What is African about Afrikan yoga

  • Pablo Imani

  • April 26, 2023

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Afrikan Yoga is making its way back into the psyche of planet especially the Africans of the Diaspora and is now becoming recognised as a yogic practice globally. There are various questions being asked like ‘What is Afrikan Yoga?’, ‘Is there yoga from Africa?’, and ‘What makes Afrikan Yoga African? I find these interesting questions as they are mainly asked by those who have never experienced Afrikan Yoga. The questions arise from those who struggle with the idea and fact that a yogic practice and philosophy has been in Africa for thousands of years. The latest news is that the ancient Smai Yogic practices and ideas were and still are rooted in the Nile Valley and other parts of Africa. 

Afrikan Yoga is a modern term for Smai Tawi. In fact, the ancient title of Afrikan Yoga is Tamare Smai Taui. Smai Taui can be found on temple walls in Egypt and within the ancient papyrus scrolls drawn by the people of the Nile Valley thousands of years ago.

The African symbol of Smai is a depiction of the lungs and oesophagus, the instruments in the body essential for receiving and processing the breath for a healthy body and mind. Smai means Union, in the picture above it denotes the union or co-operation of two principles Heru and Set symbolised as upper and lower natures or states.

Also the symbol of Smai reflects the spine and the pelvis, two important aspects of generating what is called Sekhem energy through the nervous system and the chakra systems of the human body, a route of internal power favoured by ancient and modern yogis the world over.

The African-ess of Afrikan Yoga cultivation is the use of rhythm and flow, an emphasis is on the arms, spine and hips. Some who have experienced it call it ‘Sexy Yoga’ and this way of describing the movements is reminiscent of the early days of the rock icon Elvis Presley when he first stepped out with the use of African dance movements in his stage shows and immediately was labelled overtly sexy. Some say it reminds them of Capoeira, a martial art and dance born in Angola and taken to Brazil by the African captives. Others say it reminds them of African dance from the Batwa and Rwandese of East Africa. 

What is clearly evident is the elemental accent in motion throughout the practise; Earth, Air, Water and Fire are brought to life within and throughout the body. The African concept of honouring the female encompassing power, soft yet subtle energy, takes precedence in the art of Afrikan Yoga. The sound of the drum plays an important part in African society and is integral to rituals using movement and dance. Likewise, the drum is a powerful component in the Afrikan Yogic system and is used to motivate and support practitioners while they are flowing in Afrikan Yogic movements and postures

Afrikan Yoga is the expression of cosmic force, but what makes Afrikan Yoga African is the spirit and vehicles by which it came to exist. It was introduced to and preserved by mystics, artisans, and shamans of ancient Africa. It has now been re-birthed in its modern form by urban yogic spiritual warrior scholars priest priestesses and is being carried around the globe by a new generation of healers and creative facilitators.


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