The Afro Yoga founder is leading without bounds — and inviting you along for the ride.
– KEYS SOULCARE
What’s Angie Franklin’s superpower? She is limitless. Born in Madrid, the former military kid transformed her transition from Europe to the U.S. into an opportunity to learn and adapt to newness — and expand her vision for the world. Now, the globetrotting influencer behind Afro Yoga is cultivating wellness experiences rooted in Kemetic yoga, an ancient African form of the meditative practice. As she brings alignment and peace to her growing community, Angie is keeping wellbeing and education at the forefront of Afro Yoga, developing a new generation of Black healers and wellness entrepreneurs around the world.
In our conversation with Angie, we uncover the origins of Kemetic yoga, her vision for the future of wellness, and feeling connected, no matter where you are. Here’s our chat.
WHAT IS KEMETIC YOGA?
Kemetic yoga originated from the research of Dr. Yirser Ra Hotep and Dr. Asar Ha-pi, who I trained under. While traveling to Kemet, they noticed the postures on the walls of the hieroglyphics in Kemet were meditative postures. Dr. Yirser Ra Hotep and Dr. Asar Ha-pi developed, transcribed, and translated [hieroglyphics] to understand deities represented and how those it applied to yoga practice to develop a modern form of the practice.
“Kemet” is the original word for “Egypt,” — “Egypt” is the name that the Greeks gave [the country]. Yoga is a Sanskrit word that means to unite, but there’s another term that’s commonly used that’s called Smaitawi, which means “two lands.” Smaitawi is this representation of the upper and the lower self, which reflects the higher self of the individual. This carnal, physical, dense experience as a human being and the spiritual aspect of having a spirit that’s something that’s intangible, working and flowing through us — like the crown chakra and root chakra. Kemetic yoga [connects the] physical experience with the spiritual experience.
WHAT DOES KEMETIC YOGA TEACH US ABOUT THE BODY?
Dr. Yirser has something called YogaSkills Method that works in tandem with Kemetic yoga. There’s Rule of Four breathing — inhale, pause, exhale, pause — acknowledging all of those parts of the breath. Then there’s geometric progression, which has to do with the alignment of the body and movement in the shape of one form to the next. It’s about what makes natural sense in your body so that the nervous system remains calm [enough] to be able to experience the benefits of the practice.
WHY IS KEMETIC YOGA IMPORTANT FOR THE BLACK COMMUNITY?
In Kemetic yoga specifically, there’s a lot of emphasis on the spine, where the nervous system predominantly lies. We have the parasympathetic nervous system, which is the rest and digest system when your body feels at ease and safe. The parasympathetic system is the state of the nervous system that we try to induce in a yoga practice so the body can go into a state of regeneration and healing to combat the effects of the sympathetic nervous system — fight, flight, or freeze. When that system is operating as it should, it’s there to let us know if we may be in danger so we can protect ourselves. The Black community, especially in America because of the amount of stress we are constantly under — seeing police behind us on the road, microaggressions at work, or somebody getting seated before us at a restaurant — all these experiences trigger the sympathetic nervous system.
Constantly living in that place degenerates our immune system — our bodies are literally breaking down. Wellness practices and healing intentionally counteract the effects of being in a constant stress response state. Things like meditation, yoga practices, and Kemetic yoga specifically are designed to trigger your parasympathetic and to give you space to slow down and really reconnect with yourself.
WHAT DOES A SESSION WITH AFRO YOGA FEEL LIKE?
An Afro Yoga experience is a loving community of people in a space where you are welcomed, honored, and celebrated wherever you are in your journey. My teaching style is structured to begin with education because I think it’s really important. My goal is to empower each person with knowledge so they understand what this practice is, what the intention of this practice is, and how you can approach it to gain the benefits. If I’m teaching Kemetic yoga, I’ll go into the origins of it and how breath is involved in the practice of movement. I guide people to experience the connection between their breath, body, and spirit in real time.
HOW DO YOU KEEP PEOPLE FEELING CONNECTED VIRTUALLY?
I always hold space at the end for anybody to share their experience—and I found that’s really created a beautiful space for community in my virtual classes, where there’s people from all over the world showing up. I love to give that opportunity for people to hear each other, see each other, and feel each other because we’re not in person. I’ve had people tell me they feel more connected in these virtual classes than they ever felt in an [in-person] class. That’s the type of energy, love, and community I infuse into all of my experiences—whether it’s a virtual donation-based class, event, or a retreat.Those same elements are gonna come into play so that you’re informed and aware to feel empowered in your practice with the ability to have community connection afterwards.
WHY IS EDUCATING PEOPLE IMPORTANT IN YOUR PRACTICE?
In many yoga classes, I haven’t had a teacher who actually takes the time to tell you what yoga means. I always ask people in my classes what the word yoga means and barely anybody knows. This is a globally respected practice, and people don’t know what this means while lining up with their yoga mats. [There’s] a disconnect and separation from yoga’s true origin of being a practice about spirituality and connection with the self. Yoga actually means to unite. I give people the opportunity to explore that union with themselves and see what that relationship can look like.
WHY DO YOU FEEL CALLED TO DO THE WORK THAT YOU DO?
I’m a person who is for the people. My work is a reflection of the responsibility I have. This isn’t just about starting a business and being an entrepreneur;I want to shift the narrative. I want to revolutionize this industry. I want to show people who they’ve always been and what they have the potential to be. The work that I’m doing as an individual and through Afro Yoga is a reflection of the responsibility I have to my people to bring this work and movement forward, and to be a trailblazer — to chart paths that haven’t been charted. I’m willing to do the hard work of clearing the path so other people can walk through more easefully.
WHAT IS YOUR HIGHEST VISION FOR YOUR WORK?
I am building an empire with Afro Yoga. I’m seeing Afro Yoga going abroad to build a global branch of the movement. I want to get into the Afro-Latine area and teach classes in Spanish. I really want to be the one-stop shop when anybody thinks of Black wellness or Black wellness entrepreneurship. I am ready for all the expansiveness and for the path to continue to unfold in front of me. My job is to keep doing the work because the vision will fulfill itself.
WHAT IS YOUR ULTIMATE VISION FOR YOURSELF?
Personally, I’m really trying to live out a life of abundance, joy, happiness, travel, and fulfillment in my work. I feel that so much of me is Afro Yoga. As I grow, Afro Yoga grows. As I learn new things, I go back and teach them through Afro Yoga.
WE DEFINE LIGHTWORKERS AS THOSE THAT BRING AND SPREAD LIGHT AND POSITIVITY INTO THE WORLD. WHAT MAKES YOU A LIGHTWORKER?
I see light in myself and I know that it exists in every other person. If I can be an example of what that light looks like shining, and that can help somebody feel like they can shine their light, I’m happy to be there for that.
Angie’s shining her light on others and seeing the light in them — how are you sharing your inner light with the world today? Shine on in the comments!