A Study of Mental Health and Wellness




Black Women's Yoga History

I define yoga as an inner peace practice to unify mind, body, and spirit. I study how African American women's #historicalwellness is recorded in memoirs and autobiographies since at least the mid-nineteenth century. This work demonstrates how Black women's self-care traditions, including meditation and yoga, are feminist-womanist acts of liberation.

          My inner peace and wellness research began in 2013 and has been quite a journey.  In my work, I highlight power brokers (redefining power through writing), self-healers on a quest for mental health, and elders in their 90s and 100s who offer guides for longevity. Rosa Parks (who lived to age 92) is a primary example of Black women's yoga history: she learned "stretching" from her mother, took formal classes with nieces and nephews and--in her 60s--taught yoga to communities in Detroit and Akron. As cited in a Yoga Journal's "Yoga 101/Wisdom feature, this healing history is also part of understanding the struggle for civil and human rights.  

          As intellectual history, memoirs unveil strategies found in IndexUS and other public health research. I argue that memoirs are mentors and elders offer tools for sustainable wellness. These practices are especially important for survivors of sexual violence, an issue which disproportionately impacts Black women. Women like Sonia Sanchez, Jana Long, and Kanika Bell write about peace as a practice. Black women's yoga history builds on their research.

          For more information, read "From Worthless to Wellness" in ​Black Women's Mental Health (SUNY, 2017) and visit Meditation Memoirs.