Yog(a) Unchained: The African Roots of Practice


Ankh, Udja, Seneb*, Kia Ora**

*Life, prosperity (to be whole), and well-being. A greeting in the language of Kmt (Mdu Ntr) **To live/be well, an informal greeting in Māori (Indigenous New Zealand/Aо̄tearoa) 

I am Afro-Caribbean, Scottish, and Irish by ancestry and Jamaican and New Zealander by nationality. I was raised in a household that upheld my mother’s Jamaican values and ones my father felt were the best of the past, along with an adaptability to meet humanity in the moment. The roots of these parenting styles were then planted in New Zealand grounded in the body of culture, language, and customs of the Māori people.

The Jamaican coat of arms, which reads "Out of many, one people," reflects and respects the inclusivity of Jamaicans and many people of the African diaspora. It also speaks to a quest for unity as a "hue-man" race and mirrors the vasudhaiva kutumbakam, a proverb from the Vedic texts that states, “The world IS one family.”

But many members of this “world family” continue to treat Black people as “the Black sheep” of the family, a term that implies deviance (from a white center), animalism, and the animus (objectification) of blackness in society, rather than seeing our anima (soul). This family is not well.

African Beginnings

This world family began with the mother of modern humans, Dinknesh, otherwise known as Lucy. Her 3.2 million-year-old fossilized skeleton was discovered in Ethiopia, East Africa, in the early ’70s. A place in North Eastern Africa, that you may know of now as Egypt, which is not the world’s oldest civilization but the most advanced of the era, was built upon the foundation of older African wisdoms.

An ancient name for Egypt is “Kemet.”

In this article I will refer to Kemet or terms of Kemetic origin in the Mdu Ntr (ancient Kemetic) language, as Kmt. I will also honor the roots of yog (yoga) as a Sakskrut (Sanskrit) word by referring to it as yog(a). From here on out, I will also refer to Africa as Afraka, which means First-Sun-Soul. (And I will go into more detail about the importance of honoring the origins of words in the section Yoking: What is yoga uniting?)

Some of the limiting beliefs shared by many can become unraveled through studying untold versions of history, hierarchy, and methods of becoming unchained from untruths—Kmt yog(a) is one of these methods.

As for my journey with this practice, I came to Kmt Yog(a) (Kemetic Yoga) through a personal quest to answer questions about the roots of my Afrakan cultural and spiritual heritage. This discovery, along with many others, has led me to begin Somatic Abolitionism as part of an ongoing personal journey to become unified in my own body, and to become unbound by my unknown biases and limiting beliefs.

I have found that some of the limiting beliefs shared by many can become unraveled through studying untold versions of history, hierarchy, and methods of becoming unchained from untruths—Kmt yog(a) is one of these methods.

Beyond “Mine” to “Mind” to What Matters

If you’re an avid practitioner, you may already know that yog(a) is about much more than postures: It provides principles for living life, standards that challenge us to grow, and to bring order to chaos.

Seven thousand years ago the people of Kmt had their own guiding principles: 77 Commandments called “The Declarations of Innocence.'' They also had the Seven Laws of Djehuti and the 42+ Principles of Maat (as described by Ptah Htp, a vizier, i.e., the second most powerful person to the king, who lived in 3550 BCE and authored The Instructions of Ptah Hotep). These commandments, laws, and principles established their society’s methods of preserving spiritual lore and legacy while harmonizing nature's rhythms with human rules, and serving humanity's highest possibilities and potential. Likewise, Uttar Pradesh’s Maharshi Patanjali has influenced the world with the eight limbs of the yog(a) sutras.

Kmt Yog(a) is becoming more well-known again. Just as the Banyan tree has roots that can be seen above ground, the history and guiding spiritual wisdom of Kmt Yog(a) is vaster than one might see above ground, and more like the Baobab tree, which has roots deeper than the parts of the tree that are visible.

In this article I will share what I have uncovered from my studies in Kmt spirituality and philosophy and discuss yog(a) from this Afrocentric perspective. If you are unfamiliar with Kmt Yog(a), this exploration might help you intuit an opening into this tradition, helping you to expand into more inclusive perspectives and discern your own path of liberation. And if you are already familiar with Kmt Yog(a), you may or may not find resonance and solidarity with what I share here, and an opportunity to affirm your own awareness.

Beyond Mine, Beyond Mind, to What Matters Continued...

The path to liberation is not solely personal. Until we who live in unconscious capitalistic, consumer-driven societies expand or transform our concept of identity and progress, humanity will see ourselves as separate and call ourselves successful. But how liberated can we be if we still live in a container, discussing who owns the container? Instead of placing emphasis on individuals and ownership, we could look toward getting out of those containers in a way that serves all people.

We need to consider all of this as yog(a) practitioners. The conversation of "Whose yog(a) is it anyway?" which highlights the problem of cultural appropriation, has been opened, and while this may lead to a reclamation that feels powerful and efficacious, it is but a small part of the whole process of becoming collectively uncarcerated. 

What makes it challenging to move beyond the possession of yog(a) and toward the praxis of yog(a) is that the perception of something cannot be removed from the perceiver. So, we exist with as many differing perceptions of yog(a) as there are differences in purveyors of yog(a). 

Throughout history, spiritual tools have been transmuted, misused, weaponized, and commodified. In Kmt, all civil pursuits were initially guided from a spiritual source. Today, our societies (out of necessity) tend to focus on power and economics first. Thus, for many who perceive a disordered world around them, spirituality can occur as a secondary priority to survival rather than a catalyst to the means of achieving it.

We live in a divided society, yet we often talk about coming together as one. The means to union (which is the root meaning of the word yog[a]) is vital to the reality of union. Therefore, if union is the goal, then union might also need to be part of the means. What are we unifying, then, and in what ways does that process of unification contribute to social justice?

Yoking: What is yoga uniting?

First, it will be useful to explore the root meaning of the word yog(a) in more depth, and why it’s important to respect its original meaning through our use of it. Yuj is a Sanskrut word meaning union. Yog comes from the word Yuj, which comes from the Ved texts that describe “the science of creation.” The Ved texts are written in Devanagari, the characters of which are the script of Sanskrut. (Sanskrit is an English transliteration of a word Sanskrut, which is a spoken language rather than a written one.)

A few years ago, I learned from my friend Professor Paresh Mhaispurkar that the word yoga should actually be spelled and pronounced yog in Sanskrut (without the “a'' at the end). Mhaispurkar is a member of the research team at Yoga Vidya Gurukul Institute for Research and Education in Yoga and Naturopathy. As Mohit Rowal also states in this article, the "a" on the end of the word yoga is a Roman colonization of the word, as is the “a'' at the end of the word Ved(a). It is a colonized word because it has been modified at the root in the way it is—Anglo-Saxonified—for the English-speaking reader’s convenience. 

A related example is that in the Māori language (of New Zealand/Aо̄tearoa), there is no letter “s,” so to write Māori (as a reference to Māori people) in plural form in English would be to write Māoris, which is a transliteration. In Māori the plural would be Māori (meaning Māori people). Preserving the cultural context and not centering the English language inside of Indigenous words is important. 

Some may call history the truth, some may call evolution progress. But history has shown that when words morph, concepts can become diluted and deranged. 

For example, pranayama has become “cardiac coherence breathing” in scientific-research-based contexts. Shudra, meaning “talents” or “facility,” has become “servants,” and history textbooks such as McGraw-Hill World Geography (a school circulating edition noted in 2015) describe slaves seemingly in a more dignified way, as "indentured workers" and “immigrants,” however, glossing over the brutal power dynamics at play, which continue to reinforce false doctrines of “White superiority” (the “rightness of whiteness”) and “Black/Indigenous inferiority.”

In our process of seeking spiritual guidance for living, one culture’s divine principles and deities have been morphed into another's angels, archetypes, and almanacs. 

Or, as another example, Rswt Qwd in Kmt, akin to yog(a) nidra in Sanskrut, is referred to as “lucid dreaming” in many contemporary contexts. It is one thing to use alternative terminology to fit the narrative of the context, but quite another to co-opt a concept and erase its roots altogether. Cultural appropriation is not evolution any more than evolution is progress.

In our process of seeking spiritual guidance for living, one culture’s divine principles and deities have been morphed into another's angels, archetypes, and almanacs. Other adaptations include the transliteration of Djehuti (Tehuti) to Thoth, Auset to Isis, and perhaps even Amun-Ra into another religion’s amen.

Horus is the Latinized name for the representation of Heru (a Kmt divine energy personified), and the word hero, as featured in the diegesis of Joseph Campbell's famous Hero’s Journey, depicting a storyline of separation, initiation, and return not unlike the story of Heru’s father Ausar/Wsr/Osiris. This journey reflects the challenge Afrakan diasporic peoples face as some of us continue to seek and perfect initiation practices toward our collective return to Afrakan/Meritah wisdoms—in other words, as we seek to heal from our geopathic experience of collective trauma, subhumanization, brutalization, and death, and return to the knowledge, and base, of our root system. 

Our Kmt ancestors not only studied cosmology and the energies of the far-off planets, but oriented their lives and futures based on the planetary energy of the Earth.

One thing common among Indigenous cultures—the cultures from which popular spiritual practices originate—is a foundational paradigm for living that orients around nature. That foundation is the understanding that our well-being starts with caring for we in contrast to the messaging of caring for me—that collectively we are the body of nature. Therefore understanding this is, in my many ways, the basis for understanding union and unification. 

Some distinctions of Indigenous cultures relative to Western cultures include facilitating rather than teaching; custodianship rather than owning; sharing (or mutualism), sustainability, and different concepts of the boundaries between space and the boundaries between self and other. 

As in many Indigenous cultures, in Kmt, the goal of life was to do that which promoted health, growth, and development of all life. Life was at the center of living. 

The peoples of Kmt lived in accordance with a holistic vision of harmony, a philosophy that “We exist because everything else exists" (which you may know by the name of ubuntu); that “Everything in existence is an infinite part of the whole,” called the NTRU (Netcheru/nature). This nature includes the cosmos, the solar system, all the elements, animals, plants, humans, the spirit of all living things, and the divine representations of energies/characteristics of our ancestors. 

In Kmt, there is a philosophy and embodied practice that evokes Okra (masculine entity)/Okraa (feminine entity)—both of which are terms from the Akan culture—or Ka and Kait respectively (Kmt terms). You may know it as Prana, Qi, Chi, Ki, Num, or vital life force energy/soul essence.

Yoga: A union of what?

By whatever name you call the process of yoking, Kmt practices are concerned with the intergenerational and the universal. Ka/Kait is energy that remains near the earth, in both the living and in “inanimate” things, like photographs, that retain the essence of once-living beings. Akua (the Akan word)/Ankh (the Kmt word) is the concept that refers to life itself, to the eternal life force energy that is both intergenerational and universal. Ka/Kait refers to the soul, Ankh refers to life/aliveness, and are just two of many inseparable aspects of energy that in unison with ancestral spirit and nature bring us into harmony and balance.

Kmt practices are concerned with invoking or evoking our Soul (Okra/Okraa/Ka/Kait) in order to harmonize ourselves and yoke with Nature (NTRU), personified energies/deities (Aboson/Orisha), divine spirit (Sahu in Kmt/ Sunsum in Akan), and our ancestors (Nananom and Nsamanfo in Akan). This is a process of aligning with Divine Order (Nyamewaa-Nyame Nhyehyee in Akan).

The Kmt principle of Ka/Kait (soul) is about unification of everything in existence, the unity and struggle of opposites that are both seen (Atum) and unseen (Amen), known and unknown. Similarly, the governing principles of Maat as described in the teachings of Ptah Hotep (in what is believed by scholars to have come from the oldest book in the world) function like the yama and niyama as a means to achieve and maintain this harmony.

In Sanskrut, the word yog(a) also describes the union between the atman (soul/consciousness) and the paramatman (primordial self/universal Consciousness). 

We are a people who will not easily be despiritized.

The world over, Black bodies and bodies of culture continue to be exposed to pervasive, dehumanizing threats and treatment. But one thing that remains is that we are a people who will not easily be despiritized. A people who remain fundamentally epigenetically connected, and who can deliberately atune our awareness to our ancestral presence in our daily living environment as a way of cultural and bio-psycho-social mooring.

The Becoming of Kmt

Perhaps the process of embodiment practices might affirm humanity, and liberation practices might assist us in respiritizing and reconnecting ourselves with what we have become separate from. As activist Marcus Mosiah Garvey once said, A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin, and culture is like a tree without roots.” 

Let us not forget that thirteen million years ago, Australopithecus (the first proto-humans) emerged in Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia, and Monomotapa (South Africa). A million years ago came Homo erectus out of Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, and Ethiopia. Then Homo sapiens gave rise to various progeny, including Homo sapiens sapiens, 100,000 years ago. It is out of Africa that pre-modern humans began to spread all over the world on foot about 700,000 before present (BP). 

The Afrakans who stayed in Afraka were the Nubians, Kmtians, Dinka, Asante, Dogon, Fulani, Hausa, Wolof, Yoruba, Tusi, Afars, Masai, Kikuyu, Falashas, Mfecane, Swahili, Zulu, Tswana, Ndebele, Sotho, Kong, Mbuti, Twa, San, Mbenga, Oromo, Chokwe, Gourmantche, Ewe, Igbo, and more. 

While modern humans ventured out of Afraka between 85,000 and 50,000 years ago, by 35,000 BP years ago, the earlier hominids that left Afraka had begun to display phenotypic variations of skin tone and eye and hair color, as a result of thousands of years of migration and evolution as adaptations to extreme conditions. 

The Nation of Kmt came into existence 9,000 years after the first Indigenous Afrakan civilization developed (in Central and East Africa) and began to move north toward the Nile/Hapi River, when the Sahara started to dry up. Kmt/Meritah, meaning “beloved land,” was the name of the place we now call Egypt. It refers to an Afrakan civilization that existed around 7000 BCE (6,500 years ago), which thrived peacefully for over 4,236 years with technological prowess and economic prosperity.

After the building of the Pyramids at Dashur and Giza, the “Black skinned and wooly haired” people of Kmt (as described in Tdka Kilamajaro's book in the reference list below) were later invaded by the Hyksos, Assyrians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, and Arabs, which led to the genocide (Genos = race, tribe; cide = killing), a deliberate and systematic extermination of Kmt civilization, over a period of only 2,700 years. 

What is KMT Yog(a)?

Kmt Yog(a) was remembered in the mid 1970s. It is yog(a) from Kmt based in the systematic scholarship and synthesized practice of the Kmt civilization as deciphered by Dr. Asar Hapi and Master Yogi Yirser Ra Hotep Lawrence. Their study of the Kmt practices came directly from 7,000-year-old Kmt hieroglyphs, philosophy, science, and spirituality. 

The practice includes ratio breathing (The Yoga Skills method of four-part breathing), geometric movement progressions, meditations, and guiding principles for well-being. The movements reflect the deities depicted on the inner walls of the Pyramids, the furniture within the Pyramids, and the structures outside the Pyramids. The goal of the practice is not fear of containment, but liberation; vision rather than ambition; relaxation and respiritizing rather than athleticism. 

Kmt’s spiritual practitioners were masterful in mathematics (including geometry, trigonometry, algebra, physics, and calculus) which they applied to engineering, architectural construction, medicine, and astronomy. Science was not separate from spirituality; all areas of life were viewed interdependently.

So, when we practice Kmt Yog(a), we move unconstrained by mats in ways that are mindful of geometric accuracy, but not void of soul, breathing, nor awareness of all that exists. We embrace the many aspects of the soul, with a reverence for the ancestors, the NTRU, and all that is. 

What social justice can be achieved through Kmt yog(a)? Remember that morality is still not justice. Equality does not come without economic power, and some days the “unfreedom” (while we strive toward freedom and ensure no oppression is left unopposed to flourish) seems at times may only be surrendered to meditation, prayer, and the pursuit of one’s own inner liberation.

We need more people “unlocking” their own gateways to liberation and less gatekeeping of liberatory practices. Yet if there is any “admission prerequisite” then perhaps it is willingness, openness, and committed action to rigorous “spiritual hygiene” more than “spiritual gangsterism” where the path itself is the process; where growth begins at the roots, instead of directly at the fruits.

Who is this practice for?

The practice of Kmt forms and ritual were documented all over public walls to see. It would seem that the practice was hidden in plain sight—for all to know and for the upliftment of all, prior to the two thousand years of being conquered and decimated. 

In order to become unchained, we need to deal with the oppression conditioned into our own bodies as well as in relational spaces and places where institutional power is out of balance. Therefore, sometimes in order to provide safer spaces and sovereignty as we unravel stored trauma/historic experiences/impressions (samskara) in our bodies and souls, Kmt Yog(a) classes may be offered as “African/Black only.” However, there are also classes where all are welcome.

I am not an overseer of Kmt practices yet, but I consider and understand that this is a practice where some come to overcome internalized and interpersonal oppression and commune with self and divine ancestral spirit. And so for that reason I respect that unity and healing may not be accessible where interpersonal fractures exist in the collective space; that psychological safety is needed.

Practices that embody the unity and will to catalyse economic sovereignty in harmony with natural resources are needed. Practices that invite sacred relationships with self and other where we have become separate, where our relationships have become transactional and disconnected from our spiritual nature, spiritually dissonant and divinely disharmonious, in those divides we need the uniting power of self-love and radical humanity in order to lose our chains.

Well-being is unity in the body, reflecting the wholeness of existence. If well-being is a goal, then unity is the means to it. Kmt spiritual practice is a system of maintaining unity of body, soul, and spirit; it is a method of unifying Afrakan people of the diaspora and becoming so fortified in knowing who we are, that our dignity, sovereignty, and capacity to collaborate does not dissolve in the maya (illusion) and zero sum game of supremacy, which much of the world has subscribed to. 

The ancient Afurakani/Afurakaitnit (Afrakan) systems for living, which include the principles of Maat (truth, order, balance, justice, harmony, righteousness, and reciprocity) is a practice of yog(a). These maxims are a guide for aligning soul with spirit and divine order as a way of  becoming free from karma (aryu in Kmt) and making one’s heart as light as a feather in life.

Perhaps in honoring the tenets of yog(a) that speak radical humanity to power binaries, we can all live with more of the qualities we come to yog(a) in search of.

Until we are all well.

—Nana Adwoa Alicia Malcolm-Anderson.


Dr. Rkhty Amen. A Life Centred Life living Maat, 1988, 2012. 

Dr. Tdka Kilamajaro, PhD. KMT, Indigenous African Population, University of Kmt Press, 2nd Ed, 2021. 

Dr. Tdka Kilamajaro, PhD. KA2 Philosophy and Method, Ancient Kmt (Egypt) Doctrine of Opposites, Modernized. University of Kmt Press, 2019. 

The Okra/Okraa Complex: The Soul of Ankafo. Odwirafo, Nhoma Publications.

Mohit Rawal, Yog vs Yoga: Nitty-Gritty of Yog and Yoga. June 18th, 2020 via Medium.com 

Yirser Ra Hotep Lawrence, Yoga Skills, Kemetic Yoga Practitioner Handbook (cited from https://kemeticyogaskills.com/philosophy-of-kemetic-yoga/ )

Raja Yogamandiram. Origin and Meaning of the Word Yoga. Jan 28, 2017 via Medium.com

About the Teacher

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Alicia Malcolm Anderson
Alicia is an international athlete who has lived experiences of injury, burnout, disappointment, post-childbirth... Read more