Sharing Perspectives on the Ancient Practice of Kemetic Yoga Against a Backdrop of Military Service, Equality, and History

By Capuchine Hoybach

We’ve all had a ‘reckoning’ of sorts in our lives. ThatAha’ moment, many times. 

In one such instance, for Veterans Yoga Project Board of Director and Army veteran, Effie Baldwin, it came from long-distance running. Overusing this coping mechanism took its toll, overwhelming her immune system after she had competed in consecutive marathons.

“I was aghast when my doctor recommended that I do yoga. I was {sic essentially} prescribed not to move.That’s how I began. I had always thought yoga was good for other people. I just did not think yoga had a role in my life. It was a shock to consider that I was not supposed to run long distances again. Running had been a coping modality. It was not just about the physical exercise.” 

Effie Baldwin, VYP Teacher & Board Member

Effie’s fundamental belief in “questioning all things, always” was coupled with a sense of responsibility to “independently investigate the truth. “I thought that if I’m going to do this {sic yoga} and if this is going to be a part of my life, then I wanted to know about its origins.” Effie soon learned that Kemetic yoga, a system with roots in ancient Egypt, then known as Kemet, preceded that which emerged in India around 3300 BCE. 

Effie tried various styles of yoga in an effort to develop a personal practice. She soon realized that she was challenged by connecting with her own breath. In Kemetic yoga, the basis of the practice is the breath. “It’s not an afterthought in Kemetic yoga,” Effie explains. “It’s what helps you to geometrically realign the body. I thought, ‘This is it.’” In Kemetic yoga, the breath is viewed as the life force through which one gains enlightenment, transcending their physical being in order to connect on a universal level. 

Effie’s continued journey with the practice later led her to earn certification in Egypt. “I knew I would be facing an uphill battle, always. ‘Are you good enough?’ ‘Are you qualified?’ My answer to this was to go back to the origins. To see it with my own eyes. To experience it with my own essence and spirit.”

The aim in Kemetic yoga is to evolve from one’s physicality so that one’s place in the world is realized. It’s clear that, in today’s environment, many have been forced to face the concept of their own truth. “A lot more people are turning inward to look for harmony,” Effie observes. “What many are now recognizing is that the institutions that they once thought would hold us up–government, health, employment –are crumbling. This realization means that we don’t go back to normal. We go to Better Than. Normal was not that great to begin with.” 

This may be where the intersection of justice and equality shows up. “It’s up to each of us, by turning inwards, to determine who we are and how we can contribute. Yoga is a great modality for exploring this. After it’s All Gone it’s about ‘Who are you now?’ and ‘What’s left?’” 

Effie’s military experience provided the base for which she could ask herself these same questions. “The military exposes you to the idea that you are a member of a society that’s greater than yourself. We each have a role to play. It’s about getting to know yourself and then getting over yourself. Yoga and the military share the similarity that you have to actually ‘show up’ to do the work.” 

Effie aptly points out our collective origin from one foundation: Earth

“Let’s look at our true history: I’m energy of some sort. We are all and what does that mean? How do I define myself?” “In the military, we learn to dig deeper. To do things and to go places, because someone else believed it was possible for us.”

A mandate irrespective of race, gender, or ethnicity. 

We are all connected.

This idea is inherent in both the military and in yoga. When it comes to race, Effie shares, “It’s like we’re one piece in a 1,000 piece puzzle. Individually, it can look like total chaos’–puzzle pieces aren’t the same color or size, like humans–but, when you decide to be accountable and to figure out how you fit in this big puzzle, somehow, we all come together.” 

Joining together for a greater purpose beyond ourselves seems to be relevant in more ways now than ever before. Today’s world presents, Effie reflects, “an opportunity to re-design the future we want to have and it starts with each of us as individuals to look within ourselves. There is no ‘they’ that’s going to save us. It’s going to be each and everyone one of us that’s going to figure out who we are and how we can contribute to a bigger and better world. That’s why I think so many are turning to yoga. When you have to sit still. When you have to be with yourself and figure out ‘who am I?’ 

One can hope that this fundamental question imparts lasting and positive change. 

If you want to learn more about how to join together, or if you are interested in helping with the project, head over to the VYP Volunteer Page

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