Cultivating stillness in the spirit with Empress Jah9...
In July 2017, in conjunction with the 82nd birthday of His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie I, I travelled to a remote village in the North-East corner of France. Home to around six hundred residents, La Petite Pierre sits in the middle of a huge, never-ending, nature-heavy forest, and in the middle of that sits La Clairiere Bio Spa & Hotel, where Jah9’s first ever Yoga on Dub retreat was to take place. The week was joyous and enlightening, and the second edition of Yoga on Dub called me to the same location with intense motivation in August 2018.
For those not familiar with the powerful lioness that is Jah9, her first album 'New Name' was released in 2013 to both commercial and critical acclaim, and she has been releasing music for almost a decade. Hailing from Jamaica and very much in touch with her African roots, Jah9 is on a mission to enlighten and inspire through the use of spoken word. During her 2018 retreat in France, I took a moment to sit with 9 and discuss all things Yoga on Dub.
What is Yoga on Dub?
9: Yoga on Dub, for me, is a way to use music, which people are always more open to and which has a way of opening people; infusing that with the yoga and presenting it to people in a way that is easy for them to absorb and to help them to get into their bodies and really allow the work of yoga to happen.
For people that may be hearing about Yoga on Dub for the first time, what can they expect from the experience?
9: Yoga on Dub happens differently, depending on where it is. We’re here at La Clairiere, second year in a row that we’ve done it here, and when it happens here it is a retreat as opposed to a one day event. [La Clairiere] is the only place I do it so far as a retreat. The intention is to do some retreats in Jamaica and bring people back to where the culture started, and give them an experience that is not just based in one space.
When it’s here, we try to give them a little bit of cultural experience, a little bit of reasoning; [it’s] a mellow vibes so it’s not all serious and stressful. It’s an opportunity to share with I on a human level and it’s an opportunity to learn about drumming, about ital food, about His Imperial Majesty in a more relaxed setting, and to ask questions; to feel more comfortable to relate. Of course, it is an opportunity for my band to be a part of the teaching process as well, so it’s really just an opportunity to share.
As a teacher, I like the opportunity to observe the bodies of my students over time, and so I had the opportunity to watch people, even in just three days, two sessions a day, [and] to see bodies open; to see the breath change; to see people begin to cultivate stillness and begin to understand it, not just in their brain but in their bodies. This is why it is important to do these extended type of approaches to sharing the yoga.
Why is yoga important?
9: Yoga is important because it is how one connects breath and movement to find stillness. This is why I was drawn to it and this is why I’ve learnt the different styles. In learning the different styles of yoga, including African based yoga, it has helped me to see that it’s not so much about styles; it’s about the purpose. For a lot of people, they are not aware of the powerful healing tool that is yoga.
Jah9 in the midst of an intimate performance at Yoga On Dub 2018, backed by Jah D and Ras Jahnoy 'Jellis' Ellis of the Dub Treatment.
Jah9 specialises in Kemetic yoga, the earliest known form of yoga which has its roots in Ancient Egypt, known in those times as Kemet, and the multi-talented Empress is also trained in Iyengar and Ashtanga methods. Many of the poses we performed in class were direct interpretations of the ancient poses inscribed in the walls of the pyramids of Kemet.
By practising these sacred methods, one is able to tune in to frequencies of meditation formed thousands of years ago by the world's first ever practitioners.
Yoga tutorials can be found on Jah9’s YouTube channel and for more information on Yoga on Dub, keep it locked to Jah9’s website at www.jah9.com
My full interview with Jah9 will be available soon on YouTube - search "Jah9 ZionHeightsTV" to find it.
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