An interview with KeiShana Coursey
KeiShana is the course director of Contemporary Yoga’s Pregnancy Yoga Teacher Training starting in July 2021. This is a 100+ hour teacher training collaboration between Opti-mum and Contemporary Yoga and includes anatomy, physiology, asana, ayurveda and much, much more.
KeiShana brings a wealth of experience and expertise to this very special training having worked with many women on their childbirth journeys. In this interview, KeiShana talks about what inspires her work with pregnant women and her hopes for the future of pregnancy yoga.
Contemporary Yoga (CY): How and when did you begin your yoga journey?
KeiShana: As a teenager wanting to look good in white jeans and feel flexible. I went from being a retired gymnast with a buggered back – who’d taken to running (with a bonus penchant for wine and pies). I found myself in a sweaty block and strap space…where we were led to believe the ultimate was being able to put your face on your shins.
CY: Tell us about one person who has been the most significant influence on your yoga teaching.
KeiShana: My daughter Allaura. She was born into a world in transition – from archaic patriarchal rules of vertical power over others, to a more feminine horizontal paradigm where we can choose to change the old stories and be alongside one another. I aspire to be inspirational as a human within this identity as a woman and mother to my children. So, I practice yoga to be better at life and … the best version of my mothering self for Allaura.
CY: Please explore just one element of yoga that is of the uttermost importance to you.
KeiShana: As a women’s health professional and yoga teacher, it is of utmost importance to consider who has the power in any relationship dynamic. Just one example of this power imbalance exists in the world of health, a world which is ultimately about politics: How resources are distributed and how services are funded is entirely political. This public health funding gives most service providers just enough power to act as ‘giver of crumbs to a starving beggar’. Unfortunately many people are reliant on the publicly funded health system and subsequently give their power to the very system unable to support them beyond basics. Many people appear to place overworked, underpaid medical professionals on a pedestal and wait to be told what to do and how to do it.
We see a similar story played out in the yoga realm. The relationship dynamic for many students who arrive in class is one of disempowerment. They want to be fixed, saved, told what to do and how to do it. How to move, when to move, how long to remain in a shape and how to breathe. There is an art to guiding students toward autonomy — the teacher is a bridge for students to move from ‘feed me’ to ‘teach me how to feed myself’. A student’s agency, indeed human agency is, for me, the very definition of health and wellness. It’s important to me that students know they can choose when and how they move, as in: ‘I choose to remain in my own personal power and you walk alongside me and we exchange knowledge’.
Agency is of the utmost importance to me as a teacher.
CY: Finally, we asked KeiShana to imagine she was seeking funding for free nationwide pregnancy yoga programmes and that she had an opportunity to ‘sell’ the idea to Cabinet Ministers. However, she only has three minutes to convince the Ministers of the great benefit to the entire population of Aotearoa. Here’s her response:
Keishana: If I wanted to request funding for Pregnancy Yoga – and believe me I do – I would ask Ministers to acknowledge the work we do with women at a significant imprint phase of their whole lives. I’d show them how we support women’s transformation into confident and strong mothers. They would understand from this that investment into preventative health care, including psychosensory practices like yoga, results in a reduction of postnatal depression/anxiety and operative and instrumental birth.
I’d then highlight that malposition is one of the biggest factors in birth intervention and that intelligent yoga supports optimal positioning of a baby, therefore reducing intervention rates which cost the taxpayer millions.
They’d ideally understand the work that we do to support the health and wellbeing of women – how the pregnancy yoga teacher works within and alongside community, supporting and empowering the agency of each women in her classes and that this mental and physical wellness ultimately shapes the mother baby dyad, therefore determining health and wellness for the next generation.