By Gilayna Santos, Franceska De Oro, and Kat Barnett
While the origin of Yoga predates written history, what we do know is that present-day yoga stems from the Vedic scriptures – ancient scriptures written in an ancient language called Sanskrit that came out of India. It is believed that an old sage named Patanjali, who lived in the 2nd century BCE, took the Vedic scriptures and constructed a form of classical yoga also known as Raja Yoga. This type of yoga consists of 8 limbs (or levels) that, if followed, can help a person attain control over the mind and connect with the spirit.
Yoga in sanskrit means “union” or “to connect”. In honor of Mes Chamoru (Chamoru month), this challenge is an attempt to connect the dots between the practice and culture of yoga with the values and culture of the Chamoru people. Hopefully, encouraging participants to connect to themselves and the CHamoru heritage in a meaningful way.
We are inspired by the history of yoga and the resilience of the Indian people who have carried this sacred tradition for thousands of years. India was colonized beginning in the 18th century by the British, recently gaining independence in 1947. Sound familiar? Guåhan itself was colonized for almost 400 years by the Spanish and, to this day, remains a modern-day colony of the United States. For almost 200 years, the practice of yoga was demonized by the British government and subjected to several evolutionary changes; however, with its strong roots in spiritual development, it remains an important aspect of Indian culture.
In yoga, the word “prana” means life-force or the universal sea of energy that infuses and vitalizes all matter. In fino’ Chamoru (Chamoru language) there is a similar word – “kåna” (kuh-nuh), meaning spiritual energy. You might recognize this, as it is very similar to the CHamoru word “kannai” (kuh-nai) meaning “hand”. In fino’ Chamoru, when “-i” or “-yi” is added to the end of a word it transforms its meaning into an action towards another object. For example, “sångan” means “to tell” therefore “sangåni” means to “tell to [something]” or “sangåni yu’” – “tell to me”. The deeper meaning of “kannai” could be related to a transfer of energy through the hands. In CHamoru culture, it is believed that energy is moved through the hands, especially when referring to medicinal massage and gardening – a gift believed to only be bestowed upon a select few. In colonization, dominant cultures change the narrative around indigenous practices to encourage the colonized to assimilate. When the Spanish colonized Guåhan almost 500 years ago, they used a religious frame to document and demonize our unique spiritual practices. Fast forward to today, the dictionary definition for “kåna” is “hex” or a “spell.” Similarly, the word “ma’kåna” – meaning “spiritual healer” – is described as a “witch doctor.”
Reclaiming and exploring CHamoru words that describe spirituality in tandem with the yogic philosophy allows us to learn more about our culture and view Yoga through a more thoughtful, accurate and sensitive lens. Furthermore, creating an awareness of the similarities between us as people and to encourage individuals to find themselves and their kåna along the way. Beginners, experts, teachers, Chamorus, non-Chamorus- ALL are encouraged to learn, participate and share in whatever way this challenge resonates with you. Biba Mes Chamoru yan Nåmaste!
How the Challenge Works
Each week the first two limbs or levels of yoga, the Yamas and the Niyamas, will be shared and expanded upon along with the CHamoru equivalent.
First Limb – Yamas: guidelines/ principles for harmony with the world
Second Limb – Niyamas: guidelines/ principles for harmony with yourself
Chamoru Cultural Principle – Inafamaolek: the Chamorro concept of restoring harmony or order. The literal translation is ‘to make’ (inafa’) ‘good’ (maolek) (Guampedia)
We will then offer a simple challenge through meditation or physical poses to encourage you to embody the principles shared for the week. We will have photos, videos, and written instructions to guide you along the way.
How You Can Participate
When the challenge is released, you will have all week to read, digest, and practice the meditation or poses on your own. Each physical sequence will be 5-10 minutes long, depending on how long you feel comfortable in the poses. Each sequence is scaled to all levels including beginners!
If you would like to experience the challenge in person, Gilayna will expand on it in her Saturday yoga classes at Guam Muay Thai in Mangilao. Classes will begin at 9:30 AM and end at 10:45. The drop in rate is $10, and mats are provided but we recommend you show up early to reserve yours.
At the end of the month on Sunday March 31st, we will be hosting a class that will be open to the public tying in all the elements featured during the Kåna Yoga Challenge. Details on this event will be announced soon!
Stay tuned into this challenge by turning on notifications for Maga’håga Rising on Instagram. You can also subscribe to our email list here for updates to be sent to your inbox. Lastly, don’t forget to tag us and tag any posts you share related to the challenge with the hashtag #kånayogachallenge, #cultivateyourkåna