With the lack of representation of Black yoga instructors and practitioners in the wellness space, it’s no surprise that there would be a lack in products that cater to “us.”
That’s when Julia and Cornelia Gibson, sisters and founders of Toned by BaggedEm, had an idea. If Black women couldn’t see themselves in the classes they were in, at least they would feel motivated if they could see themselves on their mats.
That’s when Toned Yoga Mats were born.
Ranging from $60 to $80, the visual affirmation mats not only reminded Black women that they are not alone in their health journeys, but that they were unapologetically and boldly taking up space where far too often, they were not represented.
Here, the sisters share their journey in creating more inclusive spaces and products — for us, by us.
We know that the wellness space isn’t often inclusive of “us” — especially yoga — what inspired you to create Toned Yoga Mats?
Julia: Our own difficulties maintaining health and feeling represented lead us to create our mats. We realized that we didn’t feel motivated by the environment. When we looked around there weren’t many people that looked like us. We used each other as motivation to get results and we wanted to share that motivation with everyone else.
Cornelia: In a way, we were striving to give all women that felt the way we did a “sister” to motivate and encourage them to be healthy and proud of who they are.
Can you share more about your backstory?
Julia: We are SISTERS! Which is why we wanted to share our sisterhood with the world! Growing up together we share the same values. But the things that make us different are the things that help us create harmony in business and in our relationship. Our mom does our drawings and that makes this process easier and more rewarding as well. It’s easiest to communicate, agree with and create with family.
Cornelia: Yes, and also, we know one another’s strengths and weaknesses. The thought for Toned Mats actually stemmed from us realizing how motivated we always were conquering fitness and wellness together.
How do you hope to inspire other Black women to join the movement?
Julia: We hope that we represent the everyday woman! I am a mother. We work regular office jobs. We hope to inspire other women by showing that it is okay to not have a ton of energy all the time, to be too busy sometimes but remind them to maintain a healthy regimen and take some time out to do something for their wellness.
Cornelia: We hope that women see themselves in us and the products we create. We want women that may have felt intimidated by fitness classes, gyms and other health conscious activities to feel empowered.
What has been the response from women who have used your mats?
Julia: Women are inspired. Sometimes they make us cry, they are happy! Thankful, even! They feel included. They feel like it’s a statement.
Cornelia: Women love the mats. We are pleased that so many other women have an emotional connection to our products the same way we do.
What other products do you currently have in the works, and do you plan to extend beyond yoga?
Julia: We want to create more mats that represent as many underrepresented people that we can. We have other ideas that we are in the thought process with. We want to create other products that include our images and our mission to motivate and uplift.
Cornelia: In the future we may venture out to other high quality fitness equipment.
Why is it important for Black women to be represented in the wellness space?
Julia: I think it is important for black women to be represented in the wellness space for multiple reasons. My first relates to my daughters. I want them to see positive reinforcements. I want them to be open to speak about their mental and physical health. I want them to feel that they are beautiful and know that staying healthy is key! I want them to know healthy doesn’t have a specific face or body. Secondly, I see a big change in the world where black women are becoming more health and hair conscious. They need to be supported in these movements! Lastly, it is important to be represented so we are comfortable opening up health conversations within our communities. So we know that there are things like high blood pressure and diabetes that plague our communities and healthy routines can curve generational diseases.
Cornelia: I have a million reasons that it is important to be represented in the wellness space. Our everyday experience in society can often be stressful and discouraging and we need to counter that by surrounding ourselves with the things that will make us feel good inside and out. The sooner we can get that message out to those that need it, the better!