Fight stress with African yoga
The first Kemetic Yoga studio has just opened in Africa, and offers ancient Egyptian physical and spiritual enlightenment. Danette Frederique pays it a visit
The AfriCan Kemetic Yoga Studio opened for fitness at the Norwood Centre, Joburg, earlier this month, becoming the first and only studio on the continent to offer a space for this ancient Egyptian system of physical and spiritual enlightenment.
“It’s been a dream of mine to open a studio for a few years. I’ve been teaching Kemetic Yoga teachers; I needed a space where they could come and teach, and come and practise,” owner Ursula Macheke van Graan told me when I went to try out a class.
The practice infuses controlled deep breathing and meditation with geometric physical movements intended to align the spine, relieve stress and increase blood flow throughout the body. Kemetic Yoga, I learn, was developed into its contemporary form by Dr Asar Hapi and Yirser Ra Hotep in the US about 40 years ago. Having sought instruction from Hotep, Van Graan is the first person authorised to train Kemetic Yoga teachers in Africa.
“The importance of having it on the continent is that we need to take ownership of our health as Africans,” she believes. “We need to take ownership of our heritage that has been hidden from us for centuries.”
Now equipped with a space to teach the practice to other yogis, she hopes to break down stigmas associated with yoga and reach a wider community. The studio’s name, AfriCan, is to spread the message that yoga is an all-inclusive, inexpensive practice from which everyone can benefit.
Kemetic Yoga doesn’t rely on extreme body contortions, but is a series of stretches and movements, combined with breathing exercises, within a meditative space. All you need is a mat and knowledge. “There’s no reason you can’t do yoga. We can. It doesn’t matter which age you are, how flexible you are, whether you’re male or female; it doesn’t matter,” said Van Graan. “If you have the will and the drive to do the yoga, you can. It’s there for your life, your health, your wellbeing.” Van Graan recalls the sense of familiarity she felt years ago when she first connected with Hotep, who recently visited from Chicago to instruct classes during the studio’s grand-opening week. “I remember as a child doing history about Egypt, and having this feeling that I already knew it. Somehow I knew it, so when I spoke to [Hotep], I felt like I knew it,” she said about trying Kemetic Yoga for the first time. “It’s not something I feel like I have to try hard to explain. You just know. It’s in our DNA.” To find out more, call 076 237 0127, or visit the AfriCan Kemetic Yoga Studio page on Facebook. The studio is open 6am to 8pm for all levels and ages. Fees are from R450 a month (five classes) to R840 (12 classes)
MAT MATTERS A class at the new AfriCan yoga studio in Joburg