5 Unexpected Self Care Tips From Meditation Expert Lauren Ash

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In the middle of Brooklyn’s Prospect Park on Saturday, Sept. 22, rows of people sat on the floor in hushed silence, eyes closed. From an outsider’s perspective, the crowd of cross-legged meditators may have looked like they were catching a quick snooze. In reality, Lauren Ash, founder of Black Girl In Om and all around wellness multi-hyphenate, was leading a guided meditation during Bustle’s inaugural Rule Breakers event, a day devoted to celebrating female and non-binary rule breakers everywhere.

Ash calmly sat barefoot on the stage, looking ever the wellness guru in a white cloud of a dress and a dark denim jacket. Some attendees also removed their shoes, clicking their phones off and settling into the black floor pillows, ready to get their “om” on for the next few minutes. In the midst of a crowded event, the mass meditation was a moment of serenity.

Ash's appreciation for personal wellness began in grad school, when she took up yoga. Yoga was "a very practical way to release my body's stress," Ash tells Bustle.

Soon, though, the practice became “a tool that I found my own healing within,” says Ash. The memory of series of racially-motivated hate crimes targeting three black women who lived down the hall from Ash before grad school influenced her path towards cultivating safe spaces for women of color. “For most my life, I had grown up in predominantly white settings and it was very normal to me to be the only black woman really anywhere,” says Ash. “But that experience woke me up to the power of my own identity...so when I fell into yoga in grad school, it was really a kind of beautiful next chapter that was building upon that foundation.”

Being the only black women in many traditional wellness and yoga studios spurred Ash to create more inclusive spaces where she didn’t see them. The name Black Girl In Om came to her within the first two weeks of her yoga teacher training, and soon, the holistic wellness platform for women of color was born. Along with providing Rule Breakers’ meditation session with a calming, intimate feel, Ash offered up some additional self care tips that any person, from wellness newbie to the most seasoned yogi, will find useful.

1. Take time to reflect.

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“A lot of times, because wellness is so trendy, we will look at our friends and be like ‘Oh well they're doing that, let me do that, too,’” says Ash. “But I don't feel like that's the point of self care. Self care should always be rooted to the deeper healing that we actually need to give ourselves.”

Ash recommends taking time to sit with yourself and assess how you feel prior to beginning any wellness practice. One option is literally taking pen to paper to answer questions about what you’re seeking to get from the practice and addressing any difficult experiences you’ve had lately. “Asking questions like that, which are the questions that we usually like to run away from, really will help direct how to self care and will also provide some guidance around what practices can be directly related to the responses of those questions,” says Ash.

2. When it comes to wellness, there is no one-size-fits-all routine.

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Your wellness routine should be super individualized to where you are mentally, physically, and emotionally. For example, Ash notes that a high energy person who is very career-focused and zeroes in on results will likely have a very different successful wellness routine compared to someone who is extremely anxious and always in their head. “I might recommend some movement because anxiety is released through movement and physical activity in that case, but it’s really just about getting at the intention behind why someone is even saying yes to starting a wellness practice,” explains Ash. You may have to try multiple methods of self care before you find one that works perfectly for you.

3. Get used to being uncomfortable.

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Being willing to be uncomfortable is key to following a consistent yoga, meditation, or any other wellness practice, says Ash. Setting the intention of knowing that meditation, for example, is not necessarily going to feel easy or "like home” at first is part of the process, she explains. “If you just agree to surrender to that, you're going to open yourself up to whatever that experience needs to be for you in that moment,” she adds.

4. Don't strive for perfection.

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The point of wellness is not about being great at the thing you're doing, says Ash, it’s about the entire journey. “So much in our lives, especially in this modern Western society, is about being good at something or the best at something, and that's drilled into us from our childhood,” explains Ash. “Nailing the right pose or perfectly meditating is not the point. The point is to turn inward, see what's there, and observe how you're feeling — you don't have to be perfect.”

5. Starting your day with self care can make sticking to a consistent wellness routine easier.

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So how do you actually make self care a part of your lifestyle? Once you know what you want from the practice and develop a personalized routine that works for you and your goals, Ash recommends beginning your day with the practice if you can. “How you start the day is an indication of how it's going to end, so if you start your day with peace and calm and quiet, that can seep into the rest of your day,” says Ash. “Of course, everyone has a different level of time, a mom of three kids will have a very different life than a single woman who works from home.”

Still, depending on your schedule, starting your day with wellness could mean anything from squeezing in five minutes of meditation after you wake up to a full hour of yoga if you can swing it. There’s no time limit or minimum, says Ash, as long as you try to make time for the exercises.

If you’re still hesitant about incorporating wellness, yoga, or meditation into your daily life, Ash suggests considering why. One of the reasons, she says, is that many people don’t think they are capable of change, so they don’t see a point in working on themselves.

Naturally, Ash disagrees with that sentiment. “Something's got to give eventually, whether you intentionally say yes to exploring wellness and releasing all these things or life circumstances bring you to it,” she says. “I think that once you put the intention to grow and to heal and to work on yourself, that it's always going to be responded to on a spiritual level. One way or another, you're going to have to get to that point, and I think that it’s a beautiful thing to say yes to that invitation as soon as possible.”