A catastrophic injury changed Vicki’s life irrevocably. In some ways for the better.

I’ve been doing yoga on and off for the last 20 years and it feels like it’s always been in my life, but only intermittently. Often life and work got in the way and I couldn’t keep it up. So if you’d have told me three years ago that I’d become a yoga teacher at the age of 55, I would have laughed in your face. It’s amazing how much can change in the blink of an eye.

That blink happened on a beautiful day in 2012 when a speeding car snagged my foot as I crossed Oxford Street in Central London. The pain was immense and immediate and I passed out. I was taken to the nearest hospital where I was told it was fractured and given a temporary cast to wear.

But a few days later when I went, as instructed, to my local hospital and the doctor took the cast off to check it over, I saw something shift in his eyes and I knew something was wrong. The swelling hadn’t gone down and he told me I had a far more serious injury than originally diagnosed.

I was sent for an MRI scan, then checked in immediately for an operation. The danger was the complexity of the injury – a LisFranc injury, which affects the way the foot holds itself. Because I’d had a crush and twist injury it had fractured the metatarsals, and it was vital to get it repaired within seven days of the accident, or I could suffer drop foot where the toes drag along the ground.

“I had a far more serious injury than originally diagnosed.”

My op was scheduled for the Monday. It was the weekend of the London Olympics finale and I spent it lying in hospital with my leg up, with ice packs round my swollen foot, watching the celebration of all the amazing athletes with the nurses – unable to move. The irony was not lost on me.

Trying not to contemplate what I was up against and what the implications might be, I kept myself calm during the 10 weeks of bed rest, the long rehabilitation and the gruelling sessions of physio as I slowly learned to use and walk on that foot again. I was just living moment to moment and dealing with each phase, slowly and determinedly getting myself back to fitness. But inevitably my thoughts occasionally dwelled on the potential impact on my life.

Once I could walk I starting running to build strength, but a half marathon proved too much – I started getting problems with the foot again. The consultant said no more marathons. So I thought “What can I do instead?” That’s when I started doing yoga intensively, four or five classes a week, with the same teacher I’d always had.

And it was my teacher who suggested I train to be a yoga teacher. I thought it was a lovely but mad idea. I really loved yoga, but my inner critic told me I wasn’t good enough, was too old and had never done well in exams – what was the point of trying? I was quite happy in my job in the print industry, why would I add yoga teacher to my CV? I kept saying no. But it was the encouragement of my teacher and other regular students and my family that gave me the push I needed and I signed up.

“My inner critic told me I wasn’t good enough, was too old and had never done well in exams – what was the point of trying?”

For six months I had no life – I was either at work, doing yoga, studying or at teacher training course. It was a huge investment in time and energy, but worth every second. I never thought I would ever teach anything, but as I progressed through the course I started to realise I was good at it and to contemplate how fantastic it could be.

When I passed the exams it felt amazing. After all the failed exams at school it really gave me a huge amount of confidence. I now teach two classes a week plus a rolling 8- week beginners course, and as I’ve progressed whenever those little self-critical thoughts pop up I realise they’re not true – I’ve got full classes and people recommending me, so I know I’m doing something right.

It’s so completely alien to me, that acceptance. I’ve held down good jobs and have a successful career, but doing something very specific like yoga and being good enough to teach it is something I never thought I’d be able to achieve.

“Fear of failure has stopped me doing things in the past, but It’s the journey that we learn from and if we fail we try again”

And it’s amazing where it’s taken me. Last year I taught yoga at a retreat in Turkey and did a session on the beach and even one on a boat trip. I’ve since been asked to do a private retreat for a group of friends.

I’ve discovered a whole other career and it’s given me so much more confidence and belief in myself and the realisation that anything’s possible. Now when friends say “I’m not good enough, I don’t have enough experience…” I’m the first one that jumps in and says “We’ve all got it in us, look at me”.

Seeing my clients develop and having a breakthrough on something they’ve been working on for months – I feel such pride in them and love having helped them. And seeing them enjoying the classes, having a period of time when they’re not stressing about anything else, is just a joy. It’s a joy I never thought I’d have.

I often think back to what drove me to do something so brave. Your perspective shifts when something so life-changing happens. Lying in bed for weeks on end on my own after the accident, wondering whether I’d be able to climb mountains like before, whether I’d even walk OK, facing all those worries about how my post-injury life might be different, left me determined that the accident wasn’t going to define who I was in the future, that I wasn’t going to be somebody who couldn’t live my life how I wanted.

It gave me that extra determination that nothing was going to stop me. It made me think “What’s the worse that can happen?”. And now I’ve so got over my fear of exams that I’m thinking of training to do the next level up.

“This is a new feeling for me. I’ve proved to myself I can do something I never thought I could.”

Regular yoga means my foot is so much stronger than it could have been. Nonetheless I’ve had to give up certain things. I don’t ride my motorbike anymore and I can’t run. I’ve just had to accept I can’t do everything I could do, but I can still live a lovely life, and yoga’s really added to that and given me opportunities I never thought I’d have.

I’m much more confident now. I feel comfortable in my own skin and don’t worry about how I look or what I’m wearing like I did before. This is a new feeling for me. I’ve proved to myself I can do something I never thought I could.

So if you’re thinking of doing something brave, just do it. What’s the worst thing that can happen? Fear of failure has stopped me doing things in the past, but It’s the journey that we learn from, and if we fail we try again. So don’t listen to your negative self-talk and give up. Just do it and venture a bit out of your comfort zone.

Words: Marina Gask
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Main image: Yolande de Vries

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