Safety and Solace For My Black Body

By Valerie Titus-Glover. Photography By Deun Ivory.

There is an incredible amount of joy I find every time I encounter a space like this.

I feel known. I feel loved. I feel the best parts of me glorified and the unspoken parts of me accepted.

A space like this feels like it’s Divinely created for me. My heart feels lighter. My smile feels easier. My steps feel destined. The feeling of understanding is one I never tire of. It is a truly fulfilling experience every single time. I am grateful for each encounter shared, and leave knowing my next return will be an equally necessary, but always unique adventure.

What I’m talking about is the unmatched feeling of being in a safe space for my Black body.

In 20+ years of this physical life, I have spent much of it wandering and wondering, trying to figure out the person I am and the person I wish to be. The safe spaces I’ve found have been the beacon of light guiding me on this path along the way. Every time I’m present, I feel supported and seen, knowing that I don’t have to put on any pretenses. I am able to just be. To find safe spaces hasn’t always been an easy path and they rarely came quickly. However, what I’ve realized is that when I do find them or, more accurately, when they find me, it is always right on time.

Like most Black women in this country, I have not always known this bliss. I spent many years not feeling quite right or free enough to be myself in so many spaces, especially in my adolescent years. I subscribed to a life of being who I thought I should be rather than embracing who I actually was. There was an incongruence between the inner me and the me I showed to the world. I was constantly trying to appease others, avoid conflict, and seek refuge any way I could. In short, it was exhausting. Constantly enduring this division of self made it easier and safer to retreat into my solitude. Before recent years, that was the place I felt I didn’t have to put on a facade or act in accordance with what was easy to understand or what was “right.” But even then, when it was just me, I often kept parts of myself hidden and tucked away to not be dealt with and ignored.

Then, I found Black Girl In Om.

Through this platform, I saw other women, all on their own journey towards a life that feels authentic, honest, and liberated. I was intrigued in a way that I often only felt when reading books. The difference was, these stories were coming from women like me, not historical figures or fictional characters. It was a place where we we were all figuring it out, not always getting it quite right, but constantly allowing the time and space to do so. In so many ways, this was a major shift for me. Being privy to this platform and all it embodies has been one of the most affirming things in my life. Black Girl In Om wasn’t my introduction to wellness, but it reminded me how community can be a safe space. I had seen it in action before with my parents, Ghanaians who came to this country and created their own home away from home in the family and family-like friends who surrounded me in my youth. Through weekly gatherings to celebrate births, graduations, deaths, and just life in general, these people my parents had were uncles and aunts to me and their children became my cousins, regardless of blood relation. It was an existence that was so innate to my upbringing that it wasn’t until I left it at 15 for school that I realized it. I found community again in a major way in college where I was able to acknowledge those same parts of my identity without having to say anything at all. Despite that and finding friendships I know I will keep forever, there was still something I needed but didn’t realize I did. Along the way, Black Girl In Om helped me figure that out.

I was a slightly lost, fairly new graduate attempting to “make it as an adult” and the Black Girl In Om community created space for all parts of me. The side that was exploring yoga in earnest was affirmed with support. The little girl within that often felt unseen was met with stories and words that were so familiar I could’ve written them myself. The woman who loved to indulge was encouraged to do so without judging herself in the process. My story as a child of immigrants was voiced by a BGIO beauty I had not yet met, but would grow to adore with time. Even the rising fiery Sagittarius energy I would eventually be able to identify was matched by the Sag energy in the founder of this beautiful community.

With Black Girl In Om, no part of me felt unseen. That level of understanding changed my life.

I look at the things I do today and the safe spaces I’ve created beyond this delightful digital space and see how much growth in my life has been directly influenced by this community. To offer a tangible example, let me introduce you to And Yoga Studios. This was the first yoga studio that felt like it was made with me in mind and one I originally encountered through an event hosted by Lauren Ash and photographed by Deun Ivory. As Black women, there is a special kind of solace and safety that comes with finding safe spaces meant for us. Without Black Girl In Om, would I have found this warm, inviting, and truly remarkable space? Would I have met Sandi, the incredible Black woman who owns the studio and reminds me so much of me? Would the growth in my yoga practice, both on and off the mat, be such an integral part of my life? Would I be putting myself on the path to become a yoga teacher today? Thankfully, these are questions I never have to answer because of this powerful community.

It’s still astounding to me that this is just one of so many ways Black Girl In Om has changed the path of my life. I’m reaching new heights in my relationship with mindfulness. I’ve been moved to tears and found Divine understanding through otherworldly, spiritual experiences. I happily eat more healthfully than I ever thought I could. And daily, I allow myself to do things I truly never thought I’d do.

It may be clear from my words above, but the biggest gift I’ve received from Black Girl In Om is realizing the safe space within is what matters the most. As I listen to songs that affirm me and move through a life that I fully desire, I find joy in embodying that daily. All the affirming and groundbreaking moments I’ve noted came as I became more aware of me and, through that, accepted things in alignment and left anything that was not. This is not to say the work is done. For me, the joy in life is in learning. Learning myself and finding solace within is not always easy, but I know that this continued journey is truly the greatest of them all. I look forward to the lessons, moments of release, and new encounters I find as I continue on my way. I may not immediately have the answers, but I am comforted to know that I’m not alone as I do so. Most importantly, I know that all that I could ever possibly need is already within and always has been. Equipped with this affirming community and with that knowledge, I can happily quote one of my favorite songs of affirmation and say I can do anything.

When I first sat down to write this piece, I thought I wanted to talk about finding safe space in the yoga studio, something that has definitely changed my life. However, I have been Divinely led to write a love letter to the woman I’m discovering daily and to my favorite space on the internet, Black Girl In Om.

Valerie Titus-Glover is a Jersey-raised, Brooklyn-based, proudly Ghanaian digital enthusiast with a love for all things wellness. As a member of the Black Girl In Om team, she is able to combine her long-standing interest in media and lifelong goal to always uplift, elevate, celebrate, and center every facet of Black womanhood. When she isn’t mulling over creative copy or unrolling her yoga mat, she can be found blasting her latest music obsession, getting lost in a riveting book, or trying to cook and consume the ideal meal. Follow along on Twitter or Instagram for her forthcoming yoga-centered endeavors and daily musings on everything above and more.