Interview by Lauren Ash. Photography by H.B. Media.
This International Yoga Day, as I prepare to share my recent chat with BGIO Beauty and yoga teacher Shanna Tyler, I stop, pause, and reflect back on the nearly three years that Black Girl In Om has been in existence. For those of you who have been along for the ride, to you I give my deepest gratitude. For those of you new to this platform, welcome. Three years ago, at this time, I was in the midst of my yoga teacher training program. I was exploring my curiosity; since I had been practicing yoga for about three years consistently, and since I was bored with my day job, I figured why not? I also had noticed a persistent problem: that yoga was v white, at least in the spaces I was practicing. BGIO started in the living room of my mentor's apartment in November 2014 and the rest was history.
Fast forward to the present: Black Girl In Om and other incredible individuals and platforms exist and illuminate the countless black and brown women practicing yoga and other wellness practices on and off the mat. People like Shanna Tyler who find a joy through yoga not just for its physical benefits, but for the mental health and community component it can provide. People like Shanna inspire me, affirm me, and remind me that BGIO is so crucial. When we see ourselves reflected in wellness spaces, we feel more fueled to return, again and again, to the practice. Read on about this week's BGIO Beauty Shanna Tyler, yoga teacher, master of social work student, and blogger! Follow her journey on Instagram @shannatyler_, Twitter @shannatyler_, and her website.
Lauren Ash: Who are you?
Shanna Tyler: In my professional life, I am a yoga teacher, master of social work student, and a blogger on shannatyler.com. In my personal life, I am a daughter, sister, friend, and supporter. Each part of my life exudes passion and I am so glad that where I am now is where I am working toward in my future.
A little bit about my yoga teaching, I am RYT 200 and certified through the Yoga Alliance. What makes me so passionate about yoga is that it creates a safe and secure space for us to navigate our inner selves. A mat is, quite often, a guide that shows us how we navigate through life. In social work, I am halfway through my studies and am focusing on a leadership and macro practice track that will allow me to learn how to organize and build upon communities. Merging yoga and mental health is my goal and I am all about that as an occupation.
Lauren Ash: I absolutely love that you're finding ways to merge your love for yoga with your love for community development! You speak to the metaphor that yoga provides: that it's a reflection of what may be going on internally or in our daily lives. I love this. It's what sparked my interest in going deeper with yoga and enrolling in yoga teacher training. I thought: there's something to this, beyond the physical postures. With your particular appreciation for yoga and wellness in mind, what does Black Girl In Om mean to you?
Shanna Tyler: Black Girl in Om means community. It means strengthening a community that needs to band together. Us, as women of color, are marginalized and oppressed for not only gender but race. What this movement signifies is us building each other up. We share our ideas, our triumphs, our stumbles, and our practices in order to help each other. That’s a beautiful thing!!
Lauren Ash: It absolutely is, Shanna! I reflect quite often on why women continue to come to BGIO Self-Care Sunday. Yes, it's the yoga. Of course. But, perhaps more so, it's our radically inclusive community. Stepping into a space where you can sense an immediate belonging is so crucial. I'm curious: how do you identify with Black Girl In Om’s mission?
Shanna Tyler: I identify deeply with the mission on both the mentioned professional and personal levels. One of my passions and goals in my work as a future social worker is to work on cultivating stronger, deeper connections between women of color. It is so important for us to be able to share love and light with another, as well as empower one another. I also believe that yoga is a wonderful space to create more connections between black women as well. I love to teach classes in which us brown ladies can meet one another and flow with one another on the mat!
Personally, I fully believe we grow stronger only when we come together. My friendships and my relationships are all greatly affected by my capability to love myself, care for myself, and empower myself. I believe that sharing is caring and Black Girl in Om’s mission is completely in line with my values as a black woman.
Lauren Ash: I appreciate that you speak to your values. You know I'm huge on identifying values and having them guide and direct your life choices. As black women, we need to share and discuss intentional living as a means of uplift and encouragement! Speaking of, what are your self-care & self-love practices?
Shanna Tyler: I pray and meditate daily. I go through gratitude exercises each day. I think of what I am grateful for in my life, whether it be that I have shelter or that I was able to buy a salad that day. I also get on my mat every single day, even when I do not feel like it. It’s hard, but it allows me to feel and love my body.
I also smile and laugh a lot. I do these things so much that my cheeks can hurt by the end of the day. Psychologically, something happens when you smile. It can turn around an attitude or a doubt. It can literally force you to think of something good. There also is no better feeling for me than to smile and to make someone else smile.
Lauren Ash: Girl, yes! Deun and I stay cackling, smiling, and poking fun at each other on our podcast! What’s one ritual you recommend more women of color adopt to cultivate inner beauty and wellness?
Shanna Tyler: Starting a gratitude journal. This has changed me completely. Meditating on what I have versus what I do not have has given me such perspective on my life. I truly recommend going through at least five things you are thankful for a day to cultivate inner beauty. I must also add that this practice attracts more beauty to you. You will be a magnet to what flourishes and what adds versus subtracts in your life.
Lauren Ash: You're speaking to my heart, Shanna. Deun and I created our gratitude collection for Lifestyle with Ivory + Ash because we were both going through a challenging time last fall. What we realized is that there's always something to be grateful for. And a change in perspective can often lead to your next blessing. It's incredible!
As a wellness product junkie, I'm dying to know: what’s one wellness product you cannot live without?
Shanna Tyler: Lemon essential oil. I use the lemon scent as a cleansing tool to help me clear my mind, especially before I teach a yoga class. I believe that the lemon scent has a property that allows us to ease our minds, relax our bodies, and lessen stress. It also just smells really good. I dab some on the back of my ears and sometimes collarbones, then go along my way.
Lauren Ash: Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom and insights with me and our community, Shanna!