I’m a vegetarian yoga-lover – I wasn’t meant to be the woman who got cancerMay 9, 2020
At 45, Allie Hill was the picture of health. She ate well, worked out religiously, practiced yoga. A cancer diagnosis was the last thing she expected.
So, when she found a lump in her breast, she felt her whole world come crashing down around her.
On top of that, the entrepreneur had also lost both of her parents to the same disease, and was already grappling with a mountain of grief.
‘My thought process when I got told I had cancer was – I’m healthy,’ says Allie. ‘I’m 45. I’ve been practicing yoga for 20 years. I eat organic. I’ve been a vegetarian most of my life, I’ve never liked dairy. I stopped using aerosol deodorant at 27 because I read it was bad for you, I never put chemicals in or on my skin. I practice yoga daily. I’m not meant to be the girl who gets cancer, but I did.
‘I walked out of the breast clinic in a daze, sat in my car and cried uncontrollably for 20 minutes digesting the information that was presented to me.
‘“You have breast cancer.” That was my lowest moment. I thought I was going to die. By the time I was 33 both my parents had died from cancer so I just thought my time was up too.’
Fortunately, after seeing the consultant, Allie learnt that she had discovered the lump in the early stages, and she was swiftly able to regain a positive mindset.
‘I bounced back to full health quickly after my treatment,’ she says.
Fitness and a lifelong passion for movement was a huge help.
‘I continued to run, practice yoga and look after myself physically through the cancer adventure,’ explains Allie. ‘After my radiotherapy treatment, every day I would jump in the sea and swim for 30 minutes, it was really healing and became a ritual.’
When Allie lost her parents she founded yogahaven in Birmingham, which was her second yoga studio at the time. She found that throwing herself into her business was an incredible coping mechanism that helped push her through the darkest days.
‘The yoga community carried me through that very sad time in my life,’ says Allie.
‘My parents died 18 months apart. It was tough, but I also had gratitude that I had such amazing parents for the first 33 years of my life.’
Allie has always loved yoga, but fitness has been a persistent feature in her life for as long as she can remember. But fitness only became a truly consistent habit in the last decade when she met her partner, Olympic silver medalist Leon Taylor.
‘We’ve run marathons together, done triathlons and continue to work out together,’ says Allie. ‘We love our runs with our dog Dexter along the seafront in Brighton, which is where we live now.’
Allie strongly believes that exercise played a vital part in helping her get through her cancer treatment, and to get through the loss of her parents. She says being fit equips you both physically and mentally.
‘Exercise is good for your cardiovascular and immune system,’ she says. ‘It also helps to boost serotonin levels keeping you mentally strong, which is a great tool when you’re going through challenges.
‘Yoga makes people calmer and happier, helps us be a better version of ourselves. I believe it makes us kinder, more compassionate and connects us on a deeper level to the world around us. It helps us to have clarity, to be more present.’
Allie now has five yoga studios dotted around the country, including Clapham, Richmond and Solihull.
The studios are currently closed in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, but customers can connect and practice with their favourite instructors via live classes on Zoom.
‘My biggest achievement is having built a down to earth, friendly yoga brand which has hopefully helped thousands of people to feel better about themselves in some way over the years that I’ve had my studios,’ says Allie.
‘yogahaven has provided me and many others with a tight knit, supportive and inspiring community and I am proud and grateful to have founded this.
‘I have also founded a sister company Teaching Yoga and find teaching aspiring yoga students incredibly fulfilling.’
Beyond the world of yoga, Allie also spends her time helping animals, and she has rescued several street dogs from Ireland and Greece – which is where she runs her yoga teacher training courses.
‘I’m fiercely independent and I believe I am mentally tough,’ says Allie. ‘Worrying about things you don’t have control over is a waste of precious time and it can take a toll on your psychological well-being.
‘Not being afraid to ask for help, acknowledging weaknesses, and admitting we don’t have all the answers are also signs of strength.
‘Believe in yourself, don’t compare yourself to others and don’t let criticism or rejection stop you.’
Strong Women is a weekly series that champions diversity in the world of sport and fitness.
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