This week on WCLK's The Local Take(Saturday mornings at eight), I talk about Black women's mental health with professor and author Dr. Stephanie Y. Evans. This is the focus of her new book Black Women's Yoga History – Memoirs of Inner Peace. Many perceptions exist about the people who practice yoga. Many people might think a book about Black Women and yoga couldn't be historical.
I share that I learned about hot yoga from a girlfriend who explained that the practice gave her balance physically and mentally. I immediately thought "I need that." After my first Bikram Hot Yoga class, I was hooked.
I asked Evan how she came to focus on yoga and Black women from a historical perspective. She speaks about collecting life stories and memoirs of Black women. She specifically looked at references to meditation, music, prayer, yoga, and exercise. These are the ways humans face stress. In collecting the stories of nonagenarians and centenarians, she found numerous references to meditation and yoga. In asking the questions how did we, Black women, survive historically under the stress and pressure of life, family, and work, she found the practice of YOGA stood out.
I ask about learning African breathing exercise with an eight-count breath compared to my yoga practice with a six-count breath. She speaks about the South East Asian scholars who established the yoga practice brought to the US in 1893 by Swami Vivekananda. Evans also speaks about ancient African and Chinese traditions around breathing and meditation. There was a yoga boom in the sixties and seventies that some thought was weird, but the practice came from ancient traditions.
I ask Evans about any surprises that she found in researching her book. She mentions Rosa Parks teaching yoga in the seventies and Tina Turner's yoga practice and chanted recordings.
When I asked Evans what was next, she mentioned that she was attempting to stay in this moment. Humans are always looking forward, and after the last year, she's happy to sit in the now.
Evans will sign books at the Charis Book Store on Sunday, August 8th, at 6:30PM.
For more information about Black Women's Yoga History – Memoirs of Inner Peace
For more information about Dr. Stephanie Y. Evans