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Daily Inspiration: Meet Ashley Williams

Today we’d like to introduce you to Ashley Williams.

Hi Ashley, we’re thrilled to have a chance to learn your story today. So, before we get into specifics, maybe you can briefly walk us through how you got to where you are today?
I began my personal yoga practice in 2013 after experiencing immense grief due to the passing of my aunt from cancer. This introduction to yoga sparked inner connection and healing that led to a desire to introduce the principles and practices of yoga to my community, including friends, family, social, and work environments. I completed a 200-hour yoga teacher training in 2013, and in 2015-2017, I attended the Maryland University of Integrative Health to earn a Master of Science in Yoga Therapy.

My experience, education, and community inspired me to create BareSOUL yoga, a small business that had a mission to bridge the gap between yoga, education, and community to increase accessible, diverse healing experiences, specifically for the black community due to lack of representation in the wellness fields and inclusive wellness spaces. I used personal connections to teach in various institutions and organizations to include, including schools and universities, health systems, government agencies, churches, and behavioral and mental health organizations. In 2017, I opened my first brick and mortar that expanded the team of teachers.

In 2019, I realized that I was unable to fully meet my mission by making the practice accessible with the brick and mortar, so shifted the business model back to being a completely mobile business, which made an immense impact. In 2020, due to the effects of the pandemic, BareSOUL shifted into a brick and mortar to operate virtual and small group classes, yet remains community-based.

This year, I have introduced a new venture The Well Collective, a community space for conscious well-being that offers an apothecary, retail space, and other holistic health and healing services. Over the past few years, my work and passion is driven by faith and assessed by community need, therefore may shift the model yet remain authentic to create space for people to access community wellness.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
The vision and the path have been clear, and at times, the logistics and operation of the actual business have been a challenge. Some of the main challenges have been finding the balance between sustaining a profitable business and creating a financially accessible pricing tier for the communities that we serve. One of BareSOULs main missions is to decrease health disparity by addressing systemic barriers to wellness to include transportation, financial resources, education, and location/proximity.

Many times, this includes working with organizations or populations that may not have the funding to support sustainable programming or attendance. Our solution has been to find ways to partner with organizations to subsidize resources or increase revenue streams.

Education of our services has also been a big obstacle because we are working within communities that may be unfamiliar with the practices taught, so we continue to place the most important value of all at the forefront, which is building community and relationships.

As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
I am in the work of teaching conscious living practices and creating well spaces to promote individual awareness, connect communities and promote social change.

My core values are love, liberations/freedom, and connection/community, which show up through my personal choices and work path. By profession, I am a Yoga Therapist and Mindfulness Educator with 12 years of experience in the fields of education, behavioral and mental health, and community programming in Richmond, VA, and surrounding areas. I am passionate and do well with bridging and weaving practices, and most of my work bridges mindfulness, diversity, wellness, and inclusion on micro and macro levels to achieve equitable, socially stable, and conscious spaces for individual and collective care.

I have a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology degree from the University of Virginia and a Masters of Science degree in Yoga Therapy from the Maryland University of Integrative Health, which guides my heart-centered work focusing on the mind, body, spirit, and social well-being.

I am the Founder of BareSOUL Yoga & Wellness, a community-based organization initially created to offer accessible yoga offerings, and Mindful on Life, a curriculum-based program dedicated to transforming the community through the practice of mindfulness education. As an advocate for diverse representation, accessible self-care, and overall well-being, I have strategically built community-centered yoga and mindfulness programs in schools, health systems, government agencies, faith-based organizations, and businesses as an employee, consultant, and partner. It is important for me to continue to create spaces that offer mindful-based living practices to encourage self-exploration, awareness, authenticity and build a community for the collective good, and be honest and work with systemic factors that are present.

Currently, I work deeply within the school environment because I believe in bridging the school-community lines to create cohesive relationships and practices. I oversee and implement mindful-based restorative practices as a trauma-responsive practice to offer whole school support for students, staff, parents, and community members.

As a black woman and Richmond resident, I have spent the past few years studying and understanding Richmond’s role in the 400- year history of slavery in our country and the effects of systemic oppression on the well-being of all identities. Recently, I am most honored for the expansion and elevation of work centered around using Yoga and Mindfulness as a vehicle to reclaim historically oppressive spaces, addressing trauma’s impact on the whole person, and build community resilience that has been featured locally and globally in the Richmond Magazine, Yoga Journal, and other publications.

Today, Ashley continues to move forward in speaking and creating space for individuals to explore all facets of social identity, explore self-awareness, and gain tools to place skills into action that develop high social impact. I continue to know that I am guided by a force bigger than myself, and I believe when we center our own well-being and bridge community, then we collectively move back into our humanity.

Have you learned any interesting or important lessons due to the Covid-19 Crisis?
Covid-19 crisis taught me the importance of social relationships, sustainable self-care, and support to move through uncertain times with resilience. It taught me the importance of caring for the community close to us by pivoting our business model to support each other. It also taught the importance of asking for help, being non-attached to the outcome, and leaning into discomfort.

Pricing:

  • one-on-one Mindful On Life Coaching, 111.70/Hour

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Soho Photos

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