I frequently have the pleasure of sitting down to revelatory discussions with Lauren Solomon, friend and fellow yoga teacher, because we have been reading about and talking about love in our mini-sister circle/book club since May 2018. In this interview, Lauren shares the story of her career shifting yoga beginnings, how a higher calling inspires her mission to share yoga as a healing modality to students of color, and the tale of how both our synchronistic first encounter and love inspired our spring 2019 Embodied Love Yoga Retreat.

CM: Hello dear heart. I am so delighted that you are my first interview of a beloved yoga teacher colleague for my blog! Please start by telling us what first led you to a yoga mat?

LS: My interest in healing/holistic modalities began with the practice of yoga. I was first introduced to yoga during a very challenging time in my life. Ironically, my first class was disappointing and off-putting. I was seeking peace and instead experienced an instructor who only spoke in Sanskrit, offered no variations or modifications for the postures and I felt like an outcast and un-welcomed. I would soon learn that many people of color frequently have similar experiences in wellness spaces that appear “inclusive” but are clearly not created for me or anyone who looks like me (at that time it seemed obvious to me that yoga was exclusively for skinny affluent white women who wear $100+ spandex pants).

Fortunately, I rediscovered my passion for yoga 7 years ago at a small studio in Harlem led by a woman of color. What I found is not something I can put into words, but I was clear that whatever “it” was, I wanted more of it. Yoga became a lot more than a workout for me. The practice had begun unearthing and healing traumas that I had neatly tucked far, far away. So I just kept showing up…and the rest is still unfolding!

CM: Still unfolding indeed… I’m always so encouraged when yoga practitioners allow their relationship to yoga to evolve as any relationship inevitably does. Practicing yoga can be such a deeply intimate relationship with ourselves and can also lead to intimacy with and empathy for others. In your case it evolved right away, taking you from practitioner to teacher. What made you decide to teach yoga and not merely practice this enriching tool for self-care?

LS: I decided to switch careers (formerly a Wall Street finance professional) and create Lotus Sol because choosing the perceived security of my six-figure salary and being unhappy/dissatisfied with my work became intolerable. My career in finance was what I could do and I was certainly capable of doing well. However, finance was not what I have been called/anointed to do.

I also felt called to teach as my practice deepened because it is important to me that I contribute to Black/brown communities seeing and experiencing themselves represented in non-caricature/stereotypical ways (e.g. birth workers, healers, herbalists). Visibility is critical for POC  because when a people rarely or worse, never see themselves or anyone who looks like them in certain roles and environments, they can begin to subconsciously believe that “it” (whatever “it” is) is not for them/does not belong to them. For POC, the consequences result in our denying and opting ourselves out of experiences and opportunities that we need, deserve and often originally created!

CM: Speak that truth!

And by the way, I love the way you put that… “I have been called/anointed to do”. It sets up a clear contrast between doing work that you could be successful at VS. being guided by something sacred which in this case directed you to take the seat of a yoga teacher. This intimate and sacred quality is something that I have felt in your classes, and one of the reasons I am so excited to be co-facilitating Embodied Love Retreat in Tulum with you!

I believe there is something hallowed in the practice and teaching of yoga, and in the simplest of terms, it is the cultivation of the deeply sacred practice of healing, connecting and well, practicing love toward ourselves and others in the process. Can you speak to how teaching yoga and facilitating yoga retreats reflect your personal mission to support wellness in communities of color?  

LS: I strongly believe that everyone deserves healing – period. As a Black woman, I have a vested interest in seeing my people and black/brown communities thrive. As an independent practitioner and business woman, I am grateful that I get to choose whom I make my gifts and talents available to. I consciously choose to prioritize, serve and create for people of color.

As we heal, we are liberated from the destructive epigenetic trauma both now and for generations to come.

I’m always reminded of a quotation by an unknown author when I reflect on my mission to support my community to heal: “If our magic and our medicine isn’t radical, then who is it for anyway?”

 

CM: In April 2019, you and I are facilitating our first yoga retreat together. (If only the readers could see me doing my happy dance right now!) Please share the story of what inspired this collaboration.

LS: Facilitating this retreat with you, Crystal, is the evidence of manifested intention.

Prior to meeting you, I had been told numerous times by mutual friends that we should connect and how we were kindred spirits. I trusted that at the right time we would meet – and we did – at brunch (of course)! In the midst of chatting about life, goals and relationships/ love, we realized we were reading the same book, “All About Love” by bell hooks. I don’t believe in “coincidences” so in that moment I was all the more glad we finally met. As the conversation continued, more synchronicities were revealed. I eventually began sharing my desire to lead a retreat in 2019 specifically for people of color. And then you immediately resonated with the idea and began sharing out your love for Tulum. I could barely hold my excitement while you spoke as I had been following an eco-chic resort located in Tulum on instagram to support me in visualizing and manifesting leading my own retreat at this property. I held my tongue to see if you would specifically name any properties and then you said AMANSALA! This was the EXACT property I had been following since the beginning of the year (5 months prior to you and I brunching together)!!!

The rest is history…I told you about my intention to manifest a retreat at Amansala, and then you looked me in the eyes and offered that we co-create this retreat together on the subject of love and all we had learned and were unlearning from bell hooks and I immediately said Y-E-S! Voilà! Black Girl Magic.

CM: I honestly just felt the air in this room shift as you told that story. Blessed be.

My best friends and most successful collaborations have been with women with whom the kindred connection was clear, immediate and evidence of some miraculous force other than ourselves at work. Our intentions for this retreat came as immediately as our connection. The title we gave our retreat is Embodied Love: A Transformational Yoga Retreat in Tulum did not take long to name after that. What does the idea of “embodying love” mean to you?

LS: What comes to mind for me when I think of embodying love is courageously living in my highest potential in order to boldly fulfill my purpose and calling, and in the process being willing to transcend cognitive dissonance and inconvenience to unlearn and reimagine what’s true and possible for myself and my life.

CM: That is so powerful, Lauren. Who are some of the people who have deepened your understanding of the meaning and practice of love?

LS: bell hooks, Lisa Nichols, J. Krishnamurti, and of course my family, friends and lovers.

CM: Who should register for this retreat and why?

LS: I believe that we all know the truth by the way it feels (to borrow from the phenomenal India Aire). If the idea of co-creating sacred healing and loving space with kindred beings of color resonates with you, join us! This experience has been intentionally designed with you in mind to awaken and activate the divine love that is you and is always available to you. Asé

For more information or to register for Embodied Love: A Transformational Yoga Retreat in Tulum, please click here.   OR, join Lauren and Crystal starting in 2019 for a special monthly workshop series on Saturdays called Embodied Love Yoga. To learn more about Lauren Solomon, please visit www.lotussol.com