Swim Lessons: Black Motherhood, Embodied Meditation, and Healing


  • Kimberly Nao Mount Saint Mary's University


autoethnography, Black motherhood, embodiment, parenting, yoga, contemplation


Contemplative practices offer a site for resilience, healing, and alleviation of the pressures of parenting within the context of oppressive systems, particularly for Black single mothers. This autoethnography offers an understanding of how meditation through embodied movement facilitates physical and emotional healing individually and within the parent-child relationship. Through personal storytelling, the author describes how swim lessons, taught by son to mother, heal the pain, anger, and separation they experienced during the difficult teen and young adult years. Swimming, with its patterned movement, intrinsic breathwork, and meditative quality, helps mother and son negotiate his shift into adulthood, his challenges with mental health, and the mother’s use of yoga asana (physical practice) and meditation for self-care. Contemplation plays a key role in breaking down patterns of behavior and thought (samskaras) and allows them to move forward in new ways of relating to each other through “letting be.”

Author Biography

Kimberly Nao, Mount Saint Mary's University

Kimberly Nao is an antiracism consultant and an Associate Professor of Education at Mount Saint Mary’s University. She is a certified yoga and mindfulness instructor and has studied yoga in the U.S. and India. She teaches yoga as a personally and socially transformative practice.


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