The first time you attend a yoga class, you’re anything but Zen. During my first downward dog, my self-doubt dialogue came on strong. While I hadn’t touched my toes since about sixth grade or so, the guy next to me was a grade A showoff. Every chance he got, he took the advanced route until I couldn’t even tell him apart from an Auntie Anne’s pretzel. Alongside him were women who invested some serious om in designer yoga pants, making me question my decades-old college T-shirt. What I wish I knew then applies both on and off the mat: Look straight ahead or look within. Life, like yoga, isn’t a competition.
WOMEN IN NUMBERS: 17 Percent
Since ancient times—long before the advent of bolsters and supportive blocks—humans have practiced the healing and spiritual discipline of yoga. These days, more than 36 million Americans turn to yoga to improve flexibility and strength and help relieve stress. But this restorative practice isn’t necessarily reaching all sects of the American population. More than four-fifths of people who practice yoga in the U.S. are white, with only 17 percent of African-Americans asked in a recent health study saying they rely on an alternative spiritual practice like meditation or yoga to help them stay healthy.
WOMAN TO WATCH: Lauren Ash, Founder and Executive Director of Black Girl in Om
One amazing lady who’s taking action to encourage self-care, self-love and self-empowerment for women of color is today’s Woman to Watch, wellness visionary Lauren Ash.
Growing up in a predominately white neighborhood, Lauren didn’t see herself reflected in most of her environment. By graduate school, Lauren turned to yoga to help deal with the stress of it all. It turns out getting her om on completely changed Lauren’s life for the better, and with a yogi mindset, she signed up for yoga teacher training, fully immersing herself in the healing spiritual practice. This immersion eventually led Lauren to found Black Girl in Om, a mindful lifestyle brand and online platform that promotes holistic wellness and inner beauty for women of color.
As part of its offerings, Black Girl in Om features a wonderful podcast aimed at uplifting and informing female listeners about all things wellness. From taking a look at how black women in the beauty business have been sidelined, to getting in depth about tapping into your feminine side, each episode offers listeners a chance to connect and learn from inspired women like them.
Lauren’s efforts haven’t gone unnoticed. Essence magazine named Lauren one of 33 Self-care Sistahs That Helped Redefine Wellness, and Shape Magazine called her “one of the most important voices in the wellness industry.” She’s also contributed to publications like Well+Good, Thoughtfully Magazine and Teen Vogue.
In 2016, she teamed up with her art director, Deun Ivory, to start Lifestyle with Ivory + Ash, a lifestyle brand focused on highlighting contemporary women of color and offering helpful workshops and advice.
As part of the impact Lauren hopes to have in her community, she says she longs to leave a similar legacy her grandmother left for her, one of resilience, determination, belonging and deservedness. For Lauren, a holistic lifestyle isn’t just about kale salads and namastes. It’s the feeling of being whole—mind, body and spirit.
QUITE THE QUOTE
Lauren Ash has managed to cultivate a business focused on positivity that reaches and helps improve the lives of half a million people, all while maintaining a sense of calm and fulfillment. She said:
“Don’t leave yourself out of the equation. When you dream up your ideal career, ensure that it involves prioritizing your energy, your spirit, your personal development. Approach your career from a holistic perspective.”
This is Melinda Garvey signing off until next time. Remember, ladies, empowered women empower other women. Share On the Dot so more women can have a voice. Thanks for getting ready with us.
Head shot by Deun Ivory.