Lauren Ash Is Bringing Diversity to the Yoga Studio, One Vinyasa at a Time
ThirdLove is a #ByWomenForWomen company, and we make it a point to celebrate strong women who are doing amazing things. Our weekly blog series, #WomenMade, is a chance to get to know some of these standout females who are creating products, services, and tech we love.
Simply put in their own words, Black Girl In Om creates space for women of color to breathe easy. By promoting holistic wellness and inner beauty, Black Girl In Om aims to help communities prioritize self-care, self-love and self-empowerment. Anchored in positivity, BGIO founder Lauren Ash sees these values as the fuel for her larger goal.
Lauren Ash found yoga as a way to heal and release during a particularly trying time. Through this outlet, she not only found her future career, but a way to bring minorities to the forefront and afford them with more opportunities to succeed. She does this by creating and cultivating communities that not only practice yoga together, but instill unconditional love and support for one another.
When did you start your company/work?
Why did you start this work/company?
I was first led to yoga in 2010 because of the physical release that the practice offered me, a graduate student who was always studying, writing, and learning, and in the wake of a break up. I fell in love with just how multi-dimensional and healing it was and over the next three years, devoted myself to deepening and expanding my yoga practice. I always noticed how I was usually the only black woman in yoga studios and spaces that centered around wellness. I moved to Chicago in 2013 and, finding myself completely dissatisfied with my career path, decided to enroll in yoga teacher training. It was then that I had a revelation — the absence of black women and women of color in healing spaces could be something that I changed. The phrase “Black Girl In Om” came to me during a yoga practice and I began calling in, and manifesting what this would be. In the Fall of 2014, BGIO was born.
Tell us about yourself.
I am my grandmother’s child. I am my mother’s daughter. I exist as a spiritual and creative doula for the vision of women of color entrepreneurs, creatives, artists, and world changers.
I create space for women of color to breathe easy through holistic wellness, mindfulness, and intentional living.
I continue the legacy of my ancestors, the matriarchs who always and forever nudge us lovingly onward.
What was one challenge you overcame during the early days of your company/work?
When I began Black Girl In Om, I was still fresh to the scene in Chicago. I did not know many people and the assumption is that to start something impactful and successful, one needs to be popular and known. I even had others, folk who were supposed to be in positions of support, project this belief onto me once they heard the enormity of my vision. But I learned quickly, through the mentorship of my friend Janice Bond that every seeming absence or lack was an opportunity for me to lean into the support that was actually available for me.
“Focus on investing in women from marginalized backgrounds, financially with funding and energetically through mentorship.”
Was there anyone who helped pave the way for your business or career?
Absolutely! My grandmother, Lillian-Lazenberry Martin. She trail blazed and laid the foundation for everything that I am cultivating, especially in regards to holding space for black women be seen and represented, to connect and heal. She was a columnist and editor in a black newspaper for 30 years — penning articles that related to cultural moments, politics, and the human condition including grief, family dynamics, and friendship. My writing career, which is about to take off, is in honor of her and a continuation of her legacy.
What are some of the ways women today can help raise and inspire the next generation of ambitious females?
Focus on investing in women from marginalized backgrounds, financially with funding and energetically through mentorship. There are so many talented, phenomenal young women and girls of color, from working class backgrounds, LGBTQ, trans, and/or differently-abled who do not get the same access to opportunities that allow them to make an impact.
I am one of these women. Building BGIO has simultaneously been filled with ease as well as a tremendous challenge, and I know it would not be as challenging if I were a cis gendered white woman with access to resources, connections, and other privileges.
How would you describe yourself in three words?
Love. Spirit. Sister.
When do you feel most beautiful and/or confident?
Every day that I choose to love myself.
When and where are you happiest?
Traveling somewhere beautiful, completely unplugged from the digital space, writing and enjoying the sun, my melanin, and amazing food.
If you could give your younger self advice, what would you tell her?
You are beautiful and perfect just as you are. Protect your energy and know that the more you embrace, accept and love yourself, the more inner peace you will feel and the more radiance you will share with others.
What’s the top song on your playlist right now?
I Release by Beautiful Chorus
What is your motto?
I am unconditionally loved and supported.
What are the advantages or benefits of being outside of the traditional workplace environment that many people may not realize or know about?
I decide how I invest my time. And … I decide how I invest my time. It’s a blessing and a tremendous challenge.
Do you think founders/disruptors/creators should take time to reflect on the pros, even if they’re constantly putting out fires?
Absolutely. Where your mind goes, energy flows. Maintaining perspective and creating space for gratitude regardless of external circumstance is essential.
What does your morning routine look like?
Oil pulling. Vedic meditation. Spiritually uplifting music with mindful movement. Prayer and gratitude. Run to the ocean. Gym time. Smoothie. Setting intentions and goals for my day.
What motivates you to keep going in the toughest of times?
My ancestors, my Highest Self, God, and my family and close friends. I am so connected to all of these entities and they keep me moving forward.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
“Don’t take no wooden nickels,” from my Grandmother. And, “Nothing that is for you can be taken from you.” from my best friend, Dr. Chelsea Mikael Frazier
What’s the most fulfilling part of your job?
The tremendous inter generational healing and liberation that it is cultivating within the lives of millions of black women and women of color worldwide.