When Jasmine Marie was fresh out of business school and working in global brand marketing, she realized she was stressed out. As Marie told ESSENCE, “No one ever explicitly said this, but the underlying message was if you want to be successful, you’re going to have to push yourself to the limits.”
But it got to the point where Marie was literally experiencing a physical reaction to the stress she was enduring. So, she tried to figure out a way to reduce her stress. At the time, she was volunteering for her church, and they were opening a community center offering free breathwork classes.
After her first session, she was hooked.
“I just kept going, and ended up getting certified,” she shared. But while in training, she “noticed that there were very few practitioners of color, especially Black practitioners.”
“Knowing how much we [as Black people] hold trauma in our bodies and about our specific challenges in society,” Marie’s mindset immediately shifted to how could she bring this to our community. And thus begins the origin story for Marie’s company, Black Girls Breathing.
What exactly is breathwork?
Marie says it “is an active form of meditation that helps the nervous system reframe its response to strict triggers, trauma, stress and anxiety.” She added how “our bodies are naturally wired to be able to know how to handle stress, but when you factor in very specific types of circumstances, whether that is generational trauma, societal trauma, or individual trauma, your system is overwhelmed.”
When this happens, “we’re living in fight or flight mode and have high cortisol levels. Our community experiences [this] more than any other demographic.” “With all of that, it’s just like a muscle. If you don’t train it, you can kind of get weak, and we use breathwork to strengthen that muscle,” explained Marie. “It’s considered a somatic tool, and that helps with healing of the body.”
Marie’s ultimate goal: “providing free mental health resources to 1 million black women and girls in our community [by 2025].” How can you breathe with Marie? She said it’s as simple as “tak[ing] the pledge on our website” at www.blackgirlsbreathing.com.
Once you’ve signed up, you “will be able to get a free mental health toolkit, which has breathwork videos, audio meditations, journal prompts dealing with very specific types of traumas, along with cultural resources that are really relevant to what a Black woman experiences on a daily basis on top of other mental health resources.”
Black Girls Breathing is even returning back in person for the first time since the pandemic. In November and December of this year, there will be sessions in Washington, D.C. and Houston, TX, with exact timing and dates still to be determined.
In terms of what’s next for Black Girls Breathing, Marie shared “we’ll be launching our breathwork facilitator program next year and…we’ve already started talking to school systems. We want to be able to work with school counselors, especially in at-risk schools.”