By Shayla Reaves

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — When Lauren Ash couldn’t find the community she was seeking, she created her own online: It’s called Black Girl In Om.

Om is a Sanskrit word, encompassing life, death and transformation. Ash’s focus is on self-love, healing and helping other women do the same.

In just six years, her online health and wellness platform has attracted thousands of followers. Now she’s officially setting up shop in Minneapolis’ Longfellow community.

For Ash, a Minneapolis native, the physical space represents what’s next for a global sisterhood.

“We’re talking about how this will truly be a home for the Black community…for Minneapolis,” she said.

Since launching as an Instagram account in 2014, Black Girl In Om’s following has ballooned to more than 120,000. The podcast has been downloaded more than 2 million times.

Ash has had magazine appearances in Vogue, Essence and The New York Times — a far cry from her online community’s humble beginnings.

“I started Black Girl In Om in the living room of my mentor’s apartment,” Ash said.

After graduating from the University of St. Thomas, Ash attended graduate school, where she turned to yoga to cope with feelings of isolation.

“I, as a Black woman, very rarely had a Black teacher, teaching me yoga, teaching me meditation,” she said. “I was longing to be in a space with others who shared my experience.”

A conversation with a Chicago mentor would later change everything.

“She looked at me at the time, I think I was 24, and she heard my vision, and she said, ‘When do you want to start?’” Ash said.

Within two weeks, Ash began teaching yoga classes in her mentor’s apartment, quitting her job months later to focus on Black Girl In Om full time.

In March of 2020, a desire to heal within her own family brought Ash home to the Twin Cities. Within months, her city needed healing, too.

“Being back home when George Floyd was killed, it pressed to me the significance of the healing work,” Ash said. “Because there is so much unreconciled trauma that the death of George Floyd brought up for so many of us, and the healing work that is so needed within the black community.”

She’s envisioned that work taking place at 4000 Minnehaha Avenue, the future physical home of Black Girl In Om.

“To be able to realize a dream that I’ve had within me now for seven years is really magical,” Ash said. “I’m really looking forward to this.”

Ash says the space will include an herbal shop, a curated gift shop, space for yoga, one-on-one healing, and collective healing work. She hopes to officially open later this year.

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Shayla Reaves