Yoga is about working the body, you’re breaking down the stance between mind and body. The body with cancer can become hated — patients will say ‘I can’t think about this part of my body’ or ‘I don’t think from here down’. Yoga is actually reconnecting people with their body in a more neutral way.
Some people go to yoga, some people see yoga as an exercise. Some people go back to their faith, and some just feel abandoned and lost. What’s interesting is that [the instructor] Angelika is being the soft voice. It’s nothing new to say, but when you become ill, you regress. You need to feel looked after. Medical practice is becoming more technical and saying that nurses, specifically, can do this and that procedure. Because of this, we are losing a very important part of nursing which was to make people feel comforted. To make someone comfortable used to be an achievement — there’s a lot less of that now. Angelika is actually being that voice. She’s calming and enclosing and containing and says ‘I’m going to make a space wherein this is all going to be fine.’ And this is a healing, comforting element.
St. Bartholomew’s Hospital is where I had all my chemotherapy treatment, and I had my mastectomy and reconstruction. We’ve come back here today to do some yoga in the courtyard because I still feel a bit anxious coming to the hospital. The idea with the Action is to make the hospital a safe place, a happy place.
The anxiety? It’s coming out of the tube, St. Paul’s, and walking down the road. I’d make that journey every time I had chemotherapy, knowing that I’d come to the hospital, be pumped full of drugs and leave feeling awful. So I’d start to feel sick even before I’d arrived at the hospital. There are little triggers along the way, like the smell of the Cafe Nero, the smell of the coffee shop here, and the sound of the builders. All of these things helped trigger ‘Oh, I’m going to the hospital. I’m going to feel really ill for the next few weeks’. This morning I did have a little bit of that, but I knew we were coming here to do something fun, so I think that afterwards I’ll go away and that will have changed a bit.