Updated: Jul 1, 2021
“The words and ideals of the patriarchy, which have shaped our lives, continue to shape the language, concepts and theories of psychology and of our field of body-psychotherapy. And they will continue to do so until we begin to realise that the scientific-medical model, which we follow, and the essentially soulless tenets of academic psychology we have been taught are the products of and the perpetuators of the disembodied ego which formulated them. This ego, which is the representative of the cerebro-spinal system, has separated itself off from the totality of the organism and assumed dominance over the body and other parts of the psyche that are essential to our wholeness as human beings. It is the dominance of the disembodied ego that has split us within, depriving us of the richness of our inner-world – of connection to the feminine aspects of our beings – to our own souls and to the souls and bodies of others.” (Brown, 2003, p. 21).
Western psychology is results-driven, particularly when combined with the demands of corporate medical insurance. Treatment approaches are medicalised and focus on the individual. This approach was conceived in the global North and may (arguably) work for Westernised cultures that focus on intra-psychic elements such as healing the ego and prioritising individual thoughts and feelings. However, in an African context, where daily life is focused on community, family, nature, and the ancestors, with inter-psychic wellbeing determining individual wellness, this approach is unfamiliar and alienating and fails to heal the African soul.
Including modes of healing that are familiar within African healing contexts such as voice, sound, movement, and rhythm in a therapeutic approach creates an immediate bridge across which the healer can walk to meet the ones who need healing.
Brown’s quote evokes the revolutionary in me, an old comrade who has well-trod the path of bucking the system. Yoga therapy has been a way of life since I was young. Not that I thought of it as yoga therapy back in the seventies and eighties; I simply chose not to observe allopathic routes of healing, exploring herbal and homeopathic remedies, body wisdom and earth support, and not knowing that I was accessing lineage knowledge through an ancient foremother-healer until much later in my life. Not knowing much of anything actually, just listening to the voices within that I only realised years later were the voices of my ancestors speaking in images, dreams and scraps of sound, guiding and instructing me to walk, stop, turn, swim, and fly. In this way I made the choice to have my first child in my bath at home, no doctors having been allowed to monitor my precious child’s progress in-utero because I found them to be opinionated, and fearful. I chose instead to use a magical wise elder who mirrored my foremother in being a woman of the earth, using the earth’s gifts for healing herself and others, knowing how to whisper to the wombs of women who wanted no part of fearful birthing. She listened with her heart and her inner ear to the beat of my son’s heart in my womb, no heart monitor necessary. And I listened to her.
This rich inner world, mirroring Brown’s feminine aspect, is what yoga therapy rests on: the capacity to know (and trust that you know) without having to resort to a machine to measure what the heart can hear and feel so clearly. The rich inner world that connects us to each other, to forests, mountains, oceans, and the ground we live on, is powered by subtle energy fields that run through everything. Learning to navigate decision making as a yoga therapist is fine tuning your personal subtle fields to operate at the same frequency as subtle energy fields outside your body, whether they be in someone else’s body, underneath the earth’s surface in underground water, or in parallel dimensions of reality. Graduating as a yoga therapist is not so much a process of time as it is a process of space. Increasing your internal spaces to match and overlap with every space that is so-called “outside” your body certainly takes time but only because we need to overcome the conditioning of the “scientific-medical model” that Brown speaks of, that encourages us to believe only what we can see. And you can’t see, or measure, subtle energy. Yet.
African Kundalini Yoga rests on the premise that indigenous knowledge systems hold the key to our contemporary healing as a species. We don’t want to go “back” to the old ways as much as we want to bring the old ways into the now, to expand and enliven contemporary ways with the beat and pulse of the body. Tuning ourselves to the heart, which has the greatest electromagnetic charge of any organ in the body, may hold the key to healing in community, and to communities of healers leading the way for everyone else.
Training yoga therapists in Africa means integrating the ancient healing knowledge that lives in this piece of the earth with that knowledge embedded in the healing system of yoga. The impact of bringing these two together in me has resulted in a wide-open channel, like an infinite womb in my psyche, with an unceasing desire to bring forth the new. After many decades of labouring to birth, Sat Sangat Yoga Therapy is born, and I feel the welcoming sigh in my foremothers for a birth that fulfils the lineage prophecy.