by KeiShana Coursey, Opti-mum
As a midwife and yogi who has walked alongside women and observed (with curiosity and kindness) their navigation through all that is birth, it appears to me that the mind doesn’t mind what you believe about sensation, only that it will loyally serve you to create whatever it is you’ve unconsciously chosen to believe.
Let me explain…
I became very interested in the vast difference between the individual experience of labour and birth when observing the stark contrast between women who believed they could give birth and said fundamentally YES to their experience, regardless of what that experience was versus women who resisted or fundamentally said NO to their experience, regardless of how, when or where their baby arrived.
As a Neuro-linguistic Programming Master Practitioner and Coach I have been aware for more than twenty years that we are ‘meaning-making’ creatures. We have an experience occur in our world, make a meaning about it and then behave from this meaning.
Here’s an example: Three people may sit upon the same beach at the same time of day, subject to the breeze, temperature, sunlight and waves rolling upon the sand.
Person one sees the waves, unconsciously recalls a story about Moby Dick and storms at sea, remembers a news item about a sinking sailing ship and subsequently recoils a little from the ocean, fundamentally NO from mind-to-body.
Person two sees the waves, fondly remembers an old relationship with a gorgeous surfer and begins to behave a little younger and perhaps even blushes, because we know our physiology is deeply rooted in the mind-to-body relationship.
Person three has never seen the sea before. They have no references whatsoever and are immersed in the sound of the waves, the colour of the water and the feeling of the sand, which means they are creating a whole new meaning for all that is ‘beach’ as they know it. Assuming the vast majority of the data they gather in their experience stays positive, this will become fundamentally YES.
The ocean, however, is simply the ocean. The waves are water rising and falling, and the sand, wind and sunlight are external matter, yet what we do with all of that happens moment by moment in the mind, becoming the internal pathways in which, the human mind organises its reality.
Hence, my beach is not your beach even when we are in the same location, time and situation.
Why is this relevant to yoga?
To simplify our YES and NO self, it’s important to understand they are always in balance if we are saying YES to something, we are always saying NO to something else and vice versa. YES has a vibrational, mental, emotional, physical and spiritual element, just as NO shares these same qualities.
You may consider YES being the fundamental seed from which Love, Acceptance, Surrender, Compassion, Kindness, Forgiveness, Appreciation, Gratitude, Strength, Hope, Honesty, Connection and all the other pathways towards health and wellness stem from. Conversely, NO holds the nature of Fear, Resentment, Resistance, Apathy, Meanness, Disdain, Disempowerment, Greed and ultimately Disconnection and Disease. Saying YES to health is saying NO to disease. Saying YES to a regular fluid sustainable yoga asana practice is saying no to a contracted stiff physically immobile body.
YES fosters a relationship with Self that leans in towards our True Nature, that which is whole and complete. We behave in a way which becomes a felt sense of empowerment. NO is driven by the inner critic which pushes and shoves toward a false sense of achievement at the cost of Self and gaining power over others or diminishes Self via ‘compare-and-comparison’ games and all the while hollowing ones inner for the outer and losing precious energy throughout.
Let us consider YES and NO in the physicality of an asana.
We hear the teacher suggest we gather ourselves into a plank and in a microsecond, we’ve noticed fatigue; it’s been a long day/week/year and we’re in a Power Class with an empty tank. We notice the body contract. Perhaps judgement comes into play with internal thoughts such as “We’ve spent too much time on our wrists already” or “That guy beside me is going to breathe like he’s lifting a car” or “I’d better hold that plank because thinner/blonder/younger something isn’t going to get this one over me.” All of which translates into the physical expression of NO via the pathways of egoic layering.
The breath is short, held, staccato or lost entirely. The eyes focus, narrow and we lose our soft wide drishti. Energy gathers in the front/top of the forehead and we are thinking our way into this shape, striving, blaming, straining, shaming ourselves into plank and even before we’ve arrived we are considering what will be next and what we’ll have for lunch.
In contrast, our YES approaches the request with curiosity and kindness, checks into the energy available and chooses the speed and effort, taking knees to ground or focusing intently on the breath to watch it flow and support the shape. YES accepts and honours the body where it’s currently at. YES doesn’t deny the egoic mind, rather it gently holds the space for awareness and growth as we notice our habitual patterns of judgement, striving, straining, blaming or shaming ourselves and when this is noticed, YES compassionately calls itself back into practice, releases, lets go, softens the eye gaze, draws attention away from the head and into the body, leads with an I Can, I Will, I AM statement and then chooses how far for now/today, this body will go in this moment.
The asana remains the same shape: it looks like a person balancing on their toes and hands in a horizontal manner. The experience, however, is entirely individual and unique to the meaning-making creature that we are and our voyage through the practice is entirely a derivative of either fundamentally YES or NO. My plank is not your plank, or the plank of the person next to you or even the plank I did yesterday. Almost anyone can make the physical shape of plank pose but are we willing to approach our yoga by asking the question, “am I in a YES or a NO?” as this enquiry, the answers and potential adjustments, are perhaps the essence of Yoga.
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KeiShana is a passionate lifetime learner who has immersed herself in the mechanics of the mind-body relationship since her late teens. Studying Neuro-linguistic Programming + hypnotherapy to support an optimal relationship with self, others + Life has led her on a journey with a focus on women’s health and wellness.
KeiShana is an entrepreneur whose path includes the co-creation of Opti-mum (Antenatal Education Programme) using a neurophysiology + mindfulness approach to the birth continuum. Supporting families as a midwife provides a wealth of experience observing and working with the powerful physiological and neurological pathways that inform perception therefore behavioural response. She gets most lit up when seeing people traverse between anxiety or fear into calm and confident. It’s been a natural progression from teen yoga student to fitness fanatic and fanciful fads, all the way back to meditation and now yoga teacher hence, includes yoga, meditation and mindfulness in her private 1:1 coaching or group workshops as a framework to invite awareness, choice and change. With a love of linguistics, KeiShana utilises words like a wand and brings this magic into her teaching.