If the past few years have taught us anything, it's that we need to put our mental health first. As many of us try to reprioritize our wellbeing, some choose to take a moment to simply breathe. From in-person breathwork workshops to tutorials on TikTok, people are rediscovering how powerful the conscious control of our breathing can be.
Originally rooted in Hinduism and other eastern cultures, the act of breathing (known as pranayama) has been used for centuries as a way to center yourself. There's been a recent cultural reawakening around the benefits of breathwork, from the rise of motivational speaker and breathwork advocate Wim Hof to endorsements from influential outfits such as wellness brand Goop.
One brand in particular is offering a new take on breathwork, and is on a mission to bring these ancient breathing practices to a marginalized community. Black Girls Breathing, founded by Jasmine Marie, is using breathwork, community and data to address the health inequities experienced by women of color. Jasmine, who is based in Atlanta, launched the company in 2018 after realizing the toll that stress was having on her.
‘This stemmed from my own experience trying to navigate stress and anxiety. After graduating from business school, I worked in brand management in beauty. I was 22 years old. The stress I felt was tremendous – it had begun to impact my mental health [and] my physical health. I was so stressed out that every doctor's visit was a point back to “how can you better manage your stress?”’ she says.
Jasmine was introduced to the practice through her church at the time, a center in Harlem. Free classes on offer to the community included an introduction to breathwork hosted by coach Kathleen Booker. After completing her training, Jasmine decided to share this tool and create a safe space with other black women.
According to Jasmine, 2020 was a turning point for Black Girls Breathing. ‘Social unrest in 2020 and Covid-19 was a pivotal time for our organization. We switched to an accessible model in order to be able to meet the needs of our community who experienced immense financial, emotional and social stressors during this time,’ she says. The company has since introduced ways to support its community. ‘We're creating an ethically sourced data eco-system by collecting insights from our engaged community and compensating them for it.’
As black women are one of the demographics least represented in medical and mental health data, Black Girls Breathing wants to help to fill that gap and empower the next generation.