From Trotwood-Madison High School and Spelman College to classrooms and living rooms across the country, Chelsea Jackson Roberts has come a long way.
Her passion for education and wellness has guided her throughout a professional journey that has evolved from a rookie yogi to an internationally recognized Peloton yoga teacher who has worked with such celebrity clients as Jennifer Garner, Janelle Monae and Shonda Rimes. While the practice of yoga goes back thousands of years, Roberts, Lululemon’s first African American global ambassador, puts her own take on the ancient practice by adding hip-hop and R&B to traditional asana.
Roberts, who received her Ph.D. from the Division of Educational Studies at Emory University, has long focused on expanding the reach of yoga, founding Red Clay Yoga, a nonprofit organization, as a tool for education and community outreach. In 2016, as her professional profile grew, she was invited by the White House to participate in the annual Easter Egg Roll, teaching yoga in support of first lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign.
In celebration of September as National Yoga Month, the Trotwood native talks about her passion for the practice and the impact her Dayton roots continue to have.
Credit: COURTESY OF PELOTON
Credit: COURTESY OF PELOTON
Q: What does it mean to you to be a product of Trotwood?
A: I have a tremendous amount of pride to know that I come from a space that is so grounded in community. I remember the slogan of Trotwood, “RAM PRIDE”, as I was a member of the cheerleading squads and marching bands. I carry that with me everywhere I go. Each time I come back home, I still feel deeply connected to my roots and I will never forget the village that helped raise me.
Q: Are there any notable lessons you take to heart or remember fondly from your high school years?
A: I attended Trotwood during a time when we were quite successful in sports, marching band, and a variety of organizations. Even if you weren’t directly involved or a part of the team, you were because you were a RAM. We were happy and proud of each other. We celebrated the wins of our classmates and did all we could to show our support. I learned what community was during my high school years. These experiences were definitely the guiding lessons that ordered my steps as I explored the wider world.
Q: You have extensive credentials in education. How and why did you make the shift to yoga?
A: I see myself shifting deeper into my educational credentials by teaching yoga on a platform that casts a wider net than I ever could in the classroom as a public-school teacher or a university professor. My experience in the classroom and the research I have completed to attain my Ph.D. has directly influenced how and the ways in which I teach yoga. I am still an educator; my classroom just looks different than it would in a more traditional setting. I am still an educational researcher, and as I continue to write, I am able to contribute to the bodies of work that elevate the ways yoga and meditation impact how we learn, share, and process information.”
Q: How did you get connected with Peloton? Why was that a natural fit for you?
A: Although I launched on the Peloton platform in 2020, I was actually recruited and asked to audition for the company in 2019. I knew that Peloton was globally recognized as a cycling/fitness company. However, my expertise in yoga and meditation, in addition to my experience as a global instructor, was really a no-brainer for when I said yes. Honestly, it was my husband (also manager) Shane who knew this was my calling and that we should take the chance of moving from Atlanta to New York City to explore the opportunity. My life has changed tremendously, and we have never looked back.
Q: Your style of yoga is not what most people envision when they think of yoga. How would you describe it?
A: My style of yoga is heavily influenced by my Midwest roots, my love for community, and, most of all, music. I describe my style of yoga as an inclusive celebration of our uniquely made bodies. My style of yoga meets my students exactly how they arrive to their yoga practice. I want people to feel the challenge of getting stronger and also feel the warmth of my delivery. My yoga practice is a celebration of who we are individually so that we can be even stronger collectively.”
Q: What is Red Clay Yoga and why is it important to you?
A: Red Clay Yoga is a nonprofit that Shane and I co-founded in 2014 in Atlanta. It’s an organization that is community led and focuses on making yoga accessible to all people and communities. Our biggest program is Yoga, Literature and Art Camp for Teen Girls at Spelman College. This is a tuition-free program for young girls between the ages of 13 to 17. Red Clay Yoga also provides continuing education programs for educators and yoga practitioners who want to understand the connections between the philosophy of yoga and issues surrounding social justice. Red Clay Yoga is important because it is rooted in community and (reflects) the dedication I have to yoga.
Q: How have you benefited personally from practicing yoga?
A: Yoga is important to me because the practice has been a part of my life since early adulthood. It has supported me in navigating life’s twists and turns by keeping me present and aware. I have benefited from the practice because it reminds me that I am worthy of rest. I am worthy of the time it takes to listen closely to my body. By definition, yoga means to unite, yoke, or join. I practice connecting my body, mind and actions in the world through awareness. Honestly, yoga is an essential tool that I keep with me in my back pocket so that I can show up fully in the world.
Credit: TY HOLTAN
Credit: TY HOLTAN
Benefits of Yoga
Chelsea Jackson Roberts offers these tips:
- Yoga can support us in developing a deeper awareness and connection to our body and mind.
- Yoga benefits the various systems of our bodies, especially the respiratory, cardiovascular and nervous systems.
- Yoga is an opportunity to listen to what our bodies need and don’t need.
- Yoga provides a space for us to stretch and breathe in a way that is both accessible and supportive.
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