I am Eternity Philops (she/they/Mx.), owner of Soul Liberation Wellness and creator of Kamili Yoga®. A Black queer Yoga educator who has taught hundreds of students through a wide assortment of community classes, university courses, private sessions, and wellness retreats, I used to not know a “downward dog” from an awkward push-up. When my Yoga journey began, I actually had no desire to ever become a Yoga teacher, making this path I’ve traveled nothing short of kismet.
The Journey Begins
Like many Black folks, I used to believe that Yoga wasn’t for me. As far as I was concerned, it was just a stretching exercise for “skinny White people.” Feeling adventurous, I’d once tried a “hot yoga” class marked for beginners. But I seemed to be one of the few actual beginners there, as well as one of only a handful of non-White participants in a class of over 60. This experience reinforced my belief that Yoga was not for “us.”
But later I experienced a smaller, more intimate Yoga class led by a Black teacher guiding Black bodies, and it was different. Very different, and very good! The movement and energy were simply amazing! This was my first real glimpse into what a Yoga class was supposed to be, and the reason I began to seek community (rather than corporate) Yoga classes specifically led by Black teachers, who I now knew existed.
Over time and through the guidance of more amazing Black Yoga educators, I was introduced to the true essence of Yoga. I learned that Yoga is a holistic, philosophical discipline composed of many different systems dating back thousands of years. The goal of every Yoga system is to create union with your inner being and your Higher Power (however that exists for you), and every system has its own way of seeking that union. Most people think that Yoga is only about doing poses, but that’s actually a misleading deception, as is the perception of Yoga being mainly for White fitness culture. Not only is Yoga not about exercise, Yoga was created by people of color!
Once I learned these truths, my path was set. Through a Spirit-led chain of events and blessings, I ended up with two Yoga teacher certifications: one in Hatha Yoga (Kiesha Battles, IAMYOGA School, 2017) and another in Kemetic Yoga® (Yirser Ra Hotep, YogaSkills School of Kemetic Yoga, 2017). Centered around body poses, Hatha Yoga is one of many classical systems from ancient Indian culture and is the basis for all physical styles of westernized Yoga, while Kemetic Yoga® is a system rooted in the history and hieroglyphics of ancient Kemet (now known as Egypt).
I learned through my Kemetic training that there are many who believe and are revealing that Yoga has roots in Africa. This is not surprising, as all of humanity is birthed in the cradle of Africa and many traditions spread to other regions and evolved over time. Nevertheless, South Asian culture has developed beautiful and time-honored Yoga traditions that I greatly respect and embrace. And yet, even with both of these Yoga backgrounds, there was still something missing for me.
Filling the Void
As my Yoga education and experience grew, a concern began to form in the back of my mind. I realized I was learning and teaching much about Indian ancestral spirituality and philosophy while my own ancestral roots are African. As a Black American, I’m one of many descendants of a stolen and enslaved people who often wonders about their ties to the Motherland. Who was my tribe? What language did they speak? What customs did they have? What were their faiths?
Going deeper into classical Indian Yoga systems would not answer these questions for me. And yet, I realized that my journey in Yoga was part of what sparked this need to connect more deeply to my African roots. Where were more Yoga systems for our traditions? I could find barely a few. While there are a multitude of non-Indian Yoga systems, they’re largely appropriated and whitewashed. There are various Egyptian Yoga systems that are certainly Afrocentric, but they center mostly a single ancient culture and there is more to ancestral Africa beyond pharaohs and pyramids. I wanted to connect to the expansive diversity of my African ancestry through Yoga. I wanted to deepen union with my Self through a multifaceted, Pan-African lens. And when I could not find what I wanted, I created it myself.
Like the many traditions that have come before it, Kamili Yoga® will continue to grow and evolve. And like the many Yoga systems that have guided me on my journey, creating Kamili Yoga® has helped me to grow in clarity and purpose. I realized that Spirit planted a seed in me at my very first Black-led Yoga class, and now I see what the Divine Source has been nurturing since that moment. This is the abundant fruit of what took root. This is the birth of the Yoga that has existed within me all along, a Yoga that is now an integral part of my life and my soul.
I hope that it becomes a part of yours too.