While Valentine’s Day is usually all about romance and your S.O., we also like to think of it as an opportunity to tune in and make a little time for self-love. We asked Lauren Ash, yogi and founder of Black Girl In Om, to tell us how she stays mindful and focused—even when life gets busy. (She even shared a special guided meditation to get you into the self-love mindset—enjoy!)
Beautycounter: Why is self-love important to you?
Lauren Ash: When I love myself first, others like me—especially black women—gain inspiration to do the same. Self-love is not the trendy, cutesy image we’re bombarded with on social media. It is rooted in radical ongoing choices to prioritize one’s emotional needs, establish and maintain healthy relationships and energetic boundaries, and, overall, an intentional approach to all that life presents—the dark and the light. For marginalized folk, self-love has, I believe, higher stakes and even higher rewards.
BC: What inspired you to create Black Girl In Om?
LA: In the summer of 2014, I enrolled in yoga teacher training. At the time, I was not interested in teaching, but in deepening my awareness and increasing my knowledge into a practice that gave me so much life and provided a powerful mirror of self-love. During the first week of yoga teacher training, while in the middle of a yoga flow, I heard Black Girl In Om. In Sanskrit, the ancient language of yoga, Om refers to a universal vibration of transformation. I scribbled this phrase in my journal, not quite realizing what I was being gifted—a divine nod in the direction of what would become my life’s work, connected to a long tradition of sisterhood, healing, and resistance.
Yoga is not “just” tied to India but stretches back generations further into the continent of Africa. I so appreciate Caroline Shola Arewa’s tracing of this history in her phenomenal book Opening to Spirit, which I highly recommend to anyone interested in learning about the chakra system, spiritual healing, and African spiritual traditions. Sister circles, much like what my team and I curate and cultivate within Black Girl In Om, are linked back to cultural groups worldwide. I’m inspired by all practices rooted in liberation and love, especially those created and continued by black people as that is my legacy and inheritance. I’m working on my first book which thrills me because this question is much more expansive than I can ever share in a brief, well contained response.
BC: Do you think being more mindful has helped you in your success?
LA: Let’s first define success. For me, success equates to wellbeing and flexibility of—as well as abundance of—time and freedom. So, yes, absolutely, being mindful and cultivating mindfulness supports my success. In a conversation with my friend and mindfulness expert Nkechi Njaka, we explored how mindfulness relates to both presence (awareness) and compassion. We can practice this right now. As you read my words, how is your breath? Did you notice a shift with your breath as you read that question? Were you previously aware that you were, indeed, inhaling and exhaling? What is the quality of your breath in this moment? And what is the quality of your conscious awareness? Are you dwelling in love, or in fear? Are you dwelling in the now, or somewhere in the past or the future? What energies are taking up space within you? If you noticed a shortened, shallow breath and an energy other than love, did you indulge in frustration and annoyance, or did you extend yourself self-compassion? Mindfulness, dear reader, is the practice that is accessible to all of us to support our varying definitions of success. Couple presence with compassion daily and witness your life change.
BC: How do you stay focused on your own path and success in a world with so many distractions?
LA: I remember my why, take pride and joy in it, and find that it’s not difficult to stay focused at all. When I remain connected to my intentions, values, and core desires, it is as if I have spiritual blinders on. This has gotten more easeful as my journey has continued.
BC: What are some simple everyday tools our followers can implement to live with a little more self-love?
LA: Dovetail an everyday routine with something that gently, yet directly, pours into you. A sisterfriend of mine, Karlene, winks every time she looks at herself in the mirror. I listen to uplifting music immediately upon rising, and as I ease myself to bed. I also practice 20 to 30 minutes of either silent or guided meditation. I created this meditation, Presence, to specifically support women of color in their mindfulness journeys. I ask questions that intentionally allow you to get in touch with who you are, at your core, and who you desire to unfold into on your journey. I hope that it provides something you need today. Take just 10 minutes for you and turn inward.
If traditional meditation feels impossible to you (and believe me, it feels impossible to me some days, too!), write a list of five things you love about yourself on your morning commute—bonus points if you speak it out loud. We share so many practices for self-love at Black Girl In Om, and I share from my personal life on my personal platform, so stay connected for continued inspiration!
Thanks, Lauren! We can’t wait to get our om on!