Black Women's Yoga History

Memoirs of Inner Peace

By Stephanie Y. Evans
Foreword by Jana Long

Subjects: African American Studies, Women's Studies, Yoga, Psychology, Social And Cultural History
Series: SUNY series in Black Women's Wellness
Paperback : 9781438483641, 472 pages, July 2021
Hardcover : 9781438483634, 472 pages, March 2021

Alternative formats available from:

Table of contents


Jana Long, cofounder and executive director, Black Yoga Teachers Alliance

Preface. What Lies Inside: Writing Myself Well


Introduction. Mental Health, Healing, and Wellness: An Intellectual History of Self-Care

Part I: Look Inward. Healing Traditions (A 1975 Portrait)

1. Yoga is Self-Possession

2. Managing Traumatic Stress

3. Medica, cura te ipsum—Physician, Heal Thyself: Meditation on a Fiftieth Birthday

Part II: Look Backward. Historical Wellness (Pre-1975)

4. Blue Zones for Black Women: Centenarians on Mind, Body, and Spirit

5. Weathering the Weary Blues: Enslavement, Jane Crow, and Migration

6. Everyday Violence, Everyday Peace: Civil Rights, Black Power, and a New Age

Part III: Look Forward. Toward Mental Health (Post-1975)

7. Memoirs are Mentors: Narratives of Africana Yoga

8. Survivor Self-Care: Midlife Mindfulness and Wellness Activism

9. The Purpose of Black Women's Studies: Meditation on a Fiftieth Anniversary

Conclusion. Woosah—Remember to Breathe: Ancient Peace, Self-Care Pedagogy, and the Future of Africana Yoga

Coda. My Last Will and Testament: Stress and Inner Peace during a Global Pandemic

Selected Bibliography

Examines how Black women elders have managed stress, emphasizing how self-care practices have been present since at least the mid-nineteenth century, with roots in African traditions.


How have Black women elders managed stress? In Black Women's Yoga History, Stephanie Y. Evans uses primary sources to answer that question and to show how meditation and yoga from eras of enslavement, segregation, and migration to the Civil Rights, Black Power, and New Age movements have been in existence all along. Life writings by Harriet Jacobs, Sadie and Bessie Delany, Eartha Kitt, Rosa Parks, Jan Willis, and Tina Turner are only a few examples of personal case studies that are included here, illustrating how these women managed traumatic stress, anxiety, and depression. In more than fifty yoga memoirs, Black women discuss practices of reflection, exercise, movement, stretching, visualization, and chanting for self-care. By unveiling the depth of a struggle for wellness, memoirs offer lessons for those who also struggle to heal from personal, cultural, and structural violence. This intellectual history expands conceptions of yoga and defines inner peace as mental health, healing, and wellness that is both compassionate and political.

Stephanie Y. Evans is a Professor of Black Women's Studies, Director of the Institute for Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, and Affiliate Faculty in the Department of African American Studies and in the Center for the Study of Stress, Trauma, and Resilience at Georgia State University. Her books include Black Women and Social Justice Education: Legacies and Lessons (coedited with Andrea D. Domingue and Tania D. Mitchell); Black Women's Mental Health: Balancing Strength and Vulnerability (coedited with Kanika Bell and Nsenga K. Burton); and African Americans and Community Engagement in Higher Education: Community Service, Service-Learning, and Community-Based Research (coedited with Colette M. Taylor, Michelle R. Dunlap, and DeMond S. Miller), all published by SUNY Press.


"…useful to a broad range of readers, including students and scholars in women's studies, Black women's studies, intellectual history, and religion and health. The life stories of the popular figures whom they respect will attract general interest readers. Her well-indexed text makes this encyclopedic volume easy to read selectively for this interdisciplinary range of research purposes." — Nova Religio

"Extensively researched and candidly personal, this history of Black women's self-care practices explores the African roots to the current multitude of ways Black women have for resting, healing, managing stress, and finding restorative inner peace." — Ms. Magazine

"Truly a labor of love and a gift, this groundbreaking book demystifies Black women's self-care by providing very explicit examples of what it looks like and how to do it! I look forward to recommending and sharing it." — Karla D. Scott, author of The Language of Strong Black Womanhood: Myths, Models, Messages, and a New Mandate for Self-Care