Teacher, Healer, Coach: Rachel Yahyahkeekoot, a Helper With a Big Heart
Sometimes it takes many hats to reach many hearts. That much is clear in looking at how Rachel Yahyahkeekoot’s career journey has seen her take on different roles and connect with people in different ways. From the Beardy's and Okemasis' Cree Nation in Saskatchewan, she grew up in the City of Saskatoon. A mother of two daughters, Yahyahkeekoot is a teacher, a life coach, and an EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) practitioner.
To prepare her for the work she does, she took the Indian Teacher Education Program in university in Saskatoon. She loved the experience and how supported she felt in school, at a time when she didn’t have a lot of personal support as a young mom. Since the age of 17, she had been living on her own and she’s had struggles with poverty and with addiction in her family. She was tired of just trying to survive.
“There was a big part of me that knew I needed to do something for my education to even kind of have a chance at that point,” Yahyahkeekoot recalls. Her father was an educator, too, and he reinforced how important education is for Indigenous people. As a helper who likes kids, teaching seemed like a natural role for her to take on. She was in education for five years and also did teaching support, something else she really loved.
From there, Yahyahkeekoot kept exploring through education, training in journalism in Regina through a program called Indian Communication Arts Program. She also took life coach training and became a master coach. Her interests led her to hands-on healing and teaching people how to take on their own healing and feel empowered.
Life coaching is a broad field, a practice she explains is a way to guide someone to help them achieve their goals and provide additional support. She considers herself to be an intuitive life coach, tuning into energy, feelings and thoughts to help people understand the barriers they are facing, inside them or from the world around them.
Offering support professionally is something she enjoys because she overcame her own barriers by seeking out support for herself. Feeling alone, struggling with abandonment issues and to trust others, Yahyahkeekoot found comfort in being exposed to more healthy relationships and friendships. Having role models like her high school guidance counsellor and other women she met along the way also helped her get through hard times. She was able to move forward recognizing she didn’t have to do it all alone.
Her advice for students thinking of leaving their home community to pursue education or even a career would be to develop and practice a strong connection with themselves. “That is something that is never going to leave you and it's never going to take you in a direction that isn't something that you can get through,” Yahyahkeekoot advises, though she isn’t normally one to give advice.
If she could give a message to her younger self, she would say, “you are safe, you are loved and you are protected.” Those are messages that she feels can be life changing. Without that sense of safety, protection and love, Yahyahkeekoot coped with unhealthy relationships with people, drugs and alcohol, trying to feel better in the moment. Extreme anxiety and panic attacks kept her from driving on the freeway and she was afraid of the future, carrying trauma and feeling unsafe.
After struggling with anxiety and depression for years, she’s learned how to process and move through things. Yahyahkeekoot found therapy helpful because she didn’t feel like she had anyone to talk to. Something she wants to share with people who are struggling with their mental health is, “Just be gentle with yourself. Everything that you're feeling is valid.” She suggests not denying emotions, but rather observing and feeling them.
Before she gets out of bed every day, she meditates, aligns her energy for what the day before her holds and does her best to go with the flow. Meditation is something that she believes can look different for everyone. It doesn’t have to look like sitting in silence, it can be listening to calming music, painting, dancing, whatever works for the person who is meditating.
She does tapping, a healing practice called EMDR which desensitizes and addresses PTSD with eye movements. “When we do our own work, we're changing things on all different levels,” she explains. She has a regular yoga practice, writes in her journal to express gratitude and set intentions. She tries to keep moving her body, cooking healthy food, and looks to balance the emotional, physical and spiritual.
Thanks to Alison Tedford Seaweed for authoring this article.
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Funding is generously provided by the RBC Foundation in support of RBC Future Launch, and the Government of Canada's Supports for Student Learning program.