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Roots of Yoga in the African Diaspora

Jan 22, 2022 10:00AM ● By Anand Subramanian

Figure 1 - Visual representation of Yoga. Source - Google

Yoga scholars have discovered evidence that yoga originated not just in India but also in portions of Africa, notably Egypt. Yoga was developed by Indians and Africans as a means of spiritual progress, a method to combine the spiritual with the physical. The practice has developed through time into a variety of various forms, some more accessible than others. Numerous civilizations developed spiritual practices that used movement and breath, whether via dance, asana (postures), or physical activity. Kemetic yoga is one such example.

Kemetic Yoga originates in one of the world's oldest civilizations, ancient Egypt, formally named Kemet (meaning 'Black country,' the original name for Egypt, which was given to it by the Greeks), in northeastern Africa. According to, Kemetic Yoga was formed via the study, translation, and interpretation of the often referred to hieroglyphic manuscripts of Kemet (ancient Egypt) and the depictions of Yogic poses on the walls of Kemetic temples. The ancient Kemetic people, who constructed the pyramids and contributed mathematics, architecture, astronomy, agriculture, chemistry, engineering, medicine, and religion to the world, communicated their scientific and philosophical concepts via symbols.

The picture of a man named Shu is carved on the back of a wooden chair discovered in the tomb of Pharaoh Tutankhamen. Shu embodies the principle of inhalation. His long, curving beard suggests that the ancient Egyptians or Kemetic people regarded him as a Netcher or natural power. Shu symbolizes the notion of the breath we take, which gives our physical bodies living in the ancient Kemetic Scientific System of Cosmology. Additionally, it is the atmosphere that surrounds the Earth, as well as one of the four elements of creation, along with earth, air, fire, and water. When we examine his pose and the symbols etched on the chair, including the sun disc atop his head and two Cobra snakes, the link to Yoga becomes clear. On top of his head, the sun disc represents the crown chakra or energy point associated with greater wisdom and enlightenment. The cobras correlate to two of the three major Nadis, which are channels through which energy or life force flows, feeds, and animates the human body, according to Yogic science.

Figure 2 - Egyptian God of Shu. Source - Google

Kemetic yoga is a kind of yoga that focuses on the flow of energy through the body in order to connect with one's higher intellect and the divine. Kemetic yoga mixes meditation, deep breathing, and physical motions to emphasize breathing, self-development, mind-body-spirit healing, and self-discovery. It is practiced at a considerably slower pace than normal asana classes, with a greater emphasis on meditation and the chakras (energy centers). Each set of motions ensures that everyone enters and exits the stance in the proper order. Nothing is random or unplanned. This kind of movement is in harmony with the natural structure of the body. It goes through each joint and muscle group in a methodical manner to build alignment, rectify bodily abnormalities, and revitalize the organs.

While the postures of Kemetic Yoga are unique, this kind of movement may be adapted to any yoga system, whether it be the different varieties of Indian yoga or ancient Kemetic Yoga. This methodology is more meticulous and slower than typical Yoga practices. By slowing the motions, yoga places a greater focus on the development of patience and attention. The technique used to achieve these postures places a premium on body alignment and geometric development. The focus on breath control in our everyday lives activates the autonomic nervous system, which assists in reducing stress and increasing productivity and creativity. Numerous notable scholars of Kemetic culture want to increase public awareness of the practice of Kemetic yoga, particularly the African effect on current spiritual practices. According to Research Gate, Egypt's tourism minister claimed that Kemetic yoga quickly blossomed into the marvel of yoga tourism, which is today a critical and lucrative component of the wellness tourism business. This unique yoga practice attracts yoga enthusiasts from all over the globe. Kemetic yoga tourism is a new travel trend in Egypt, supporting an emerging tourist attraction and fostering the possibility of more study.

Figure 3 - Kemetic Yoga Pose. Source - Google

We must be open to the possibility that yoga is far wider than we perceive it to be or have been taught to believe—and that its beginnings are likely deeper and more complicated than what we now assume and understand about contemporary yoga culture. This raises the possibility that there are several cultural origins in various geographical regions that have developed their own yoga traditions of mindful-movement practices. This relationship between movement and spiritual connection may be seen in East Asian martial arts, as well as in indigenous tribes in North America with their drumming and dancing traditions. Exploring the many roots of the practice, in the end, only contributes to enhancing the culture of yoga.

 Anand Subramanian is a freelance photographer and content writer based out of Tamil Nadu, India. Having a background in Engineering always made him curious about life on the other side of the spectrum. He leapt forward towards the Photography life and never looked back. Specializing in Documentary and  Portrait photography gave him an up-close and personal view into the complexities of human beings and those experiences helped him branch out from visual to words. Today he is mentoring passionate photographers and writing about the different dimensions of the art world.

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