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Yoga's African connection

YOGA: Pablo Mensawe-Imani

WHEN YOGA became the new buzzword in gyms and fitness centres nationwide, many black folks were sceptical; should they sign up to the new vogue exercise class or not?

Their scepticism was not because they feared they could not twist and turn their bodies into a variety of unusual, sculpting shapes but because they questioned whether yoga would create a conflict to their spirituality.

However, since more research has been put into this ancient exercise - with a written history going back thousands of years along with the discovery that yoga originated from the motherland and not India - more and more people from the African Caribbean community are reaping the rewards of this ancient, soulful practice.

Pablo Mensawe-Imani, who was introduced to Afrikan Yoga more then 20 years ago, dispels the myths surrounding the exercise.

Mensawe – Imani told here!: “Yoga is an ancient practise which was designed by our ancestors in Kemet (Egypt) originally known as Smai.

“Yoga consists of postures, raagus (dance) and hudu (Afrikan Tai Chi) along with meditation and hika or hiku (word, sound and power).

“Many people around the world practice what I call western yoga based on the Indian system. However, I teach and practice Afrikan yoga which is centuries older.”

Explaining why he spells Africa with a 'K', the father of two said: “I chose to spell Afrika the way I do because the Ga people of Ghana use the letter K in the spelling plus my choice of spelling has the word KA, meaning spirit.

“I do not want people to only see the motherland as a destination, but a free spirit – Afrikans are free-spirited beings.”

While all yoga styles seek to balance the body, mind, and spirit, they go about it in various ways. Some will use props for the pose; others will crank up the temperature in the room and generate sweat. However, Afrikan yoga differs in three main principles.

“Afrikan yoga has fewer postures then Western practices. We have 24-36 posture positions. We are not guru based but priesthood based, meaning it’s really about your personal link to the Divine rather than an icon.

“Another difference is that Afrikan yoga does not use Sanskrit language. Afrikan yoga uses an ancient Egyptian language known as Medu Neter and Nuwapic.”
Exposing the historical truth about the origins of yoga, which despite popular belief is not India, Imani who is also referred to as Seba Ptah – which means opener of the way in kemetic language - said: “The Indians claim that Shiva is the founder of Indian yoga but in truth there is no real originator.

“Afrikan people in India practiced yoga because India was once a colony of Ethiopia and that the earliest Indians or the first people of India were known as Dravidians who were Kushites. Kush is a former name of Africa.”

“It has been well documented by various historians, in particular Herodotus who was Greek, that the ancient Indians and Ethiopians are one of the same people not forgetting the Italian explorer Marco Polo who always referred to this fact during his expeditions throughout Africa and India.”

Mensawe-Imani revealed that the early people of India practiced a form of yoga called tantra, which is not what most western people think of today – sex.
“The early settlers of India practiced a mixture of shamanism, which was earth sensitivity, alcolmy, transformation and energy sensitivity.

“These practices promoted the adoration of the female – the feminine energy and the practice was to balance male and female energy.

However, today when people hear the name tantra they associate this teaching with sexual intercourse which could not be any further away from the truth.”
Teaching various Afrikan yoga classes throughout London along with meeting his international demands in France, Ghana, Uganda, and Egypt, he uses drums and flutes to conduct his one and half hour classes.

Describing the health benefits of Afrikan yoga, he said: “ Afrikan yoga regulates your breathing, improves energy levels, alertness and clarity of the mind. Each movement stretches and works the muscles, toning the body thus massaging the eternal organs.”

Also the author of Afrikan Yoga – A Practical Guide to Wellbeing through Smai, Posture, Breath and Meditation, Imani told here! that there is no age limit for those who wish to practice this ancient art form.

“Yoga is open to everybody. There is no age barrier because it can be gentle or dynamic. It’s up to the individual to know how far they can go because everybody works at their own pace.”

Rebuking the often negative criticism that yoga is un-Godly, Mensawe-Imani said: “Yoga opens the mind so one can feel the Divine within them rather then seek the Divine outside of them. Yoga is a non-religious spiritual practice which everybody can enjoy.”

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