You know how sometimes you meet someone for the first time and feel like you should have known them already? That's how I feel about Leah Brathwaite of Free Soul Malas. A couple of weeks ago Leah and I connected thanks to mutual friend Sarah Thompson, who owns The Dailey Method in the Glebe (a super awesome barre fitness studio).
When I last met Sarah for coffee she was wearing one of Leah's gorgeous malas, and I just had to ask her about it. Shortly afterward Leah got in touch with me, and we made a date to chat.
It was pouring rain that day and as I ducked into the Ministry of Coffee and Social Affairs in Hintonburg, it was immediately obvious which of these folks I was meeting. Leah's basically a walking ray of sunshine and strode right up to give me a warm (and dry!) hug. I adored her immediately. She's one of those souls you want to sit and chat with all day long over a cup of tea, you know? This is she:
We discovered we both have ties out west, we both moved to Ottawa at about the same time, and we both love yoga, and we know a ton of the same people. We probably should have already met at least 10 times by now.
But I digress. Leah brought along a veritable tickle trunk of her beautiful creations, and as I explored her collection I asker her to tell me her story.
Nearly 15 years ago, Leah began making the first Free Soul Mala. But she didn't even know it at the time. She was teaching in rural China and noticed the little beads carried by the local Buddhist monks. The villagers informed her that these “Buddha beads” held energy greater than their seemingly simple parts would suggest.
Leah had been wanting a memento of her time abroad, she bought a set of these beads that were said to help improve her life. Why not right? It was there, in rural China, that she felt a deep personal connection to the intention and energy of mala beads for the first time.
Fast forward many years later and Leah had moved on to college and a career she loved. When a chronic nerve condition abruptly ended her career as a dental hygienist, she was left at a crossroads. She had always had a passion for yoga and meditation, and found herself seeking out the mala beads she first encountered all those years ago in China.
She began by making necklaces and bracelets for herself, as well as for friends and family who'd make special requests. She then started receiving requests from across North America and even the UK, and decided it was time to embrace this as her calling. She just recently launched her very own web store and it's beautiful! She's also been picked up by a number of local shops, yoga, and fitness studios, so you can also find her creations at:
Yogatown (Little Italy and Stittsville locations)
...and I suspect many more are on the way. Congrats Leah, it's amazing seeing your work pop up all over town!
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