Each year the last class of the year I term the 'Gratitude Class'. This year the class will be held on Saturday the 21st December at 7.30am, with all the profits being passed on to a very special cause.
This year's class has quite a special driving force, a client with whom I have worked intensely with over the past year. Holly has stage 4 breast cancer and together we explore yoga and all it can be for her in this indescribably challenging time.
My time with Holly has taught me so much and acted as a catalyst also for many changes that have now be actioned in my life. Read on below as I sit down with Holly and ask her to share a little more about life, cancer, pain and yoga.
A convo with the unicorn herself, Holly.
Rhy: Give me the most frustrating thing for you about your cancer. AND the most positive thing you have gained from it?
Holly: By far the most frustrating thing about my cancer has been the limitations it has placed on my body to be as active as I would be if I did not have cancer. Movement and exercise have always been a massive part of my adult life, and it has been a struggle mentally to adjust to the limitations of my body – particularly when the cancer spread to my lungs. However, from this I have learned so many different methods to incorporate my love of movement and exercise into my life in ways that I would never have otherwise considered.
Without hesitation, the most positive thing I have gained is an equal tie between a beautiful sense of perspective, together with a heightened ability to be present and enjoy each day as if it were my last. I no longer sweat the small things in life, as for me, nothing can compare to my Stage 4 cancer diagnosis. My favourite mantra at the moment is “what will be, will be”. My diagnosis has also given me the ability to REALLY and TRULY appreciate every single moment in each day knowing that you never know what tomorrow holds – so its best to really enjoy and make the most of today.
Rhy: Most important things people have taught you / told you / shared with you in your life?
Holly: Last year, not long after I was very first diagnosed, during a private Yoga session with Rhy, she told me a beautiful story, which had the ultimate message of “this too shall pass”. The story she told me and in particular this mantra has always stuck with me. No matter how bad the pain of any given moment is – its fleeting. Nothing in this world is a permanent state. This has really helped me process a lot of not only physical but mostly emotional pain with cancer. I know that if I am having a bad day, it's going to pass. It will always pass.
My mum and dad have always installed the idea that I can be and do whatever I set my mind to. I know this is a corny one, but quite often we are comparing ourselves to everyone else – we are never enough. They taught me that I am running my own race and as long as I am achieving and working as hard as I can be in any given moment toward my goal – that was enough. They also gave me a beautiful sense of belief that anything is possible – you might have to go about a different road to what you originally planned, but any goal is possible. When I was disappointed I didn’t get straight into Law School, my parents encouraged me to study Legal Studies, work to get straight Distinctions and try to transfer over. That’s exactly what I did. My degree took a couple of extra years, but I become the lawyer I always wanted to be. This flexibility in approaching your goals and regular reflection has allowed me to flow from being a full-time lawyer, while working as an Xtend Barre instructor, to recently retiring from all of my jobs due to medical treatment. I know my retirement isn’t what I had planned, but its what my body needs at this point in time. Now I have the opportunity to find a new goal to work toward, one less straining on the body and mind!
Rhy: Pain, physical + emotional; how do you deal with it?
Holly: This is a hard one to answer. If I'm 100% honest, my ability to deal with pain has been a rollercoaster and an ever-evolving element of my inner self. Yoga and meditation is at the forefront of my coping strategies. Its what I turn to each time. If I can't physically move, I will always have the ability to meditate or even just breath. Some days if I cant focus well or I am particularly frustrated, I just say a mantra over in my head and that’s it. I am still working on the ability to be able to block out and really zone into a full meditation practice when I am either in a lot of physical or emotional pain. Other days when I am feeling strong I will do a few rounds of sun salutes, which always make me feel grounded and grateful.
I try to exercise regularly and eat as healthy as possible. So much of our serotonin is made in our bellies so I try really hard to ensure I am healing myself from within.
I also journal my feelings and thoughts quite regularly, which allows me to get the thoughts out of my head so they aren’t just going around and around sending me insane. I find a sense of relief getting any negative thoughts or feelings onto a page and ‘out of my head’.
Rhy: Favourite yoga pose & why?
Holly: Easy – Warrior 2. This position gives me a massive sense of being centered. It's not about what’s happened in the past (where the back arm is reaching), or about what is going to happen in the future (where the front arm is reaching), but about being right in the present moment, centred and grateful for what we have. Standing in warrior 2 also makes me feel courageous like I am ready to fight a battle. Its often a pose I will just stand-in, and breath through on a morning of treatment.
Rhy: Favourite songs to get you moving or relaxing?
Holly: My favourite song to start my yoga practice with is and will always be Follow the Sun by Xavier Rudd. My favourite song to do a more high impact movement is anything upbeat and fun – at the moment it is a good remix of Drop Like This by J-Trick.
Rhy:: Meditation, what does that look like for you? How important is it to you right now?
Holly: As mentioned, meditation has been an ongoing evolving practice. It is so important for me to stay in a regular practice. I find if I don’t, my ability to emotionally handle what life throws me takes a little beating. It gives me a sense of power and control over how I process what is happening to my body. Lately, it’s been a bit of a struggle to meditate without guidance because of physical pain distracting me. So I will often find guided meditations on Google to keep me on track. If I am not in any pain, and feeling focused, I will meditate and use mantras/set an intention for the day. I will always incorporate some gratitude meditation into my practice, because I firmly believe that no matter what the day throws, there is always something to be grateful for and we need to remind ourselves of this.
Rhy: One person / One place / One food / One drink / One action / One animal / One word / one flower / One book / One feeling.
One person – My partner Paul.
One place – Home.
One food – Kale chips!
One drink – a nice glass of Prosecco.
One action – ANY movement.
One animal – Dogs (I have two puppies – Romeo and River).
One word – Love
One flower – Peony
One book – The art of Happiness
One feeling – Contentment
Rhy: What’s the reason behind the choice to support the Breast Cancer Research Centre WA with profits from this special 2019 gratitude class?
Holly: Prof Arlene Chan has been such an incredible person for me on this journey. She is doing amazing things with the research centre and I really want to support them to keep doing those things!
Join the Gratitude Class 2019 - https://www.rhyannavl.com/events/class-of-gratitude-2019 Or simply donate - https://www.rhyannavl.com/events/Gratitude-Donate-2019