally, it's helped me to manage ongoing joint pain, stiffness, and inflammation.

Exercise isn't just for aesthetic purposes.

Chloe, wearing a two-piece light blue workout set, does a tree pose on a green mat.
Since discovering yoga, I feel more confident in my body.Chloe Caldwell

I used to push my body to do hard HIIT workouts primarily for appearance reasons. Image is a big part of any performance sport — tiny cropped uniforms and bold makeup included.

I loved and felt empowered by the showmanship of cheerleading, but it wasn't always healthy for my mindset around fitness.

Since discovering my love for yoga, I feel more in tune and confident in my body despite no longer being as aesthetically toned.

Mental and physical health go hand-in-hand.

Until practicing yoga, I considered physical and mental health to be two separate things.

After struggling with a slew of body image issues and anxiety, the mind-body connection I learned in my weekly yoga classes brought healing to more than just my physical self.

Yoga teaches mindfulness through incorporating physical, mental, and spiritual components, which encouraged me to prioritize a holistic approach to my well-being.

Movement should be enjoyable.

Chloe sits by the beach with her hands in prayer position.
Yoga has helped me to shift my mindset around fitness.Chloe Caldwell

Movement is an essential part of a healthy and thriving lifestyle, and finding a daily practice that actually feels good makes all the difference.

Yoga became something I genuinely looked forward to, which has made staying active a positive rather than obligatory part of my days.

Overall, I've found that practicing yoga has soothed my joint pain and improved my relationship with fitness. But most of all, it's shown me the value of slowing down.

Yoga has helped me to shift my mindset around fitness, teaching me to love and appreciate my body along the way.

Read the original article on Business Insider