Journey to spirituality with Lauren Ash

I’m so happy to let you know that I was able to have a short chat with Lauren Ash. She is founder of Blackgirlinom.com, what is a such a inspirational website (she will talk about it longer below). But also this Chicago based young woman is certified yoga instructor, who loves to travel. Every time I have a chance to pick the minds of spiritual and creative women like her, it inspires me more and more in so many ways. Being connected with yourself and the world around you is one of the greatest gifts you can give to your soul.

Tell me about your journey to spirituality and yoga?

I grew up going to church every Sunday. I also attended private, Christian schools until high school. So, since I was born I have had a spiritual orientation to the world and to my interactions with people. I’ve always affirmed that after life, comes another life. That we are a part of a bigger, grander plan. I’ve found comfort in this for my entire life.

My journey to yoga truly began during graduate school when I gravitated toward yoga more intensely because of shoulder pain and stress. Little did I know that I would fall in love with the holistic nature of yoga. I could barely bring myself into pigeon pose, found difficulty holding downward facing dog for long, but I knew that it made me feel great! I took a Yoga for Transformation class with a wonderful teacher Summer Cushman who studied under Gary Kraftsow and I learned about the 8 Limbed Path and also got my first taste of the long history and philosophy behind yoga. Everything opened up. From then until now, I have really enjoyed yoga for its spiritual elements and rich history, as well as its physical benefits. I enjoyed it so much that last summer I decided to enroll in yoga teacher training! That decision was the catalyst for starting Black Girl In Om months after training was over.

What made you create Blackgirlinom.com?

I noticed an invisibility–of black and brown women of color in yoga studios. It was, and still is, completely normal for me to enter a yoga studio, say hello to the person checking me in, walk into the yoga classroom and practice largely in my own body and head, vaguely notice those around me as young to middle-aged white women, and walk out. Certainly this hasn’t kept me from growing in my yoga practice and most of my favorite teachers have been white women. But with my love for building community with other women of color I knew I had to cultivate a new narrative, one that many other women of color yoga instructors are doing around the world right now. We’re a part of a larger movement to center women of color in the discussion about self-care and wellness. While wellness is “trending” right now, for women of color it is far more than simply a trend: it is vital to our daily lives and crucial to our survival, mentally, physically, and spiritually. Creating Black Girl In Om, and our online publication, was important to me because I had to create something that I did not see and I knew that others would want to see representations of women of color engaging in dialogue and practice about self-care, self-love, and wellness, as well.

How you keep yourself spiritually balanced on daily bases?

This is always a journey for me. Currently, I am cultivating my meditation practice. I do this in a very practical way. I try not to judge where I am at. I currently use the app Breathe, which allows me to first check in with how I am feeling in my body and in my mind. It caters a meditation for exactly how I am feeling. Sometimes I meditate while lying down before bedtime. Sometimes I meditate in a cross-legged position right after I get up in the morning. Sometimes I meditate while commuting on the train.

I also try to be mindful of what I eat and how it impacts my energy. I find that when I eat food that is living (plant-based meals) I feel alive, quite literally. Most food that is not living does not give me energy. I try to eat more living food than not.

Of course, I practice yoga. An intention of mine before the year is over is to have a consistent home practice. I’m great at practicing in community with Black Girl In Om, and at my yoga studio. But I’m not so great at cultivating my own practice at home. I’m excited to really get to know my body more fully and to set my own goals for poses and moving meditations.

What are the greatest things you have learned from Yoga?

What a beautiful question! I have learned these mantras, which are my favorite personal mantras right now:

“Good things take time.” For me, I generally like to rush to what I see ahead of me. Good things that I’m excited about. However, if we only look ahead to what is on the horizon, we miss the journey, in all its challenges and joys. I really try to embrace this mantra so that I see the good in every circumstance. This also helps me cultivate patience, as well. This is true for my yoga practice in that you can quite literally practice yoga like a robot and miss out on all of the incremental growth along the way. When I teach yoga, I try and remind my students this by having then intentionally take note of their growth with flexibility throughout the practice we share. It’s so easy to miss!

“Practice makes practice.” Rather than practice makes perfect. Why strive for perfection? Easier said than done, especially for perfectionists like me. To always strive for growth and to be compassionate toward our selves. I struggle with forgiveness. One thing I have recently learned is that you might have to forgive once, and then keep forgiving the same person again and again. Forgiveness should not run dry. This applies to other things we may struggle with: anger, impatience, love, the list goes on. We must always continue to practice these values. And know that it’s okay if we make mistakes.

Give Healthy And Nourished readers few tips how to keep yourself in present moment when life gets hectic?

Journal! I’ve been much better about journaling in the past few months than at any other time in my life. Write ten things you are grateful for, and why, each night before going to bed. It helps you stay grounded and plants seeds for further blessings from God.

Avoid compromising self-care. Life gets hectic, but that doesn’t mean you need to let it seep into your self-care priorities. Wellness IS your priority. As soon as you let that go, everything else goes with it. It’s so tempting to allow a meeting to take precedence, but don’t let it.

What are the changes you are looking forward to see in our society when it comes to spirituality and wellness?

I would love if more employers would welcome yoga and meditation sessions in the workplace for their employees. I also just love that we’re seeing greater representations of women of color leading wellness movements for women of color.

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