How Jasmine Marie Is Helping Black Women Breathe Through Trauma
During a recent period of personal loss and grief, Jasmine Marie leaned on one of her most powerful healing tools: breathwork. Since first picking up the practice, she has used to connect to her body and navigate the world with more confidence and less reactivity. Unfortunately, many of her fellow Black women aren't as familiar with the practice, due in part to stigmas around mental health in the Black community as well as a lack of access and representation in the wellness space.
Now a practitioner, Marie hopes to make breathwork more accessible to Black women, who she says could use it to move through not only personal hardship but the collective trauma that comes with being Black in America.
How Black girls breathing is helping Black women heal.
"Our community faces racism in daily life, and that takes a toll on the body. The impacts of chronic stress in the Black community are physically evident," Marie tells mbg, pointing to the increased rates of high blood pressure, heart disease1, stroke, diabetes, and maternal mortality in Black communities across the U.S.
In 2018, Marie launched Black girls breathing to give Black women a safe haven to learn and practice breathwork together. She envisioned a space where her community could release some stress with every exhale, and walk away mentally, spiritually, and physically stronger for it. Since securing her first round of funding through the Dream Warriors Foundation, Marie and her team have toured the country offering pop-up classes and launched a digital platform with virtual breathwork and meditation sessions.
Earlier this year, Marie was pitching VCs to secure capital to further expand the business—and then COVID hit.
How to support this virtual breathwork model.
Marie had to temporarily halt in-person offerings once the pandemic took hold, but her service has become more in-demand than ever. Already high baseline levels of stress have increased due to the virus, which is killing twice as many Black Americans as White ones, and to the ongoing police brutality in this country. She also says that the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks, and other unarmed Black folks have been "retraumatizing."
"They send a message of 'I am not safe in this body.' That affects your nervous system and puts you on edge at all times," she says.
To fill a growing need, Marie has transitioned to an all-digital model for now. She's been heartened to see that a similar sense of community and togetherness can arise during a virtual breathwork session—albeit in a Zoom chat box rather than an airy studio.
To make sure that Black girls breathing's main event—a 90-minute breathwork session that combines three-part breathing with other spirit-led meditation and breathwork techniques—is accessible, Marie has started to offer it on a sliding payment scale of $0 to $25.
"[Imagine] a person who is living in a space that doesn't feel good, that doesn't feel safe, but they can tune in with us to do a breathwork for an hour and a half—and they didn't have to pay for it," she says. "How much of a difference would that make for them to have that bit of an escape and connect to other people around the world who look like them and are experiencing similar challenges?"
Black girls breathing is currently crowdfunding to achieve their goal of impacting 1 million Black women and girls by 2025, and you can donate to support them here.
Marie sees breathwork as a portal to healing that anyone, regardless of race, background, or economic status, should get the chance to try. "I want more of us to tap into the wisdom of our body and be obedient to the wisdom in our body," she says, "and identify what we need to help heal our body."
Emma Loewe is the Sustainability and Health Director at mindbodygreen and the author of Return to Nature: The New Science of How Natural Landscapes Restore Us. She is also the co-author of The Spirit Almanac: A Modern Guide To Ancient Self Care, which she wrote alongside Lindsay Kellner.
Emma received her B.A. in Environmental Science & Policy with a specialty in environmental communications from Duke University. In addition to penning over 1,000 mbg articles on topics from the water crisis in California to the rise of urban beekeeping, her work has appeared on Grist, Bloomberg News, Bustle, and Forbes. She's spoken about the intersection of self-care and sustainability on podcasts and live events alongside environmental thought leaders like Marci Zaroff, Gay Browne, and Summer Rayne Oakes.