Have you ever found yourself stressed and thought, “Okay, just breathe…”? Katara McCarty, creator of the EXHALE phone app can help with just that. EXHALE is the first emotional well-being app designed specifically for Black, Indigenous, Women of Color (BIWOC).
The practices in this app speak to where BIWOC are today, in America in 2020, where they disproportionately face systems of oppression that cause hurt and harm to their bodies and minds.
EXHALE provides five categories of well-being practice: meditations, coaching talks, affirmations, guided visualizations and breath work.
The app, available via iOS and Android, is free with the option to unlock additional features for an added cost. Right now, everything is free until Sept. 30 as we want to provide this as a free resource in response to justice not being served for the killing of Breonna Taylor and the recent shooting of Jacob Blake among others. We decided this needs to be a free resource for moms, grandmothers, sisters, aunties, cousins and friends.
The importance of EXHALE
EXHALE was born out of the idea that the Black and brown community is holding its breath, waiting for the next video of police brutality, the next microaggression or the next negative health impact statistic.
In the Black community, mental health issues are often compounded by the psychological stress of systemic racism. As a result, Black adults are 20% more likely to report serious psychological distress than white adults (because of oppression, systematic racism and other factors at work).
Women are at least twice as likely to experience an episode of major depression as men. Compared to their white counterparts, Black women are only half as likely to seek help. Again, this is because of oppression, systematic racism and other factors at work.
Emerging evidence further affirms that bearing witness to racially violent events online (i.e. viral videos of the detainment of undocumented immigrants in cages and police killings of unarmed citizens) can produce trauma symptomatology among Black and Latinx adolescents.
Popular meditation apps, as well as the health and wellness space in general, are predominantly white spaces led by white people. This reality leads to a lack of representation and overall support for Black and brown people seeking to practice self-care.
The benefits of meditation
When we feel overwhelmed as children, our parents tell us to “just breathe” or “take a breath.” We’re never taught why breathing is supposed to calm us down.
According to the American Institute of Stress, deep, abdominal breathing reduces stress and anxiety. For just 20-30 minutes each day, “deep breathing increases the supply of oxygen to your brain and stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which promotes a state of calmness.”
Our parasympathetic nervous system controls the predominant state our bodies should be during downtime, which should be 80% of the time. It’s the natural state we should be living in when not in danger. Our heart rate slows down, our breath is calm and relaxed, our digestive system is stimulated, and our hormones are balanced.
Taking the time for ourselves and focusing on our breath as BIWOC is both an act of reclaiming our power and an act of resistance. We may not be able to control what’s happening to us outside of our homes, the daily microaggressions and racism we’ll face, but we can control our breath.