Black Girls in Om Founder Lauren Ash Is Bringing Black Voices Into the Yoga World
This Black History Month, HelloGiggles' In the Making is honoring the Black women working to make 2021 a better world—from an iconic actress who's made massive strides for Black representation on-screen to a therapist whose organization works to promote the mental health of Black women everywhere. These women are true examples of history in the making, and we're honored to share their incredible stories.
When Lauren Ash began the personal yoga practice that would eventually become Black Girl In Om, a virtual and real-life wellness community that caters exclusively to Black women, she was fresh out of grad school. She had done stints in the nonprofit sector and worked at a Black theater company, but she was on the hunt for a more fulfilling role.
"I was hoping my dream job would just fall into my lap," Ash tells HelloGiggles via Zoom. She applied to some positions, but was frequently told that she was the company's second choice for the role. "Looking back now, it was the universe's way of saying, 'Girl, you've got to just do your own thing,'" says Ash. "I was meant to carve my own path and shake things up within the wellness space."
Ash's curiosity led her to take yoga teaching classes, building upon a hobby that had pulled her through the challenging period of working towards her master's degree. "I'd picked up yoga as a practice because I found myself really isolated, lonely and disconnected from a sense of community," she recalls.
"When I started yoga teacher training, it was like all of these downloads started streaming into me around what I was meant to create."
Initially, Ash's yoga community simply consisted of the practitioners she taught weekly from her mentor's Chicago living room. Over three years, though, as the community expanded and Ash supported herself with a second job in the restaurant industry, It transformed into a group that supported local Black women through yoga, meditations, and self-love-centered experiences.
"It was a very grassroots community—on the ground—that grew because Black women, including myself, needed a safe space to be able to come together to dialogue about what it meant, and what it continues to mean, to be well, together and individually," says Ash.
Since then, Black Girls in Om has expanded to include a podcast in which wellness experts of color share their wisdom, an online community called The Circle, and most recently, a widely available Beauty Sleep meditation. At a time in history when the ever-present effects of racism and injustice on Black women's mental health are compounded with the psychologically rattling effects of a year-long pandemic, resources like these are invaluable. Additionally, they fill a void that existed for years, which Ash and others helped fill.
"One thing that was always crystal clear and evident to me was that all of the spaces I was in were extremely white. I rarely, if ever, had a [yoga] teacher of color and it was rare that I had other practitioners of color there either," says Ash.
That's not to say that whiteness isn't still "pervasive" in the yoga space, she adds. But thanks to the efforts of Ash and others, more and more Black women are making their voices heard in the industry. Says Ash, "Black Girl in Om and other organizations like ours have certainly contributed to that change for the better."