An inescapable, magnetic energy field flows through Egypt. Some say its the center of the earth’s energy consciousness grid. Others attribute the magic to it’s cosmic alignment. It has been over 2,000 years since the last Pharaoh of Egypt reigned but its sacred knowledge exists in code in throughout the temples, hieroglyphics and in the spirit of the ancient land. There’s been an increasing interest in the significance of ancient civilizations and many excavations are happening across the country. Nefertiti’s tomb was newly discovered in the summer of 2017 and new temples are being prepared for tourist visits daily. An allure of Egypt’s mysticism and information has existed for centuries and with new developments and research about one of the greatest civilizations in human history, it is an exciting time for Egypt. One of the modern revivals happening is Kemetic yoga. I had the chance to spend thirty days submersed in the hot desert learning about the ancient practice.
Kemetic yoga is a style of yoga unique to the ancient Egyptian civilization. Before it was called Egypt, a land known as Kemet encompassed Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan and present-day Egypt. Although Yoga is often thought to have originated in India, evidence suggests that yoga was practiced in Egypt over 10,000 years ago. The people of this land were ancestors of the Dravidians, an ethno-group that originally migrated out of Egypt into India. Today, the descendants of these original people of India inhabit places like Odisha, India. Their common descendants are the Nubian people who inhabit southern Egypt and Sudan. Smai Tawi is the ancient name of Kemetic yoga and translates to ‘the union of two lands.’ The name explains the higher and lower nature within the human body and soul. It also represents the union of both lower and upper Egypt and the necessity of harmony between both lands. Lower Egypt was significant for education and information while upper Egypt was the foundation of Kemet, providing the farming lands and resources. Similar to the concepts of Geb and Nut in Egyptian philosophy, Nut represents the cosmos and astral aspect of human life while Geb is the embodiment of earthly things, nature, air, water and the physical human body. The union between both indicates an understanding about the duality of man and the importance between balancing both faculties in the human being.
During the yoga training, I visited temples and tombs throughout the country to study Kemetic postures and the history of yoga in Egypt. The physical postures of Kemetic yoga are transcribed in hieroglyphics on temple walls like Dandara Temple Complex, Luxor Temple and Karnak Temple. In ancient Egyptian philosophy, education and spirituality were interconnected. It was all one science.
The yogic practice is a union of education, spiritual intention and physical health. For example, the ‘Heru Salute to the Sun’ posture is a pose that increases the flow of blood to the pericardium, the membrane enclosing the heart, improving blood circulation. The pose represents equilibrium, freedom and the ability to direct our will and thus our lives. Sahu is a posture imitating the pose of the mummy and is for the purpose of contemplation. Ancient Egyptians would lie in Sahu in the open sarcophagus in the Kings chamber of the great pyramid. It is said that an out of body experience is achieved and one faces the dark shadow of themselves projected to them on the astral plane. If one is successful by forgiving and accepting that part of themselves then they would achieve the highest level of awareness. This pose is commonly known as Savanasana in Hatha yoga. Wadjet is a yogic flow representing the serpent and is also a yoga flow commonly known as Cobra in Hatha yoga.
I have taken Hatha, Vinyasa and Bikram yoga classes in the United States and India. Nothing compares to seeing 4,000 year old African faces practice yoga on the temple walls. Standing in the presence of an ancient style of African yoga documented in the hieroglyphics is empowering. The significance of recognizing yoga’s connection to Africa helps us understand that our ancestors also practiced a style of yoga specific to their cultural beliefs and philosophies. Understanding that yoga is directly connected to African history is to understand our history. I had the opportunity to imitate the postures in front of 4,000 year old hieroglyphics depicting the ancient style. I have a deeper connection to the practice after being introduced to the Kemetic sciences, ancient architecture and sacred art still withstanding and available for our education and illumination thousands of years later.
The Kemetic sciences teach us about the connection between the consciousness of humanity and the consciousness of the earth. This is significant because it explains the responsibility and power of each human being. Ancient Egyptians believed that pursing the truth is necessary to achieve mastery of the self and the body. They believed this truth has a radiant quality that affects the entire earth on a collective level. The Kemetic tree of life also helps us understand the ancient Egyptian relationship with their supreme god and the gods that embody the varying aspects and principles of the one. The tree is a representation of the pattern, laws and principles of the human experience on the physical, mental and astral planes. At the very top of the tree is Amun. Amun could be described as the all knowing source and oneness. Amun represented the prime creator and that all things stem from this energy. The first faculty of the tree represents Ausar. Ausar is illustrated in the hieroglphyics as as a tall, white hat. While Ausar exists as an entity and represents the realization of our our identity. It explains that our existence is that which is connected to all others and our true self is beyond the flesh and happenings of our experiences in the world. It allows us to see ourselves as a collection of all and not as individuals. Ma’at is the fourth Neter of the Paut and represents balance and justice. Tehuti symbolizes divine intuition, knowledge and information. He is commonly known as Hermes in Greek literature and also known for the seven Hermetic principles. The other faculties of the Kemetic tree of life are Seker, Herukhuti, Heru, Het-Heru, Sebek, Auset and Geb. Each part representing a different aspect of ourselves.
The power of Egyptian yoga lies not only in its ability to heal on the physical plane but also to inspire a greater understanding of ourselves and our lineage directly connected to the history of Egypt. The ancient Egyptians, known for their magnificence of monuments, temples and genius manifestation of material expression also have a practice that we can explore and experience thousands of years later. It is a practice that encourages us to appreciate the precious gift of living in the human body. It is a practice of alchemical immensity capable of transforming perceptions. It is a practice of self-mastery and discovery. It is a practice of Africa.