THE VESSEL THROUGH WHICH SPIRIT IS
Hard-won certifications in Kemetic yoga led to the opening of Sacred Geometry, a studio not far from the downtown Arts District. That’s where an ancestral shrine, the smell of incense and often the quiet beat of live djembe align to coax the limbs into the challenge of poses that Maticia Sudah has traveled throughout Egypt and parts of the Caribbean to master. The business owner, plant-based chef and wellness activist feels the shared breath and discipline of ancient traditions can heal a community.
I came to Las Vegas seven years ago when my husband, Yusef, had a business opportunity here. We were in Wisconsin when he said, “Hey, you wanna move to Las Vegas?” I had been in Wisconsin for quite a while, my whole life, actually. I’d travelled, but always lived in either Milwaukee or Chicago. But, I said, “Sure.” That’s how I came upon Las Vegas. I was part of a community in Milwaukee. When I came here, I had no one. I had no connections. I didn’t know how to navigate around the city. It was very painful. Even trying to continue a yoga practice in a studio was very difficult for me. I’d started practicing a lot on my own, when my husband ran into the late elder Sam Smith at the bookstore Native Son. I was spending a lot of time cooking at home, which results in a lot of eating. Within a short amount of time, I’d gained some unwanted weight. I was feeling a little sad. My husband came back from Native Son and he was so excited. He was like, “Honey, I found our people. I found our tribe.” And I was like, “Sure you have. Whatever.” He began telling me about the bookstore; then he said Sam Smith directed him to the West Las Vegas Cultural Arts Center. My husband went on happened to be on a Saturday when all the activities were going on — the drumming, the dancing, the ballet, the hip hop — just the community. All ages, the entire village, from babies to elders. I went that next Saturday and signed up to take African dance. When I walked in, the first person I saw was China. The very first person. I’m 6-foot-3. China is 5 feet on a good day. She was like, “Wow, I haven’t seen you before. How may I help you?” I told her I was there for the African dance class and she said, “I’m the teacher. Come on this way.” Once those drums started and I started dancing, something in me just opened up. I’d always wanted to take dance as a child, but my creative side was not supported as a youth. I danced. Even though I did not dance very well, I danced from the heart. My first solo at the center was just totally wrong. I froze up. I didn’t even care. I just started clapping like an insane person. I was just so happy to be amongst my people. You know there’s a certain energy that vibrates when you get around those who are mirror reflections of you. And that energy, that spirit coming off the drum, and doing our authentic native dances from West Africa that China’s worked so hard to keep at the center, it just really changed my life. I lost 30 pounds doing African dance and I started practicing my yoga more. I started becoming more balanced, because now I had community. Now I had family. Then one day, the director of the center, Ms. Marcia, came up to me and asked, “What are you going to contribute to the village?” I was in process of getting certified in vinyasa flow and she just let me teach. I was going to Costa Rica, initially, and then one of the elders in the community said, “Have you ever heard of Kemetic yoga?” She told me Kemet was the ancient name for Egypt and that the movements, poses and postures mimic the pyramid walls. I had already been practicing yoga for 20 years by this point and I’d never heard that. I just absorbed that information. I went to Jamaica and I got certified. Teaching yoga from an African perspective to African people in my community is transformative for me. My youngest student is 4 and my oldest is 90. I am just honored to be the vessel through which spirit is working. Vegas, even in its not-so-positive stereotypical image has really been my ashram.