Interview by Lauren Ash. Photography by Ayanna Diaz.
As a yogi and yoga instructor, I own a few yoga mats that each serve different purposes. Some are sturdy and can take a beating; some are light for easy travel. The one that takes the prize for beauty is my Dogon mat by Selamta Yoga, which I received as a gift from the Founder of Selamta Yoga herself. Aregache Demelew, who goes by the nickname Mimi, founded Selamta Yoga, an eco-friendly yoga mat company inspired by roots and culture. Her gorgeous and environmentally friendly mats caught my eye several months ago on Instagram, as did her own spiritual and philosophical beliefs that she is very open about. I hope our conversation further inspires you to think of yoga as a spiritual practice beyond the four corners of your mat. Don’t forget to follow Mimi’s journey with Selamta Yoga on Instagram @yogaoffthemat.
LA: What’s the philosophy behind Selamta? And how do you practice that philosophy?
AD: Selamta Yoga promotes a yoga-off-the-mat lifestyle inspired by roots and culture. I’m wholeheartedly dedicated to that. I make sure that I’m as eco-conscious as possible at every step of the process — from the type of mat, to the printing process and the packaging — so that the sustainability of the mat is never compromised. What is the point of getting on our mats if we don’t promote consciousness and sensitivity to our environment?
I practice this philosophy by applying the lessons learned on my yoga mat to life off of my yoga mat. For example, I’m in Trinidad right now. I’m with the amazing Wadada Twins and they have a boutique here. They invited me here because they are carrying my mats in their boutique. The Wadada Twins are very adventurous. They are Rastafarian yogis and a huge part of the music that has represented yoga for me since I was young. Before I even know yoga, my yoga was listening to roots and culture — reggae meditation music. That music brought me back to my center. I found that yoga and reggae paired well for me. This is how I found this good vibe tribe called the Rasta Youth. And this pairing is the reason the roots and culture lifestyle is a foundation for Selamta Yoga's philosophy.
LA: You’re currently traveling, but you are based in San Diego. As a business owner and woman of color articulating a particular messages through your brand, how do you stay true to your philosophy?
AD: How do I not compromise my integrity? I don’t, Lauren. I don’t. I’m actually taking my time with Selamta. I feel like I have a secret. [laughs] I have to be relaxed and I have to be happy in order to see the longevity and stability of my company. I am literally taking my time and being me!
LA: Can you share more about your personal yoga practice?
AD: Yoga came into my life at a very crucial time. I was battling depression. I wasn’t happy. I was going down a path that would satisfy my family, but not me. I wasn’t happy behind a cubicle working a 9-5 while pursuing law school. I didn’t know what it was that would make me happy. I found out that a good friend of mine had become a yogi. I found out while I was listening to a song on Jay-Z’s album called “Nickels and Dimes” and I was like, “Wait, that’s him!” I looked him up and I learned that he became a yogi. He became a yoga guru and was teaching bikram yoga. Previously, he had been battling drugs and I saw him go through various challenges. I learned that he dealt with his dark side and conquered his weaknesses through strengthening himself through yoga. That empowered me on my yoga journey. My yoga practice is inspired by gratitude. As my sisterfriend, Dub Reggae Songtress and Yogifari, Jah9 expresses in her song and video: gratitude is fuel!
LA: If you had to select one thing, above all, that you hope Selamta Yoga inspires others to practice, what is it?
LA: Beautiful! And, how would you say your own spiritual beliefs and practices influence your practices as an entrepreneur?
AD: My spiritual beliefs and practices influence my business practices through accountability and a balanced approach. For example, my current average delivery time for Selamta Yoga Mats are six weeks. A handful of customers have waited even longer weeks before they receive their mat. This isn’t because I'm making customers wait for no good reason or that I'm being "unprofessional" but because there is a process for me as a very small business. I am very honest about this process to customers. I am also very honest on my social media handle about my life and journey. Actually, I'm an open book so that supporters feel like they are on my journey with me and feel comfortable to access me and just ask “hey, where is my mat?” [Laughs] And, when I explain why they haven't received their mat they know my answer is honest and they encourage me to keep going. They support me because they believe in me. /Now, my spiritual beliefs and practices include Yoga, which I acknowledge as the union of the mind, body & soul; Ethiopian Orthodox, Tewahdo, which literally means “one in faith,” coincidentally; and Rastafari, Teachings of His Imperial Majesty, Emperor Haileselassie who is also a fellow yogi on and off the mat. Each of these beliefs and practices constantly remind me to be authentic, accountable for what I think, say, and do and overstanding if a customer doesn't understand my process and no longer wants to support.
I make sure every person that supports Selamta Yoga gets all my love & gratitude wrapped up in that final product they finally receive from me. My spiritual belief & practices inspire me to dedicate myself in service of others.
LA: Thank you, Mimi!