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Hey Noirettes, we have a new column “The Black Girls’ Guide to Natural Health” coming at you biweekly. With 2016 just around the corner, many of us are making our health a priority. However, Black women seem to be a bit slower to jump on to alternative health methods from yoga and chakras to crystals and teas. We’re going to be walking out our wellness with unique discoveries and ways to make our health a more holistic practice. Being a carefree Black girl comes with knowing our mental, physical and spiritual self is cared for.

Often we see wellness brochures showing the benefits of yoga – the strengthening, toning, calm movements to get your body in shape. But one movement out of Chicago is changing the way Black women approach yoga to be a more mental and spiritual practice as well.

Launched by yoga instructor Lauren Ash, who gives off a warm, confident girl next door vibe, and the bubbly Art director Zakkiyyah Najeebah, Black Girl in Om (BGIO) has reached over 250 women and is sharing some of their favorite wellness revelations, yoga poses and more to not just get you into yoga, but a better self-care practice over all.

“In my years of yoga practice, I typically noticed a pattern of being the only woman of color and person of color generally in my yoga studios or any wellness spaces I would step into,” Ash reflected.

It was this invisibility that launched BGIO just one year ago. ​Black Girl In Om is a lifestyle brand focused on cultivating holistic wellness for women of color through wellness gatherings and an online publication. BGIO offers a variety of events including pop-up yoga and music sessions, meditation calls, food churches, and themed happy hours to get Black women engaged with their wellness.

Ash has been practicing yoga for seven years and instructing for a little over a year. Like many that venture into the practice, she first began because of the physical benefits but realized the practice was so much greater.

“I took a class, yoga for transformation, and we studied the basic tenets of yoga as more of an overall spiritual practice that really related more to your life off of the mat. It was during that time that a whole new world opened up to me,” Ash revealed.

Najeebah said she came to the same awareness, describing it as “cultivating this inner positivity in yourself, discipline, and taking the time to spend with yourself and really think about what is it that you need.”

“Walking into a room and seeing a group of women of color practicing yoga, for me, that automatically created a positive energy and community – it’s a collective positivity for everyone in the room. Yoga has shifted the way I think abut myself, the way I treat people, and shifted my thoughts on self reflection,” Najeebah continued.


Yes, yoga helped do all of that!

So, what poses do the yogis recommend to get experience those de-stressing and life-balancing takeaways?

Ash says one of her favorite poses is Child’s pose.

“It’s accessible to most people, its really restorative and helps with letting go and surrendering. It’s a pose where your forehead is to the ground, your arms are stretched out and your hips as well, so it can be really active, or passive and relaxing. It’s a great pose to do standing alone before bed.”

Najeebah has two favorites: Downward facing dog and the Tree pose.

“I love practicing balance (tree pose) because that is when I can center myself and if something else is going on in my life I am triggered and made aware of it. And with downward facing dog, physically I feel very comfortable.

“When I first tapped into yoga,  one of the things I was learning was how to let go. Off the mat, I came to the realization that there were so many things that I was holding on to or fears that I had. One of the things we’ve been taught in our yoga classes is letting go and allowing the universe to guide you and understand you don’t have to control the things you think you do.  I think that off the mat I’ve been able to develop a sense of letting go and allowing positive energy to flow into my life without over-thinking it and that’s helped me a lot,” Najeebah reflected on her growth in practice.

And if you are looking for more of the physical benefits of yoga, such as relief from back pain or body soreness, instructor Ash says the Standing Forward Fold pose is just for you.

“It releases neck tension and the whole back, especially as we head into the winter months and a lot of people are cold, we hunch up our shoulders. Also, a lot of people who work at a 9-5 in front of a computer are unconsciously hunching,” noted Ash.

Practicing the poses individually is great, but the team recommends finding a place of support and compassion that can help guide you as a beginner yogi, as well as gaining discipline in a daily at-home practice.

Ash has come into contact with countless women who felt selfish for taking the time out for yoga, meditation and self-care, especially mothers, but it ended up being beneficial for both them and their families.

“One mother of five said the fact that she gave herself that time ultimately really benefited her children,” said Ash.

Najeebah also noted that many Black women don’t realize how much they need to revive or begin their wellness journey until they actually do it.

“Self care, self love and wellness are all necessities that we need to survive throughout our daily lives and to have clarity of mind, body and spirit. Women who walk into the room who have never tapped into yoga will say ‘I really needed that,’ and that’s transformative,” Najeebah said.

And the dynamic duo is bringing even more of what Black women need to the table with their planned expansion kicking off soon. BGIO will be taking their pop-up events to New York, Atlanta, Washington D.C., Los Angeles, Minneapolis and London in the coming year.

To help take their movement to the next level, BGIO is inviting you all to become a part of their journey by donating to their new KickStarter campaign.

The campaign is geared towards bringing more wellness and self-care events to African American women nationally and abroad.

If you are ready to give your own back a bend or release stress and get more balanced in life, Ash and Najeebah recommend these online resources to get your practice going:

  • Sylvia Gonzalez who offers beautiful yoga sequences.
  • Jenné Claiborne of Sweet Potato Soul who will soon be debuting yoga videos with BGIO founder Lauren Ash.

Have you tried yoga? Are you open to giving it a go?

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