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Ancient Egyptian secret roots of Yoga

Celebrating rebirth of Nile heritage on Dahabeya

Author and creator of the new school of ‘Afrikan Yoga A Practical Guide to Smai Posture, Breath and Meditation,’ Pablo Imani—a Jamaican of Mali origin, raised in England—claims that the practice of yoga originated from indigenous cultures, particularly, the ancient Egyptians.

Ten years ago he was invited by Nile photographer and Dahabeya Director Karina Piaro, who co-conceptualised and pioneered a retreat to share Imani’s yoga wisdom on the Dahabeya.

Piaro also marketed his endeavour as well as photographed him as he shared is yoga wisdom on the Dahabeya.

He will once again do so in February 2019, in support of this significant re-launch chapter representing the Nile heritage to a wider audience from the platform of one of the most historical vessels existing in Egypt. Again, this shall portray a historical first both in terms of his holistic process and the Dahabeya heritage.

Imani’s yogic school—which has been recognised by the International Yoga Alliance of India—basically, means the science of breath. However, “it also means union, and there are Smai depictions throughout the temple walls in ancient Egypt. The word Smai, Sma, Sema or Sem is an ancient Egyptian word which translates to the science of breath and union. In the Sanskrit language, dating back 600 BC, the word yoga is commonly known, rendering the language and word around 2,400 years old. Smai is an African term for what we would call yoga today. The Smai hieroglyph is a representation of the Metu Neter, a language dating back to 10,000 years ago, that was spoken, written, and used in hieroglyphics. The Smai glyph is commonly seen as a tube descending into a bulbous figure at the end of it. If you go to Luxor temple in Karnak, there is a statue of Ramses, he’s sitting on his throne, on each side of the statue, and there is a relief. The relief depicts two beings, two persons standing and pulling a rope that’s binding a particular symbol. The Smai symbol is the lungs and the oesophagus which is the symbol of the breath and these two being on one side is the depictions of Horus and Seth. Sometimes you’ll see the symbol with Hapi, Hapi representing the Nile, so you would have Hapi on one side and Hapi on the other side pulling, and at the feet they have papyrus leaf growing and lotus leaf growing, which represent the two parts of Egypt, Upper and Lower Egypt. But it also means the binding of two states whether they are masculine and feminine, the higher state the lower states, animal state, spirit state, spirit and body. Horus represented the higher self and Seth represented the egotistical self, so that’s what the Smai symbol is” explained Imani.

Furthermore, Imani elaborated that Smai portrays the central column which in the human body represents the trachea, commonly called the windpipe, which descends down into the lungs. Its other meaning is the Djed column or spine in the body with the pelvis attached to the end of the spine, where the two figures of Hapi principle force of the Nile have their left and right feet on it.

seth horusMeanwhile, December 2018 marks the revival of a unique concierge charter service through The Niles New Wave which is devoted to shaping a new aesthetic through the sharing of transformational journeys on the Nile. “Expect a personal guided immersive experience echoing the ambience of an almost forgotten age; the elegant simplicity of 18th century travel combined with 21st century comforts on the Nile,” Piaro said, adding, “specialising in river bound heritage craft, historically and uniquely found on the Nile called the Dahabeya, it partners beautiful white lateen wooden shuttered sailing craft with specialists and masters in the fields of heritage, arts, philosophy, and holistic wellbeing” said Piaro, stressing that, “this is truly a rare opportunity to immerse in the phenomenal holistic power and out-of-time sensibility that reflects a contemporary Nile enlightenment.”

Now the connection is basically in ancient Egypt they had priests who were called Kheri-hebs or Hari-hebs. These Hari-hebs, were known as funerary priests who conducted many rituals concerning the cleansing of the body inside out, and “yogic practice was used for that in terms of cleansing from the inside out” added Imani. So, this is one of the connections of the actual yogic practice in ancient Africa. They used what is called hekau or heka which is found in the ‘Per Em Heru’ which has been mistranslated as the Egyptian Book of the Dead but it is really the book of Coming Forth by Day, that’s what ‘Per Em Heru’ actually means,” stated Imani. Heka is what is referred to as mantras, so they would also use mantras or word sounds of power. Nowadays these would be known as mantras but also as positive affirmations, to manifest things. So, this is all a part of yogic lifestyle today, using positive affirmations and meditations, often now referred to as mindfulness and positive visualisations, according to Imani.

In parallel, since the beginning of the 21st century, Karina Piaro has been pioneering, as the first female Dahabeya Director of the new age, a new narrative which has had the purpose of raising awareness of the importance of conserving the Nile heritage. As part of this heritage pioneering initiative, Piaro invited yogic holistic wellbeing practitioner Pablo Imani a decade ago, to synergise his style of yogic process and wisdom with the Dahabeya heritage.

Concurrently, Piaro welcomed Pablo Imani to teach with students coming internationally on the Nile Dahabeya retreats, which can be as long as seven nights and eight days, sailing from Luxor to Aswan. “Unlike large modern cruisers, this unique rare historical 1800s craft, one of the last remaining ones of its kind in existence, can berth at sites rich in Nile heritage significance, including Gebel el Silsila, an ancient Egyptian quarry, as well as islands in the middle of the river which are all normally unreachable by modern boats” stated Piaro, adding, “the Dahabeya is thus ideal as a platform to share a stronger sense of reconnecting with sites of heritage significance but through the Nile itself.”

Imani had been initiating his accredited school of yogic process directly from a Nile source of knowledge and holistic process, and Piaro felt that this synergising of both elements, the yogic with the Dahabeya, as both are a transformative process, would be an appropriate platform to share another aspect of heritage emanating from the Nile itself.

Afrikan yoga, pioneered by Pablo Imani, is therefore the first known yogic process to work synergistically with a Dahabeya in the new age, and the revival of this concept begins again in December 2018.

Another connection to that of Kheri-hebs or Hari-hebs, added Imani, is that in India at the time when yoga was first discovered, they say it was first founded by people who lived in the forest, and these people “were known to use particular animal archetypes and animal totems just like in ancient Egypt” declared Imani, adding, “for example you have Horus who has a falcon head, Sekhmet who is a lioness, you have Tefnut too who has a lion head, and these are known as the Neteru or the cosmic forces of nature.”

In the forest in India, these same people also have these same symbolisms that they were using, and there was a group or a family that discovered these people in the forest and they were known as the Gorakshanath, a family of Hindus, according to Imani‘s research. So they noticed how these people were using animal forms and copying these animal forms to create postures, and to better themselves in some shape or form. Therefore, the Indians also decided that they were going to copy these people that lived in the forest.

Smai taui present 1Now there’s a story that some of the priests of ancient Egypt would exile themselves into different parts of the world during times of war. Some went into western Africa so you have people like the Yoruba of Nigeria who claim that they came from ancient Egypt, the Dogon of Mali, the Igbo in Nigeria also claim they came from ancient Egypt. The Zulus in South Africa also claim they came from ancient Egypt, and the Maasai of Kenya claim that too. Hence, we are talking about different people exiling themselves out of Egypt into other parts of Africa, but also into other parts of the world. Hence, you had a priesthood which practiced yoga exiling themselves also into India. Now at the time Egypt was much bigger and of course it wasn’t known as Egypt, it had many names, such as Kemet which is a well-known name that’s been expounded often today, but it was also known as Tame-re. Thus, these priests who exiled themselves into India took their practices into the forests of India during one of the many invasions of Egypt. Various books by for example, Ivan Van Sertima, who wrote They Came Before Columbus, or by Cheikh Anta Diop, who wrote The African Origin of Civilisation: Myth or Reality, as well as several scholars state that information in addition to written information regarding India as well, according to Imani.

In addition, Imani indicated that back then Ethiopia and East African languages had similar dialect to Indian languages and customs were also shared along with trade, so it just stands to reason that yogic practices may have been exchanged too. So, this is how Imani made those particular connections. “A lot of people asked me well who came first, was the African, Egyptian or Indian system that came first. My reply is usually that there was a lot of debate around that, but to me it does not mean much who came first, but just to recognise that yogic practices were practiced in Africa as well as in India, and I go as far as to say that yogic practices were practiced by indigenous cultures worldwide, they just did not call it yoga. They had their own name for connecting to source, or connecting to a higher self, a higher purpose, through their particular rituals and practices” proclaimed Imani.

The Afrikan yoga school is also known as Tama-re Smai Taui. Afrikan yoga can be broken down into Ta, which stands for earth, Ma, water, Re, sun or solar energy or one of the ancient names of Egypt which is Tama-re, meaning the beloved land, as Imani explained. Consequently, the practice is known as Tama-re. Smai, means the science of breath, or union, and Taui means two states. That is Afrikan yoga, which again comes from the Nile valley, and it uses the elements which are earth, water, air and fire, as in Tama-re. It also has a practice in it called Hudu. Hu means ‘creative force of will’ and the du is related to the use of rhythm, so it is known as a creative force of will through the use of rhythm, which can be transcribed as intention, and the meaning of Tai chi is intention, so the Hudu is really an Afrikan form of Tai chi, with the use of postures that come from temple walls that originate from ancient Egypt, not postures that derive from India, but literally from temple walls of Egypt, and that’s what makes it very special, very particular, and very powerful.

The school is based on several disciplines. First of all the movements are based on the movements of the Neteru, which is found in the temples of Luxor, the temple of Horus at Edfu, and on scientific methods, mentioned in the Ebers papyrus, the rhind papyrus,  and these are known as the pyramid texts which are the oldest books in the entire world.

The philosophy of the Afrikan yogic school system is based on the philosophy of Ma’at, which is found in the ancient Egyptian book known as the ‘Per’Em Heru or the Coming Forth by Day, and it uses the presets of the 42 Declarations of Innocence and the 10 Virtues of the Initiates.

The 10 Virtues of the Initiates and the Wisdom Texts are based on the philosophies of  Ptahhotep and Amennakht, Kagemni, Tehuti-Hermes Trismegistus and Seti I, which are comparable with the Noble Paths of the Buddhist Dharma and the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.

“However, the ancient Egyptian system is almost 2,000 years older than the yoga sutras of Patanjali as it is based on the philosophy of Ma’at, Hermes Trismegistus, also known as Tehuti, Ptahhotep, Kagemini, and Seti I.

That is the basic background and philosophy of the Afrikan yoga system that I teach, and which originates from the Nile valley, that’s the first thing. This is how it stems from, not only what people refer to as Egypt today, but also the whole of ancient Egypt” stressed Imani.

When Karina Piaro and Imani ran a yoga retreat 10 years ago on a Dahabeya it was very special because, first of all, it was not just any kind of yoga. It wasn’t Ashtanga or Kundalini or something like that which comes out of India, and is popular now in Egypt today, it was Tama-re Smai Taui, and so they used the Afrikan system of yoga that Imani taught on the Dahabeya.

They were the first to do this 10 years ago, and the special thing was it was like yoga coming home basically, and it was a beautiful experience which they both intend to launch again in February 2019, and they are telling the world about it because they are two of the very first people to ever do this and not on a boat— but on a Dahabeya.

“What is supremely specially is that it is an Afrikan-Egyptian system and not an import, but something that actually comes from the region, a system of yoga that comes from the region” declared Imani.

“The beauty of being on a Dahabeya is the movement of the boat as it floats down the river through the use of the elements instead of an engine. It’s using the wind; it’s using Shu, and sailing down, and it is one of the most glorious feelings because of the movement of the glide, and the slide and the gentleness of how it flows” asserted Imani.

“One of the beauties of the practice that Imani teaches has that air movement, which also has this flowing motion that goes with it, and it just has a connection that provides a profound experience” concluded Piaro.

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