Vicky Fox is a yoga teacher and trainer and author of ‘Yoga for Cancer, A-Z of C’. Vicky began teaching yoga in 2008 and since 2013 she has specialised in helping those affected by cancer to manage the side effects of their diagnosis and treatment through yoga. Her classes empower students to become present in the most challenging times, release scar tissue and tension in their body and build strength which may be lost. Her second book “ A time to Repair” focuses on how we can use yoga as a tool for healing with short sequences that are easy to fit into your day.
We caught up with Vicky to learn more about how she uses yoga to empower herself and her students.
Tell us about yourself…
I am the mum of three children (21, 20 and 16) and a small rescue dog from Battersea Dogs Home called Bonzo. A Londoner by birth, my husband Neil and I have lived in Fulham since 1998 and I love the sense of community I feel from teaching yoga in my local area.
How did you get into teaching yoga and how did this lead you to the work that you do now?
In the 90’s I was looking for something to compliment my gym practice. I started with ashtanga yoga and immediately replaced my regular gym routine with yoga, having no idea that I had only scratched the surface and this was just the beginning of my yoga journey. In 2006 I gave up my job as a shoe designer running a business that was not doing very well and started looking for an alternative. Neil came home one day with a flyer for a yoga teacher training at a studio in Fulham and I immediately signed up and that was the beginning of my teaching journey!
What does a typical day look like for you?
I usually teach early-morning so I’ll be up teaching and checking that my 16 year old is also up and getting off to school. Most of my work is in the mornings and the majority of classes are on Zoom so I don’t always need to leave the house to teach private clients. Between classes I will make myself a matcha tea and walk my dog. I find that this is a great time to clear my head and take some time in nature, Battersea Park is a great go-to for Bonzo and I!
I will then head off to teach my late morning/lunchtime classes. Around 11am is a good time for yoga for cancer classes as early mornings can be challenging if you have not had a good night sleep and insomnia is a common side effect of treatment. I often have a late lunch and try to batch cook at the weekend so that I have soups or dahl to eat at home. I follow Melissa Hemsley on Instagram and she normally inspires with something yummy I can easily make and keep in my fridge.
The afternoons are my quiet time and this is when I will typically practice yoga and meditation. I am currently training with Nicola Price to be an inspirational breathworker so some days I will practice consciously connected breath. I may also take this time to plan classes for the week ahead.
I only teach a few evenings a week now as I prefer to work early mornings and finish earlier in my day and if I am not working I love a hot bath to ease my sometimes tired physical body and to cook food for my family in the evening.
What are your non-negotiables when it comes to being mindful about your well-being and juggling family life?
Family meal times have always been really important to us. They are a great chance for everyone to be off their devices and chat through our days. When the kids were younger we always went through what made us “mad, sad and glad” and I feel these are really valuable and precious times to reconnect as a family.
I also really value an early night. I love my bed and can’t wait to get in with a good book and quite quickly start to feel sleepy. I can’t do too many late nights in a week so I won’t schedule them in.
Tell us about your book ‘Yoga for Cancer’
Yoga for Cancer goes through the A-Z of side effects and how yoga can help ease those side effects.
I started writing a book on yoga for cancer years ago but it was really through lockdown that I appreciated how students came to class looking for support for their side effects – especially as during lockdown they weren’t able to see physios or clinical nurse specialists. On Zoom my students were able to give frank and honest feedback about what worked and didn’t work, often to provide some support to another student. In this way my students were my best teachers and I couldn’t have written this book without them, so for that I am truly grateful.
One comment I regularly hear is that people don’t have enough time to practice yoga daily so I have just finished a second book which looks at how yoga can help the body to repair in just 5 minutes a day and this comes out in April.
How have you witnessed yoga benefit those suffering with cancer?
I hear from my students all the time how yoga has helped them. Some tell me of the physical benefits such as releasing scar tissue, reducing the effect of lymphoedema or peripheral neuropathy and some report feeling much better than they did when they arrived at class. For others it is learning some acceptance of their diagnosis so that they aren’t using up valuable energy wishing things were different.
What do you think are the most important aspects of a yoga practice that support women’s health?
Women are always going through changes. Each month there are changes which can be physical or mental and as we age women have changes going through menopause, which could last months or years.
I went into early menopause at 45 and found some of the side effects really challenging. I wasn’t sleeping well, I felt incredibly low and was waking up feeling very anxious. Throughout this I found yoga very empowering as it gave me tools to help take back a sense of control over these symptoms that felt very out of my control.
My go-to tools include breathing practices to help calm and cool my body when I feel heated or anxious, practices that can build bone strength (this is well documented) and just the knowledge that no matter how I am feeling in the moment, I will feel better after my yoga practice. I feel calmer and more able to cope with what life throws at me because of my practice of yoga.
I think it is also key to be able to tune it to what you need on a given day. Sometimes I get onto my mat and begin my practice only to realise how exhausted I am and I then change my practice to be more mindful, meditative and slow.Other days I feel the need to move and strengthen my body and that feels great.
How does yoga help you to connect to a greater sense of well-being as a woman?
Yoga has taught me that although I may not be in control of what happens in my life I am in control of my response.
I am definitely less reactive as a person since I started practicing yoga daily. This doesn’t mean that things don’t make me stressed or angry but I am better at creating some space between what I feel and how I respond, and generally that space means my response is more positive than my original reaction. I feel more complete and more able to cope with life through my practice of yoga.
Who are some women that inspire you that you will be celebrating on International Women’s Day?
Every single woman that shows up in my yoga for cancer classes and puts their trust in me and all the women that share their vulnerability and their cancer story so that others can learn or feel supported by them. There are too many to mention.
What is your life motto or favourite quote?
People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. Maya Angelou.