We were lucky enough to connect with Black Girl in Om Founder Lauren Ash and Art Director, Zakkiyyah Najeebah to hear more about the lifestyle brand that’s empowering women of color globally!
NS: What is Black Girl in Om and what does it represent?
Lauren: Black Girl In Om is a mindful lifestyle brand, a global community, and a tangible platform for an increasingly marginalized audience around the world. Through Om (our online publication), our yoga and holistic wellness retreats and monthly Self-Care Sunday, our podcast, and more we promote holistic wellness and inner-beauty for women of colour. We encourage self-care and self-love for our communities.
Black Girl In Om represents the powerful vibration that connects all women of colour, and symbolizes a deep commitment to holistic wellness that I hope all women of colour can strive for regardless of circumstance. We can, and should, all cultivate self-love because when more of us do the work it naturally ripples out and benefits all those around us.
NS: There are many people that have trouble finding their passion, can you tell us how you found yours and how Black Girl in Om was born?
Lauren: Absolutely! Years prior to starting Black Girl In Om, I was invested in cultivating community with young people of colour. Specifically, young artists and activists who channelled their energies and talents into social change and creating change to spark the kind of world that they wanted to see. So, I was consistently inspired by young visionaries crafting alternative, necessary realities. Fast forward: I uprooted myself from my hometown of Minneapolis and ventured into a new chapter in Chicago. I only had a handful of friends, all transplants like me. One year in, I decided to invest in my yoga teacher training. I had been practicing yoga consistently for about three years and loved it: it was my release and my energizer. I figured: why not? During yoga teacher training, all these ideas of how to merge my passion for working with communities of colour, my love for creativity, and my dedication to wellness came flooding into my mind and my body. During a yoga practice, the phrase “Black Girl In Om” came to me. I wrote it down and started manifesting.
Black Girl In Om was ultimately born from my seemingly disparate passions all coming together and my willingness to explore my curiosity and see where it would lead me. I didn’t have a business plan. I didn’t have a team of people (not at first). I didn’t have money. I didn’t have a space. But I had faith and I had a willingness to trust my vision. Thankfully, early on, I spoke about my vision with people who believed in it, too. That mattered immensely.
NS: What type of services/events does Black Girl in Om offer to the community?
Lauren: This year, we have a monthly Self-Care Sunday series in Chicago, our Homebase. This includes guided yoga, meditation, and dialogue. It’s the perfect way to start each month and always leaves me feeling uplifted, positive, and grounded.
We also look forward to our mini-retreats in D.C., NYC, and Oakland, in addition to our second retreat in Chicago. These retreats feature yoga, meditation, a healthy, shared meal, manifestation workshop, creative wellness workshop, and more!
For those unable to join for an in-person session: we still have so much for you! We have a monthly #BGIOMindful Twitter Chat which explores an aspect of self-care or holistic wellness with dozens of women of colour from around the world! Later this year, we will be unveiling a members-only website which will allow members of our community to go deeper in their wellness journeys with specially curated BGIO experiences and wellness thought leaders.
All of our wellness gatherings and offerings may be found on our website (www.blackgirlinom.com) and we encourage women to sign-up for our e-mails to stay in the loop.
NS: How did you find people to bring into your organization that truly care about the organization the way you do?
Lauren: To date, every person on the Black Girl In Om team has come because of serendipity. To date, no one has joined the team from any traditional means. This will shift soon because now, nearly two years in, I can say with certainty what Black Girl In Om team culture is, what our values are, and what it takes to be a part of our team. I couldn’t say that before. I can now and it’s super exciting.
NS: Black Girl in Om seems to be centred a lot around self-love and self-care, can you a talk a little more about that and how you define the two?
Zakkiyyah: Personally, I’ve found that my ability to engage in self-love informs the ways in which I’m able to practice self-care. “Self-love” is definitive of a wholesome and embodied love that I’ve grown to cultivate within myself, which I feel actually enables me to care for myself and to be self-aware. To show genuine care of any kind comes from a place of love and mindfulness, which is something I strive to practice everyday. When I actively love myself wholly, I have a healthy capacity to love those around me without condition or selfishness. Active self-love enables us (black folks in particular) to preserve our bodies and spirits in a way that doesn’t ask for acceptance or permission, but rather reinforces acceptance of ourselves. A consistent self-love practice declares that I’m accepting of myself at all times, even at my lowest points in life. Self-love and self-care demand the care we wish to share and receive from others, which is highly critical to the ways that we build meaningful relationships and build up ourselves.
NS: There are some people that want to adopt a healthier lifestyle, do you have any advice on where to start?
Zakkiyyah: I would share that it is critical and important to start where you are, with what you can, with a lot of effort towards self-educating! The first step I took in adopting healthier habits, was acknowledging the lack of care or efforts in certain areas of my life. As stated beforehand, it’s important to educate yourself in areas such as healthy eating habits, physical exercise, self-development, mindfulness, etc. as a starting point. I find it useful to reflect on habits that may be unhealthy and set attainable goals for myself.
Starting where you are may entail just doing an intention physical exercise everyday for 10-15 minutes (this may transition into an hour as you grow...It’s up to you!), or taking time to reflect on your week and creating a goal list. From my experience, adopting healthier habits is more sustainable when I’ve made small changes first, before asking of anything more radical from myself. When I’ve accomplished smaller goals, it becomes a lot easier and accessible for me to complete bigger goals. I also know for a fact that having positive and supportive people in my life has greatly contributed to living a healthier and more fulfilling life. A positive community and support system is nurturing for your mind, body, and soul. A healthier lifestyle goes beyond self, but is also inclusive of the folks, spaces, and environments you find yourself in.
NS: What do you plan to achieve with Black Girl in Om and what can we expect to see in the future?
Lauren: I’m a visionary, so I dream big. I don’t believe in short changing myself, nor Black Girl In Om, because that would be doing a disservice to millions of women of colour around the world who will benefit from, and actively participate in, our vision. I see Black Girl In Om being a household name; being the recognizable platform for women of colour to get information, inspiration, and content related to their holistic wellness journeys. I see thousands of women of colour being involved in our wellness retreats each year. I see dozens of women being employed by Black Girl In Om. I see Black Girl In Om magazine on newsstands at my local grocery store. I see Black Girl In Om making a direct impact in the dire statistics that we see, particularly about black women and our mental and physical health. Thanks for asking! I’m excited to look back at this interview and know that I spoke it into existence with you believing in us.
Zakkiyyah: There’s always so much to look forward to! I can definitely resonate a lot with what Lauren mentioned as far as the global and larger vision of Black Girl In Om, that will be a beautiful achievement. I look forward to Black Girl In Om continuing to be a community that encompasses what we wish to see in the world for black women and women of colour. I hope that Black Girl In Om continues to encourage, uplift, and affirm that our bodies, minds, and spirits must be preserved by any and all means. Through Black Girl In Om, I hope that women across the world are encouraged and inspired to collectively build up their own communities and spaces.
As Black Girl In Om expands in capacity and geographically, it would be beautiful to see wellness centred programs and healthy lifestyle coaching for young black women, whether it be in schools or low income communities. I see Black Girl In Om becoming a global catalyst and model for what accessible holistic wellness looks like in black and brown communities all over the world.
NS: What does a typical day look like for you?
Lauren: Goodness, there is no typical day! Here’s a short list of all the things I do in a week: teach yoga, practice yoga, read and respond to e-mails, engage in weekly one-on-one calls with all my team members, plan in Asana, write and send e-mail for our 1k+ e-mail subscribers, curate social media content for all social media platforms, work on creative wellness project and content curation for client, build relationships with individuals and brands we love, write, meditate, send gratitude, plan BGIO retreat in another city, spend time with beau, talk on the phone with my best friend, the list goes on...
Zakkiyyah: Ha! My days vary depending on projects and the freelance work. It’s difficult to maintain a typical day in the life of an artist/creative! I usually start my days off practicing a short yoga routine in the morning (working at being more consistent with this), with Earl Grey or Ginger tea. I typically check all of my emails and check in with various folks about upcoming projects, including tasks for Black Girl In Om. More recently, my days were filled with putting in orders for framing and getting prints done for an upcoming exhibit I’m participating in. I also make sure to reach out and connect with other folks who seek to collaborate, there’s so many beautiful folks doing great work in Chicago! I enjoy reading throughout the week (currently Ta-Nehisi Coates Between the World and Me) as well as running more frequently, exercise is crucial! Spending time with my partner is always a joy as well as keeping up with my beautiful band of black women (they keep my vibrations up)!
NS: Do you have a mantra that you live by, and if so can you share it with us?
Lauren: All good things take time. And, nothing that is for me can be taken from me.
Zakkiyyah: Embody the love you seek to receive, always.
NS: Your style is amazing! How would you describe your style in three words?
Lauren: Two: Sports luxe.
Zakkiyyah: Cool, calm, and collected.
NS: What is favourite song at the moment?
Lauren: “Gold” by Calid B. featuring Sam Trump and Party Noire. It’s my summer jam. Have a listen: https://soundcloud.com/calidb/gold
Zakkiyyah:“Love Ya” from Blood Orange’s (Dev Hynes) recently released album, Freetown Sound. The entire album is all things love, black affirmation, and freedom.
NS: What are your top 3 favourite foods?
Zakkiyyah: This always varies, but currently: Quinoa. Thai noodles. Eggplant.
Lauren: Currently: avocado, snap peas, quinoa.
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