Yogapreneur: Yirser Ra Hotep Discusses His Unique Yoga Style

Yogapreneur Yirser Ra Hotep, explains why his Yoga business is much more than a career.


Yirser Ra Hotep considers himself to be a Yoga Practitioner who just happens to be a teacher and an entrepreneur.  Not only is he the most senior instructor of Kemetic Yoga in the U.S. but he also created a new style called YogaSkills Method (YSM) which ventures away from the traditional Indian teachings of Yoga.  Both styles have roots in ancient Egypt and combine movement with breath control.

After practicing and teaching yoga for over 30 years, Hotep decided one of his life’s missions was to influence others and bring Kemetic Yoga and YSM to the mainstream.  He is well on his way to achieving that goal, as he has produced various Yoga products, such as CDs, videos, and training retreats.  His intention is to have an international organization with certified instructors teaching and promoting his unique brand of Yoga.

Hotep shares with his motivations and strategies that will make his vision come to fruition.

What was the impetus behind venturing into the health and fitness industry as an entrepreneur?

My main motivation for making health and wellness my business is [knowing] that what I have to offer is sorely needed.  My business evolved from teaching daily Yoga classes to taking on private students for one-on-one stress management to owning a studio.  As time went on, I decided that I wanted to travel and increase brand awareness for the style of Yoga I teach which is called Kemetic Yoga and the YogaSkills Method.  Initially, I traveled giving lectures, workshops and master classes.  I’ve recently added teacher training and certification to the mix, which is a major part of my business.   We currently have over 300 certified instructors nationally and internationally.

How has business been going for you?

Business is going very well for YogaSkills right now.  Even though we are in a recession, people are actually seeking out training and certification in Yoga as a means of enhancing their personal well-being , as well as an avenue for income.  As part of the my YogaSkills Teacher Training and Certification course, we offer training in business development and innovative ways to use your Yoga Skills for the benefit your clients and as a source of income.  Our teacher training courses are conducted throughout the United States in major cities such as New York, Atlanta, Washington DC metro, Chicago, Los Angeles and others.  We also offer exotic trainings and retreats in Jamaica that are focused on healing.  We actually take our students to out of the way locations to practice Yoga in the rainforests and then to recharge in waterfalls and mineral baths.  We offer activity packages that no one else offers in order to add value to our services and to separate us from the competition.

What resources did you use to start and grow your business?

The first thing I invested was my time and effort into becoming an expert in Yoga and expanding my knowledge of anatomy, physiology, psychology, wholistic health and later, business principles.  I hired a speech coach to improve my public speaking and obtained professional photos for business cards, brochures and websites.  You need to look the part and also be able to articulate your message effectively and communicate with a broad spectrum of potential customers.

In order to help establish my brand, I created posters with various images of me performing Yoga postures and I had a show on cable that reached over 1 million households in Chicago.  I positioned myself to be a guest on various radio shows and after a while, I was featured in Ebony Magazine and appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show.

The main expense I encountered was in creating my first website.  I invested several thousand dollars, which was most of a modest pension I had earned while working for the state of Illinois as a child welfare administrator.

What are some of the challenges you face being an African-American Man in the Yoga space?

It is not expected that a black man would practice Yoga, let alone teach it as an expert or master.  The stereotype is that petite women teach Yoga and only women are flexible enough to be good at it.  So, people are surprised to see a 6 foot, 2 inch, 215 lb., bearded Black dude come up to teach a class.  I’ve also found out the male Yoga teachers are expected to be gay, which I am not.

Even though I meet well-known white Yoga instructors from around the country, I have never been invited to the major Yoga conferences.  Though I haven’t received a lot of play in the mainstream Yoga world, I have strong bonds in the African American community as well as the diaspora and I have requests [to teach] from people of color in South Africa, Ethiopia and New Zealand.

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  • Yogi X

    I’ve been practicing Kemetic Yoga using the YSM method for a year now and one of the greatest skills I’ve learned is allowing my breath to control my movements and thoughts. This technique has spilled over into my daily routine of how I operate, communicate and interact with others. I am grateful for Yirser and wish nothing buy continued success. I look forward to Soul Yoga Fest 2013.

    • wayne b chandler

      First let me say that this was an excellent interview! I began my study of yoga in 1970 and have practiced many of today’s styles. I began my study in Iyengar in 1982. The beauty and power of Yirser’s Yoga Skills Method is that it “re”incorporates specific principles that have been essential to yoga but have been omitted with the development of these recent forms. It is through the breath that authentic power and mental clarity is created and Yirser’s style of yoga focuses intently on this factor. This makes his system and design unique and much more holistic in its approach to establishing a condition of overall health in the human body and mind. So impactful is his system of yoga in the modern world, that it is the only non Indian style recognized by the Yoga Alliance, the global organization which certifies and gives validity to all styles and systems of yoga from America to India. With respect to energetics, it is unrivaled as a yoga discipline because unlike the current styles practiced today which have strong military and masculine influences, his Yoga Skills Method actually blends both masculine and feminine energetic elements, creating a harmonious synthesis in the flow of life force through the human body. I deeply commend Yirser, the yogi’s Yogi for what he has accomplished!

      Wayne B Chandler MS, CPH SCE

  • It has been an true learning experience training under Yirser. He is very knowledgable and passionate about Kemetic Yoga. I’m glad that my foundation is in Kemetic Yoga and that he was my first trainer!

  • It has been an true learning experience training under Yirser. He is very knowledgable and passionate about Kemetic Yoga. I’m glad that my foundation is in Kemetic Yoga and that he was my first trainer!

  • It is both a joy and delight to see Master Yirser featured in Black Enterprise magazine as he is very much a reflection of a Black Enterprise. Kemetic Yoga is the way to health and longevity for us and what better way to achieve that than the way our Ancient Ancestors did in ancient Kemet. It has been a challenging experience to push my body beyond limits that I self imposed, hey being 50 feels great!

  • aunkh

    This was a great article. It’s amazing you can seemingly tell his whole journey to becoming a master teacher in just two pages. Its like reading a blueprint. I salute the author for a job well done.

  • What a wonderful delight to see this article. My heart is singing. Kemetic Yoga & YSM is definately a FORCE TO BE RECKONED WITH. Pharaoh Yirser Ra Hotep Lawrence, may the Divine Creator CONTINUE to bless u. Namaste’

  • Tracey

    The real beauty is through his efforts of bringing about awareness of Kemetic yoga Yiser has brought people together from all over the world.

  • Kemetic Yoga has been the gateway to self transformation, it had an element of spirituality that I had not experienced before in other forms of Yoga. Yirser is my teacher and is inspirational. I am very thankful for his sharing of this ancient art with so many. Thanks Yirser!

  • AriAnkha

    Hotep Master Yirser, it’s “Blacktastic” to see the Yogaskills Method being featured in this awesome publication. It’s about time the world learns of its origin and the benefits of its practice. Kemetic Yoga is a beautiful fluid system that unites the focus of your mind, the breath & unique postures ,to help reduce stress, increase energy flow & bring your entire body into balance.
    I’ve been a Kemetic Yoga instructor (trained by Yirser ofcourse) for 3 yrs. Yirser is more than a yoga teacher, he gives valuble information about the bussiness, motivates you to go that extra mile & brings our great historical past to light in his classes.
    Students in my classes have varied in ages, sizes, & physical abilities but the one thing that is consistent are their comments after class “I had no idea that yoga could be so challenging & rewarding at the same time”,”my body feels so open & my mind at ease “or,”I didn’t know our Ancestors practiced yoga thousands of years ago”. I love helping others reach heights they didn’t think we’re attainable mentally, physically & spiritually plus giving a little history lesson at the same time.
    Yogaskills Method is the TRUTH!!

  • S. Newell

    Great article. It is quite refreshing to see Yirser featured as he’s very passionate about Kemetic yoga. Looking forward to reading more about him and the Yogaskills method.

  • Shaheedah Enahora

    This is what a black man can do when you follow your dreams using the blessings from the ancestors. I love this article. I’m so proud to be a part of the Yoga Kemetic Yoga training

  • Hinerangi

    Wonderful article, great to see Yirser and Kemetic Yoga being profiled – inspiring as always e hoa! Arohanui from Aotearoa (New Zealand)

  • Gira

    It is nice to see the yoga practice presented from the African perspective. I think media could do a better job of showcasing black spiritual practices that are outside of the church and the mosque. Thanks Black Enterprise for taking that step.

  • Every culture and every people have an indigenous right to holistic healthy lifestyles. Master Yirser Ra Hotep, through 30 years of mastering Kemetic Yoga, has reconnected a direct line from ancient Kemetic lifestyle to the African Diaspora today. This link has opened many doors, reawakend curiousities and the fact; that yoga is also a part of the Diaspora. Kemetic Yoga through YogaSkills Method helps one raise and maintain high vibrations. This hypersensitizes one to the practice of consuming unhealthy food, illogical though and unbalanced emotional behavior. Through this empowerment of awareness, one not only makes clear consious decisions on wanting and living a healthy path if life, one practices it. Thank you Master Hotep for living a Kemetic Yoga path and sharing it for all. Thank you Black Enterprise for featuring a great pioneer!

  • Ashiya Swan

    After practicing several styles of Yoga, Kemetic Yoga opened me to my true nature as a healer. I am grateful to have trained with Yirser. His passion for his practice is contagious and his experience in building his business is invaluable to me as I embark on my journey as a Yogapreneur. If you’re looking for a gentle form of yoga to build a foundation for a solid daily practice, give Kemetic Yoga and the YogaSkills Method a try!

  • What is called yoga was founded in ancient Kemet (egypt) thousands of years ago and later taken by the Kememou (Blacks/Africans of Kemet – “Egyptians”) to india.

    African-Americans, Jamaicans, Ghanaians, Nigerians, South Africans, etc. who are drawn to Kemetic Yoga recognize in the approach a reclamation of a component of our Ancestral Spiritual birthright. We have an Ancestral umbilical cord that yokes us to Kemet.

    Yirser’s work is assisting our community to uncover that which was buried within us for a ‘season’.

  • It’s inspiring to see Kemetic Yoga grow in such a magnificent way. What Bro. Yirser is promoting is a healthy lifestyle for people who want wholistic wellness as a way of life. Much success and prosperity to the Kemetic Yoga movement. Thank you Black Enterprise for bringing this to the forefront.

  • I have known Yirser for a good whlie now and met him through a class on stress management. I believe his Yoga Skills program is extremely beneifical. My only challenge has been creating the time and having the funds to visit and take classes regularly to get myself in a state of mind that can truly excel from what he offers. I have often suggested to my colleagues to try his program out.

  • El-Tehuti

    It is great to see Black Enterprise report on development of new markets such as Kemetic Yoga. Keep up the good work of letting readers know where they can spend their money and receive a “healthy” return that supports a positive black lifestyle.

  • My brief experience with Kemetic Yoga has been a positive one my Body know the difference. Thanks so much Bro. Yirser.

  • Vanya Francis

    It has been a remarkable experience studying under Master Yirser. I have been a yoga practitioner for nearly 12 years and few classes and teachers have impacted my life in the way that Yirser has with his Yoga Skills method and the ancient teachings and practices of Kemetic Yoga. Thank you, BE, for recognizing his light and for your Yogapreneur series.

  • Renee Lawrence

    my brother introduced yoga to our family almost 35 years ago….so happy he did….yoga has changed my life….I am almost 50…but I have the energy and mobility of a young child….this is a life long learning journey on the proper manner to maintain…improve….blessed to have Yiser as our guide……Renee Lawrence

  • Simone Foster

    The experience of Kemetic Yoga with Yirser Ra Hotep has been and continues to be an uplifting and empowering journey- it is a blessing to reclaim and become reconnected with the ancient healing wisdom of our ancestors, through this beautiful expression of yoga. I am very grateful to Yirser for his commitment in sharing his YogaSkills Method.

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