Six Reasons Black Women Should Practice Yoga

As seen in Essence Beauty Box.

Bikram. Vinyasa. Kundalini. Hatha. Lyengar. Long story short: there’s a lot of yoga disciplines out there. Deciding why, when and how to practice any of these can be intimidating; especially for a beginner. It can be particularly challenging for black girls since our shade of beautiful is seldom reflected in the communities advertised at studios and on social media. Thankfully, that discomfort is finally being addressed.

This International Yoga Day, we celebrate two ladies bridging the gap between moving meditation and women of color. Lauren Ash and Zakkiyyah Najeebah are the leaders behind Black Girl In Om—a mindful lifestyle brand, global community, and tangible platform for an increasingly marginalized audience around the world. Their mission is to promote holistic wellness and inner beauty for brown girls like us.

Lauren Ash, a Yoga instructor and wellness curator, does this through yoga and meditation in Black Girl In Om wellness sessions and retreats, and her recently launched Sound Sessions. Zakkiyyah Najeebah is a photographic artist and Art Director whose artistic practices are intertwined with her self-care practices. She believes self portraiture and visual narratives can be radical expressions of self-love:

“Together, we are intervening in the false narrative that suggests that women of color—and black women in particular—aren’t interested in their health and wellness. We are reimagining how women of color are represented in wellness.” 

In honor of International Yoga Day, the dynamic duo is sharing six reasons to add a yoga practice to your beauty routine. Keep reading and remember: true beauty starts from within! 

PHOTO: ZAKKIYYAH NAJEEBAH

PHOTO: ZAKKIYYAH NAJEEBAH

It wakes up your third eye: “The concept of a third eye is actually quite simple,” says Lauren. “While we have two physical eyes that help us see the physical world around us, we also have one inner eye that helps us stay in touch with our intuition, and discerns energy and right vs. wrong. It’s what provides insight beyond ordinary sight.”

Yoga will bridge the gap for those who have trouble doing this.

“Yoga is a moving meditation. With every inhale and exhale, you are given a huge gift—to ground yourself in the moment rather than focusing on what happened or what will happen. And it is in the present moment that we are able to truly discern our intuition.”

Yoga values patience: For Zakkiyyah, yoga has taught her that it’s OK to take your time and make mistakes within a practice and throughout life.

“Typically, I’ve never been much of a patient person, but yoga has tremendously informed my understanding of patience, and the value of being patient with myself.Practicing and engaging with yoga is not about rushing, at all,” she shares.

“The beauty of practicing yoga is practicing at your own pace, on your own terms. In a lot of ways, this is very much applicable to our everyday lives. What I’ve learned is that patience allows acceptance for failure.”

PHOTO: ZAKKIYYAH NAJEEBAH

PHOTO: ZAKKIYYAH NAJEEBAH

It boosts your confidence—and even your sexy: Although the physical payoff is hard to ignore (hello toned abs!), being secure in your own self is the ultimate gift that comes with yoga.

“Without external weights, an instructor, or anything other than your very own body, once you learn some fundamental yoga asanas—physical postures like balasana (child’s pose) or a series of postures like chadarunga and sun salutations—you can guide yourself through a yoga sequence!, ” says Lauren.

“How amazing is it that not only can you strengthen, sculpt and tone your body, but in doing these postures, you learn to get comfortable with your body and with whatever vessel God has gifted you with!? This isn’t about getting skinny, ‘slimthick,’ or getting a 6-pack. It’s about your ability to feel secure in your own self when you stand naked in the mirror. Yoga can heal the disconnection, like Indie.Arie so proudly sings in ‘Private Party!'”

PHOTO: ZAKKIYYAH NAJEEBAH

PHOTO: ZAKKIYYAH NAJEEBAH

Yoga can be fun and creative!: Who says you can mix a little twerk with your yoga sequence? Freedom to create and have fun is encouraged as you start practicing.

“Often times when I get ready for my yoga practice, I like to loosen up (pre twerk here and there) and start off with a nice playlist. I’ll curate sounds for my practice that range from Mary J Blige, Nicki Minaj, Earth, Wind, and Fire to James Blake; the list could go on. Creating your own yoga sequences with your favorite songs/vibes can invite your practices to be fun and fluid,” adds Zakkiyyah.

PHOTO: ZAKKIYYAH NAJEEBAH

PHOTO: ZAKKIYYAH NAJEEBAH

It is a metaphor for your life off of the yoga mat: Get ready to stare life in the face while developing your own practice. According to Lauren, yoga is a healthy way to address challenges you face in everyday life.

“If I sway back and forth in a balancing posture, I am invited to consider where I may find more balance between my career and my personal life. If I am finding it hard to commit to steady, even inhales and exhales I find myself contemplating why it is so hard for me to simply be—to simply breathe. If I find my mind wandering during meditation, I am reminded to slow down often and always.”