We were all beginners at some point in our yoga practice. This month I am sharing some insight from some inspirational yogis I meet over the years. I hope their stories will inspire and motivate you in your yoga practice and teaching endeavors. This month I am highlighting (Eternity Founder of Soul Liberation Wellness and Kamili Yoga™)
SFCY: Tell us a little bit about yourself :)
Eternity: Greetings! I am Eternity Philops, Yoga wellness educator, and coach based in Charlotte, North Carolina. Yoga education is essentially my full-time work/career. I am certified in both Indian Hatha Yoga and African Kemetic Yoga, and I’ve been teaching since 2017. This year in 2020 I launched my own system of Yoga, Kamili Yoga™: an Afrocentric system of complete union rooted in Pan-African cultures and knowledge. It was birthed to help give more options for African styles of Yoga, which we majorly lack. www.KamiliYoga.com
SFCY: How did you get introduced to yoga and when did yoga get serious?
Eternity: It’s a really interesting story, at least to me, because it was a full 180 enlightenment.
Like many Black folks, I really didn’t give any thoughts to Yoga. I always looked at it as---forgive my language---“some White people sh**.” I just saw it as an exercise and didn’t know anything more. This mindset was further engrained when I went to a “beginner” hot yoga class with an acquaintance and we were two of a handful of people of color in a class of over sixty people…everyone else was White. Plus the instructor just yelled out poses and folks seemed to just know how to do them. I ended up copying the White guy standing next to me to keep up, lol. So though I gave it chance, I still left feeling the same about yoga.
Fast forward a few months and another acquaintance, a Black woman, was in yoga teacher training and was doing a small practice class. I went to be supportive and there were only about 5 or 6 of us, all Black. This time the experience was far different. It was slower, more intimate, and the energy was much better. It felt like I had actually experienced “real” yoga, even though I still didn’t really know what that was. But the experience led me to specifically seek Black women yoga teachers in my community. I found two and picked one that served my schedule.
At my very first class, the teacher was doing Chakra yoga. Mind you, I barely knew what a Chakra was, but I was with it! After that, unbeknownst to me, my path was set. This was when I started really researching Yoga and learned that it is a philosophy of personal evolution, which I was already focused on at the time. I learned that my personal spiritual path was already Yoga! It was a bit mind-blowing, honestly. All these years of seeing and hearing about Yoga, and I never had any idea of what it really was, yet it was already in alignment with my life. That’s Spirit at work!
Then came the teacher training. I actually had no intention to become a yoga teacher. I wanted to be an assistant at best, hand out some props and maybe help with some assists, lol. But a wonderful local teacher, Kiesha Battles, evidently had her eye on me, because she came up to me one day and said, “I’m going to train you.” And I just said, “Okay!” Because I don’t believe in turning down opportunities, lol. And through my training with her, I was serendipitously connected with the creator of Kemetic Yoga, Yirser Ra Hotep. Through him, I got the opportunity to do an immersive Kemetic Yoga training…in JAMAICA! Another opportunity to which I said yes.
Basically, I would not be where I am if I had not said “yes” to these Spirit-led chances to grow and learn in Yoga if I had not chosen to continue to follow this path to a destination unknown, which has led me to Kamili Yoga™ and my student Kamili Collective
And it’s been an absolutely beautiful journey! SFCY: Can you share your biggest challenges within teaching yoga?
Eternity: Hmmm…there’s definitely a number of challenges when teaching Yoga. We all know about the lack of representation and diversity in mainstream Yoga spaces, so I won’t go deeply into that. But as a queer Black person, I soon started to find that even in Black-centered Yoga spaces, I wasn’t always sure it was a “safe” space for me. It’s not uncommon for seemingly woke, holistic, Afrocentric Black folks to still be very intolerant toward Black queer folx. And many Black Yoga spaces are still very heteronormative in having lots of gendered speech and body essentialism. So I make sure to highlight and represent my Self as a Black queer yogi so people can see that, yes, we’re here too.
On the business side, many people, including new teachers, don’t realize that making a living teaching Yoga is extremely difficult. Stable income has been the biggest challenge; following your passion doesn’t always immediately pay the bills. But Spirit has carried me this far, and choose to believe that my needs will be met if I continue to do my work.
SFCY: Where do you find your motivation to keep practicing and teaching yoga?
Eternity: My motivation comes from never forgetting the impact that learning the truth of Yoga had on me. Yoga knowledge changed my life because it gave a name to a path I was already walking, which was incredibly affirming.
I teach because I want my people to know the healing that is possible through Yoga, and that it is more than doing a downward dog or headstand pose. I want my people, Black and Black+Queer, to know and feel like they have a place in Yoga because common images don’t tell us that. And I want my people to be able to use Yoga as a way to connect to their Pan-African roots. Most yogic teachings are through ancient Indian traditions. And there’s nothing wrong with that because India created some absolutely wonderful systems. But delving into Indian heritage will not take us to our African heritage. That is why Kamili Yoga™ now exists. SFCY: How did yoga influence your life beyond the mat?
tuYoga has always been “beyond the mat” for me. In fact, speaking of Yoga “beyond the mat” enforces the belief that Yoga exists first and foremost on the mat. It doesn’t and didn’t until it came to Western audiences. Yoga is a lifestyle. It is a philosophy. It is meant to influence your daily actions and choices in ways that honor you, others, and your Higher Power, however that exists for you. So the way Yoga influences me “beyond the mat” is to be conscious of and intentional about following the tenets of numerous Yoga systems and to never reduce Yoga to just being on the mat. What does your typical day look like?
I don’t really have a typical day, lol. I can say that my typical week is a combination of teaching Kamili Collective community classes, teaching Yoga courses at my local HBCU, doing LOTS of computer work on websites and social media pages, reading, and research, recording lessons, teaching private clients, maybe having a photo session (I’m also a professional photographer), and definitely watching lots of anime!
What is your favorite style to practice/ teach?
In terms of traditional Indian Yoga, my two favorite systems are Raja Yoga, the 8-Limbed Path, and Jnana Yoga, union through knowledge. These two are a bit more cerebral, which really draws me. I love being a student and teacher of Kemetic Yoga because it was my first introduction to non-Indian Yoga and the extremely slow flow style affirmed my personal slow flow style.
showed me that creating my modern Afrocentric system was possible too.
And of course, Kamili Yoga™ is my favorite system to teach because this is the system given to me by Spirit. Kamili Yoga™ for me is both passion and purpose, and because it began with me, if I don’t practice it and teach it to others, it would end with me.
Who is your inspiration?
I don’t often have personal inspirations or role models. In a way, all historical Black folks who have done their work and changed our lives over decades and generations are who inspire me to keep moving forward. They show me what can be done, and that even if the impact wasn’t felt in their lifetime, it can be felt by generations to come. I don’t know if the work I do will make a huge difference while I’m alive, but I’m inspired to do it so that it has a chance to impact descendants of the future
What are your future plans/goals/dreams for your yoga business/practice?
My primary goal is to teach and spread Kamili Yoga™ to as many students as I can. Kamili Yoga™ is a structured system with specific tenets and practices, so it needs to be directly taught in the same way systems like Kemetic Yoga and Raja Yoga must be taught. To aid in this I created the Kamili Collective, my membership platform where students who are drawn to this system can dive in to the lectures and lessons. My goal for 2021 is to begin the Kamili Yoga™ certification program because just as I want Kamili Yoga™ students, I also want Kamili Yoga™ teachers. Click here to learn more about the collective Yoga teacher training.
Anything else you want to add?
To share a few other projects I do, I am the creator of BlackYogaMagic, an online Yoga directory of teachers of the African diaspora. More information on this is at www.BlackYogaMagic.com
My primary wellness business is Soul Liberation Wellness. Through Soul Liberation Wellness I teach holistic wellness from other Yoga systems, mainly Hatha Yoga, Raja Yoga, and Kemetic Yoga. I also do sound healing work. www.MySoulLiberation.com
Aaaaaaand if you want to see a few of my other business enterprises, you can visit www.EternityEnterprises.com
Listen to the whole interview on the podcast "From My Mat to Yours" Now available on Apple Podcast, Good Podcast, and more
A bodaciously Black and unapologetically queer conscious being, Eternity works to educate and serve marginalized communities of Black folks and BlaQue (Black+Queer) folx in Yoga wellness and sacred Self-care. Eternity began teaching Yoga professionally in 2017 and has taught hundreds of students through community classes, university courses, private sessions, and wellness retreats. Addressing the limited options for Afrocentric forms of Yoga, Spirit-led Eternity to create Kamili Yoga™, a modern Pan-African Yoga system. Kamili Yoga™ is Eternity's answer to the need for more culturally diverse Yoga systems, more Yoga systems that de-center Whiteness, and more Yoga systems that recognize the beautiful depths of Black and African being.