An interview with KeiShana Coursey
KeiShana is the Course Director of Contemporary Yoga’s Yoga teacher training during pregnancy from July 2021. It is a collaboration of teacher training of more than 100 hours between Optimum and Contemporary yoga and includes anatomy, physiology, asanas, ayurveda and more.
KeiShana brings a wealth of experience and expertise to this very special training having worked with many women during childbirth. In this interview, KeiShana talks about what inspires her in her work with pregnant women and her hopes for the future of pregnancy yoga.
Contemporary Yoga (CY): How and when did you start your yoga journey?
Kei Shana: As a teenager, wanting to look good in white jeans and feel flexible. I went from a retired gymnast with a motherfucker back – who had taken to running (with a bonus penchant for wine and pies). I found myself in a space of sweaty blocks and straps… where we were tricked into believing that the ultimate in being able to put your face on your shins.
CY: Tell us about someone who has had the greatest influence on your yoga teaching.
Kei Shana: 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 old stories and be side by side. I aspire to be a source of inspiration as a human in this identity of woman and mother of my children. So, I practice yoga to be better in life and… the best version of my self-motherhood for Allaura.
CY: Please explore only one element of yoga that is of the utmost importance to you.
Kei Shana: As a women’s health professional and yoga teacher, it is of the utmost importance to determine who has power in any relationship dynamic. A single example of this power imbalance exists in the world of health care, a world that is ultimately political: 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 a “giver of crumbs to a hungry beggar”. Unfortunately, many people depend on the publicly funded health care system and subsequently give their power to the system itself, unable to support them beyond the basics. Many people seem to put overworked and underpaid healthcare professionals on a pedestal and wait to be told what to do and how to do it.
We see a similar story unfolding in the realm of yoga. The relational dynamic for many students who arrive in class is one of disempowerment. They want to be repaired, saved, told what to do and how to do it. How to move, when to move, how long to stay in shape and how to breathe. There is an art of guiding students towards self-reliance – the teacher is a bridge for students to move from “feed me” to “teach me to feed”. The student agency, even human, is for me the very definition of health and well-being. It is important to me that students know that they can choose when and how they move, as in: “I choose to stay in my personal power and you walk by my side and we exchange knowledge”.
The agency is of the utmost importance to me as a teacher.
CY: Finally, we asked KeiShana to imagine that she was seeking funding for free pregnancy yoga programs nationwide and had the opportunity to “sell” the idea to Cabinet ministers. However, she has only three minutes to convince the ministers of the great benefit for the entire population of Aotearoa. Here is his response:
Keishana: If I wanted to apply for pregnancy yoga funding – and believe me, I would ask ministers to recognize the work we are doing with women at an important stage in their lives. I would show them how we support the transformation of women into confident and strong mothers. They would understand from this that investing in preventive health care, including psychosensory practices like yoga, results in reduced postnatal depression / anxiety and operative and instrumental delivery.
I would then point out that poor posture is one of the main factors of intervention at birth and that smart yoga promotes optimal positioning of a baby, thereby reducing intervention rates which cost the taxpayer millions.
They should ideally understand the work we do to support women’s health and well-being – how the pregnancy yoga teacher works within and alongside the community, supporting and empowering each woman’s agency in her classes. and that this mental and physical well-being shapes the mother-child dyad, thereby determining the health and well-being of the next generation.
Perhaps with this realization, the Department of Health would invest thousands of dollars before having to spend millions to clean up the legacy of the currently dysfunctional women’s health system.
Click here to read KeiShana’s biography
Click here to learn more about Opti-mum
Click here to learn more about the next pregnancy yoga teacher training options