As she looked out on her class of eager yoga students, Caroline Collins knew she had found something she loved. But she still felt something was missing.

The instructor has taught the ancient Indian practice of yoga, which incorporates physical and mental exercises, since getting her certification in 2015.

“In our yoga teacher training, I would look around the studio and think, ‘On the one hand this is cool. We have a fairly diverse group of trainees. On the other hand, something is missing for me,’” Collins said. “I was a Black person practicing in predominantly white spaces … I had people who questioned whether I was really the teacher.”

photo by Caroline Collins

Then, the pandemic hit in 2020. While stuck at home, Collins turned to her computer. She learned about kemetic yoga, which has roots in ancient Egypt. For the first time, she could access training classes through online offerings.

She felt an instant connection with the practice, she said.

“When I started practicing kemetic yoga, it was like everything clicked. This was something passed down through generations. While a lot of that history may not have been told, might’ve been lost, that’s what the connection was for me,” she said.

Her online classes taught how kemetic yoga in Egypt and migrated to India, she said. She felt pride learning about the African origins.

“To know we were a part of the inspiration, that’s what I needed,” Collins said.

photo by Caroline Collins

Collins got her certification in kemetic yoga and started teaching it in Memphis, including a class at the River Garden park along the Mississippi River. Fellow yoga instructor Libby Campo, who owns Your Inner Yogi, attended the class and also connected with the practice.

“The purpose of the practice is for cultivation elevation,” Campo said. “In kemetic yoga, we have geometric poses and the intention is to move slow and intentionally to be guided by the breath. It’s more like a moving meditation.”

VaShaunna Dixson does a yoga pose in front of the pyramids in Egypt. (submitted photo)

But the history of kemetic yoga stuck with both of them more than anything else. Campo even took a trip to Egypt to explore further.

“Those poses were part of a larger spiritual foundation practiced by our Egyptian ancestors over 5,000 years ago,” Campo said. “Representation matters, to see the representation and how we originated this practice and how it got in everything we’ve done.”

The two women are now on a mission to bring kemetic yoga to as many people as they can. They have taught programs across Memphis to nearly 200 people, including VaShaunna Dixson.

Dixson found out about the kemetic yoga offerings while shopping at Lucyja Hygge, a spirituality store on McLean Boulevard in Midtown.

She ended up taking the classes in a series offered by Your Inner Yogi at the store.

“It’s been a great learning experience of seeing where yoga was started from,” Dixson said. “Being African American, I am more so connected with the African aspect of it. It makes me personally feel more present. I’m present with my ancestors and my history.”

Collins and Campo are targeting other non-traditional yoga spaces like TONE and the Orange Mound Community Center.

“The folks we’re trying to reach may not think about stepping foot in a yoga studio. We’re trying to meet them where they are,” Collins said.

“it’s inspiring to be able to connect with more people and also bring a certain type of awareness that many of us just don’t have,” Campo said.

The connection came full circle when she and Collins did kemetic yoga at the River Garden park along the banks of the Mississippi River in the shadow of the Pyramid in Downtown Memphis.

Memphis is named for a city with the same name in Egypt, which served as an ancient capital of the lower region.

“We really want all Memphians to understand you’re in a city that has ties to Egypt, to these ancient civilizations and practices,” Collins said. “It’s really beautiful to practice along the River because a lot of these practices were practiced along the banks of the Nile River.” Collins said.

Students have told her they feel like they’re being transported to “another place and time.”

photo by Caroline Collins

To learn more about Your Inner Yogi’s kemetic yoga offerings, visit https://yourinneryogi.com/what-is-kemetic-yoga/.