Photo Credit: Kanu Trindade
The African Roots Of Kemetic Yoga And How It's Being Adopted By The Diaspora
Kemetic Yoga is a type of Yoga developed by ancient Egyptians thousands of years ago, and is now becoming popular across the Black Diaspora worldwide. Although kemetic yoga ispracticed in smaller numbers, compared to other yoga forms, it has been gaining attention and attracting new practitioners every day.
Master instructor and creator of the YogaSkills Method, Yiser Ra Hotep is the most senior instructor of kemetic Yoga in the United States. He is also responsible for certifying kemetic yoga instructors through his company.
The Chicago-based Yogi Master links synergies between modern yoga and the poses seen in hieroglyphs and other artifacts from Ancient Egypt.
According to Hotep, the people of ancient Kemet practiced a unique style of yoga that predates the yoga of India. In his studies, he found that the practice and philosophy of yoga in India was informed by knowledge that came out of Africa.
“Fact is, examples of Indian yoga can be found in Ancient Egypt, but examples of ancient Kemetic Yoga cannot be found in India. The conclusion one can draw from this is: the yoga of Egypt is much older than that found in India,” he states on his website.
The yoga master asserts this yoga system is a healing and regenerative process. Characterized by a series of geometrically progressive postures, it creates alignment of the spinal column and corrects defects in the skeletal muscular system.
“The goal is to relieve stress, increase blood circulation, nutrient and oxygen supply to vital body systems. Also, it allows internal life force energy and cerebral spinal fluid to flow more efficiently and abundantly throughout the entire body,” he says.
In an interview with Yoga Bodi Magazine, Hotep explained that kemetic yoga gets resistance from the mainstream commercial yoga community, a multi-billion dollar industry.
“They see kemetic yoga as a threat to their monopoly over the narrative of yoga’s origin and antiquity. So, for example, except for a small article that appeared in the 1990s, we have been blacklisted or whitewashed by Yoga Journal. In a major article that I was interviewed for that focused on the top Black yogis in the world, I was edited out by the Yoga Journal editorial staff. In the 1990s when I attempted to tour the major yoga studios of California, the bastion of yoga in America, I was turned down with the excuse that kemetic yoga would “confuse” their students.”
Despite all the boycotts, Yiser Ra Hotep has quietly built an underground movement that permeates the African-American community. The kemetic yogi has been able to train and certify over 6000 instructors throughout the world. He also has been able to teach kemetic yoga in various prisons and juvenile detention centers.
Recently he instituted a course called Healing Racial Trauma Through Kemetic Yoga in response to the trauma sensed in the African-American community over the deaths of people at the hands of police.
Ana Sou is one of the instructors certified by Yiser Ra Hotep. Sou, who is an Afro-Brazilian woman based in Rio de Janeiro, told Travel Noire that she initially looked for yoga of India as a way to get healthier. However, she learned about the existence of a Black yoga through one of her friends in 2019. After attending kemetic yoga classes, she saw the possibility of getting certifications to become an official instructor. One year later, she was certified.
Because of the pandemic, Sou teaches kemetic yoga classes online. Her Instagram page has 15,000 followers, and it is growing every day among Afro-Brazilians.
She teaches people who have cancer, mental problems, depression and anxiety.
“Kemetic yoga changed my life,” she said. “This practice matters for the African diaspora. It offers a look inside our souls to recognize the body as a natural technology of self-preservation power.”
The yoga style is both a philosophy and a practice based upon the Kemetic systems of self-development that fueled the creation of the Kemetic civilization that spawned western science, philosophy and religion.