African Yoga

African yoga is the art of transforming by working with your body work in various rhythms. This practice helps cultivate one’s movements and sensational fulfillment with the help of rhythm. Africans know since ancient times that understanding the link between rhythm and movement helps one achieve deep internal transformations. They believe that dance is key for shaping one’s power and one’s relation to the Ashé, the energy that fills the entire universe.

The basic tools for achieving development in African yoga are: the ability to listen, the ability to move, the ability to breathe and the ability to feel. The technique of African yoga is based upon the ability to comprehend rhythm by working with one’s body. The culture of the Black Continent is so intrinsically musical that Africans even perceive their bodies as musical instruments. Moreover today African rhythms are possibly the most popular rhythms on our planet – a proof of that are all the musical styles based on the African tradition: jazz, blues, funk, soul, reggae, rap... the list can go on forever.

One of the most typical characteristic features of all African styles is their intrinsic sensuality based on the great variety of rhythms that touch the souls of millions of people. Modern global culture is unimaginable without the Afro-meditation.

Why ‘yoga’?

The Sanskrit word ‘yoga’ has become so popular today that it serves as a cover term for many development trends representing absolutely diverse cultural traditions, not only the Indian one. Being a general term today and referring to the whole complex system of human development – physical, mental and energetical – the word ‘yoga’ is also used for a number of other trends that have become part of global culture.

The word ‘yoga’ is rooted in the public consciousness as a symbol that characterizes freedom and development. This symbolism naturally transforms the specific into images that allow for a rather free interpretation verging on the loose and indefinite, at the same time it manages to maintain its mysterious appeal in the eyes of the mass consumer.

This is why the popularity of the word-image yoga today is perhaps on par with Che Guevara and Bob Marley and even symbols of global culture like Glamour. Moreover, all admirers of the ideas of Che Guevara and the rhythms of Bob Marley can safely call their actions ‘acts of yoga’.

What here remains unchanged is perhaps only the word yoga and not its actual meaning. A lot of people who are drawn by the mystery of the word-image yoga do not understand the actual goals of classic yoga. We should note here that the yoga grounded on the Sankh philosophical tradition interprets freedom as overcoming the world, the final separation of the spirit (Purusha) from matter (Prakrti), the cessation of rebirth.

At best, public opinion treats yoga as a movement, the image of a person's life, Man’s search for inner freedom. This very style, which poses an alternative to the traditional Western understanding of the physical development of man, is increasingly in demand around the world – as part of the overall positive global trend for full recovery.

Let's be straightforward: yoga today is a certain image that invokes Man to strive for perfection. Very few actually know the meaning of the term ‘yoga’ and its path, which has in fact led to the rise of many speculations around it.

African yoga as universal knowledge

The term African yoga appeared relatively recently and was initially used by African-Americans in order to attract attention towards the African culture in the time when they created different schools to teach the West how to master rhythm, dance and movement (in the 70s and 80s). They tried to reveal to the world not only their musical and dance styles but something more, something hidden in the knowledge of different African cultures and grounded in the centuries-old views of African civilization about medicine, philosophy of life and the body.

As a practical trend, from which occult and ritual acts have been excluded, African yoga exists for about 20 years in spite of its centuries-old history. And as a system of knowledge it is still in the process of composition. Many African trends, including samba, Capoeira, etc., bear a shade of what we call African yoga.

If you like blues or jazz, if you dance samba or rap, then you know that rhythm does not belong to a certain country or culture, it belongs to the world. The first people who began studying and cultivating rhythm were, obviously, the Africans who created the very first musical instruments. It is likely that the tradition of Russian sundresses or skirts and Scottish kilts contains certain elements that come from Africa. Africa is, certainly, very far from Russia, and that’s visible in almost all spheres of life. Yet universal values are the same everywhere. And trying to impose on culture a specific image only draws one further away from the understanding of this culture. Therefore, what is important here is not Africa, it’s us. If you want to learn your own language, start learning a foreign one. If you want to know your culture, study another.

African yoga is a syncretic name, naturally suitable for all trends of African culture, which offer a variety of systems for human development. However, we should here note that all African trends – which can be conceptualized as a single complex knowledge system – have today mixed with the European and Indian cultures, not only on these distant continents, but also in Africa itself, as a result of the boomerang principle.


05 september 2008

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