Since her Peloton debut in May of 2020, Chelsea Jackson Roberts, Ph.D., has become one of the most sought-after yoga instructors on the app. Using a mixture of hip-hop, R&B, classical, gospel, house, and funk-themed classes, the Dayton, OH native guides Peloton users across the globe, in the weekly practice of feeling connected with the body and the breath as they “root down and rise up.” With many leaving her classes feeling more grounded and anchored than they were when they started, it’s easy to see how the former Lululemon Global Ambassador and two-time Yoga Journal cover star has made such an impact. While her background as a third-grade school teacher and founder of Yoga, Literature, and Art Camp lends to her influence, her journey to becoming a world-renowned celebrity yoga instructor was not met without tragedy.
Following the sudden death of her best friend to gun violence, Chelsea says that it was yoga that helped her to confront the trauma of losing someone so close, so abruptly. Yoga empowered her to open up and embrace how her body showed up. Over time, the practice went from stretching on a mat to becoming a lifestyle, and one that she even integrated into her third-grade classrooms to help her students cope with their traumas as well.
In this interview with xoNecole, Dr. Chelsea Jackson Roberts discusses how yoga can be used to heal from traumatic experiences, ways to remain grounded, and how yoga has set the tone for other areas of her life.
xoNecole: What made you decide to start practicing yoga?
Dr. Chelsea Jackson Roberts: I first met yoga as a senior at Spelman College. But I never actually went into a yoga class because I was quite intimidated. It wasn't until I graduated, and started moving through my early adulthood that I began to practice.
I was a third-grade public school teacher in Atlanta and it was during that time, I tried my first yoga class. My understanding was completely physical. I thought it was only a workout and that I would burn some calories and sweat in my hot yoga class. It was later in life that I found out yoga was so much more.
I also started to go deeper into meditation, which supported me through the trauma of losing one of my closest friends and Spelman sisters to gun violence. So it was definitely a journey that evolved that started as a workout and later became an integrated lifestyle for me.
xoN: How did yoga help you to move past that trauma?
CJR: I don't know if I moved past it, or confronted it. When we go through trauma, our bodies naturally go through a 'fight, flight, or freeze' [response]. And more than anything, I think I was numb. I hadn't reached out to a therapist and this was the first time I had experienced trauma that abrupt and of that magnitude. When I was in those yoga classes, I remembered something happening that allowed me to really connect with how I felt in the moment. It allowed me to embrace my body and how it was showing up.
There were mirrors in the class that allowed me to look at myself, in my eyes, and I started wondering what would have happened if I went back to that first experience of practicing yoga and feeling really whole. And then I used that to confront and embrace the experience that my body, my heart, and my mind were going through. And honestly, the more that I practiced yoga, it opened me up and supported me to begin to talk about what I was experiencing.
I then sought professional help from a therapist. It helped me lean into my faith and my community. So I think that yoga more than anything was this tool that opened me up to so many other ways of supporting me through the trauma.
"When I was in those yoga classes, I remembered something happening that allowed me to really connect with how I felt in the moment. It allowed me to embrace my body and how it was showing up... And honestly, the more that I practiced yoga, it opened me up and supported me to begin to talk about what I was experiencing."
Courtesy of Peloton
xoN: In addition to yoga being a tool to open you up, what were some other benefits?
CJR: If you know yoga, it’s centered on the breath and a moment for us to pause to allow ourselves to take that deep inhale. To this day, I tell my students that even if they even have one minute of connected breath, you are practicing yoga. Yoga simply means to unite, to join, and to yoke. When you use the practice of yoga, you are essentially allowing yourself to feel fully connected to the body and the breath, so that when you move into the action in this world, you're coming from a more grounded and anchored place. And so those are some of the tools that I pulled from the practice for me to even navigate and articulate what I was experiencing through that trauma.
Even in my classroom, as a school teacher, it opened up how I showed up for my students who were also experiencing traumas. I was in a Title 1 school where the majority of the students lived below the poverty line, and there were moments they were struggling. So I began integrating some of what I learned in those yoga classes. That's when I started creating this trajectory of exploring yoga as a tool for communicating and learning, and even unlearning things in this life.
xoN: Given the traumatic events that have happened within the past few years and the overall trauma that Black women endure, what other ways can yoga be used to remain grounded?
CJR: I love this quote, and if you ever hear me speak about some of my teachers, I always say that James Baldwin is a teacher who–though I may not have met in the physical–has certainly influenced the lens that I use in this world. I always paraphrase this thought that he had which goes, “Once we understand our own suffering, we can then understand the suffering of others, and from that place, we can move deeper into love.” In my own lived experiences, unless I was able to confront that pain, that trauma of losing my best friend in my early adulthood, my life will be a lot different in how I interact with understanding the trauma that I would later experience and the trauma of other people.
For me, I think that yoga can be a tool to get us to be honest about who we are and the reality of why we are. And not blaming ourselves, even for some of the social inequities that we experienced in these bodies. Yoga helps me to seek out the truth. It helps me to look into my ancestry and read literature that contextualizes what it is that I'm experiencing right now.
There's a sacred text called, Patanjali Yoga Sutras. The first sutra talks about nonviolence and that's the first approach that I always encourage–especially for first-time yoga practitioners–to move through so that you're not hard on yourself and your yoga practice. Also, truth and integrity. If we integrated these ways of seeing the world and how we interact with each other, I think that we would have a lot less injustice and the traumatic events that we've seen in this world.
"Yoga simply means to unite, to join, and to yoke. When you use the practice of yoga, you are essentially allowing yourself to feel fully connected to the body and the breath, so that when you move into the action in this world, you're coming from a more grounded and anchored place."
Sara Haile Photography
Courtesy of Dr. Chelsea Jackson Roberts
xoN: You mentioned the social inequities that we experience in our bodies. And I know that oftentimes, bodily trauma can cause us to feel disconnected from ourselves. Have you ever felt disconnected from your body and how did yoga help you to repair that connection?
CJR: I have been very public and transparent about the loss that we experienced at the end of last year when I was pregnant for the first time. I felt really disconnected. It was a time when I really had to dig deeply into my yoga practice and not blame myself for what happened. But what I could do was embrace the fullness of my experience. And that's why I talk about it.
Yoga reminds us that this is a practice that we have to take one day at a time. And yeah, it has certainly helped me embrace the light and the dark, the suffering and the joy, that I often talk about in my classes. So I see yoga as this tool that–especially when we're going through hard things in our own bodies–gives us space to really breathe and take inventory of what it is that we have truly gone through. And over time, we’ll realize that we are quite amazing in the resilience that we have, and the hope.
Also, I want to say that how I teach yoga, I remind people to embrace the unique way that our bodies show up. To translate that off of the mat, I started to consider the unique ways that I could be a parent, had it not happened the way that I thought it would. So that means all of the different ways that you can parent in this world.
To me, in yoga, when I embrace it may be that I need to use a block or prop or a pillow to get into this posture. It may look different than the person next to me in my yoga class. And that's exactly how life is. It may not look identical to someone else's path, but we can celebrate those individual unique ways in order to see our collective union as we move through our life. I like to take those lessons off the mat and into my lived experiences too.
xoN: How has yoga helped to set the tone for other areas of your life?
CJR: When I announced that my husband, Shane, and I were expecting our first child, I was like all of my yoga classes and all of my practices have been for this moment right now. I know that my yoga practice will deeply impact how I show up as a mother. This is a role I've never played in my life, and I'm grateful that I have these tools that I can pull from. When I'm being pulled in different directions, or feeling overwhelmed–because I hear parenthood can be that way–I know that I have these tools to come back to be my anchor and support how my husband and I communicate. And essentially I know it's going to impact how we are as parents, living in this household together, and still working together.
Yoga has definitely influenced how I show up in the world and the voice that I use. If anybody is familiar with the work that I've done, they know that I'm also deeply committed to social justice and cultivating communities. We do that through our nonprofit, Red Clay Yoga.
As Yogis, we are peaceful. But we are also grounded in truth. We acknowledge that equity and equality are essential for harmony. So yoga has impacted and influenced how I show up with my voice in the world, for how I speak out against or in support of different social issues in this world as well.
"I know that my yoga practice will deeply impact how I show up as a mother. This is a role I've never played in my life, and I'm grateful that I have these tools that I can pull from. When I'm being pulled in different directions, or feeling overwhelmed–because I hear parenthood can be that way–I know that I have these tools to come back to be my anchor and support how my husband and I communicate."
Sara Haile Photography
Courtesy of Dr. Chelsea Jackson Roberts
xoN: I know that you are the first Black Lululemon global ambassador. And from there, you’ve gone on to become a Peloton yoga instructor. How was that transition?
CJR: And ironically, I'm the first Black Peloton yoga instructor. That's something that isn't necessarily voiced aloud. But in spaces where we are really visible, I think that it's important for us to know that we exist everywhere. And by “we,” I'm talking about Black folks, Black women, people of color, or however you see yourself not being elevated in spaces because of your background. It's been a tremendous honor to be that trailblazer in many ways and never forget the teachers who came before me.
So the pivot to being a Peloton instructor has certainly inspired others who may have never considered themselves Yogis. They may have seen themselves as athletes, but to see yourself as a Yogi can be quite intimidating because of the flexibility that’s articulated in pictures or magazines.
But I’m hoping that people come into my class because they felt the intention that I said and that we can all be welcome to this practice. That's why I rely on unexpected musical genres in yoga spaces. And being at Peloton has afforded me the ability to cast a wider net and get yoga out there even more.
For more information on Dr. Chelsea Jackson Roberts, visit Chelsea Loves Yoga.
Featured image by Sara Haile Photography
This article is in partnership with Sensodyne.
Our teeth are connected to so many things - our nutrition, our confidence, and our overall mood. We often take for granted how important healthy teeth are, until issues like tooth sensitivity or gum recession come to remind us. Like most things related to our bodies, prevention is the best medicine. Here are five things you can do immediately to improve your oral hygiene, prevent tooth sensitivity, and avoid dental issues down the road.
1) Go Easy On the Rough Brushing: Brushing your teeth is and always will be priority number one in the oral hygiene department. No surprises there! However, there is such a thing as applying too much pressure when brushing…and that can lead to problems over time. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and brush in smooth, circular motions. It may seem counterintuitive, but a gentle approach to brushing is the most effective way to clean those pearly whites without wearing away enamel and exposing sensitive areas of the teeth.
2) Use A Desensitizing Toothpaste: As everyone knows, mouth pain can be highly uncomfortable; but tooth sensitivity is a whole different beast. Hot weather favorites like ice cream and popsicles have the ability to trigger tooth sensitivity, which might make you want to stay away from icy foods altogether. But as always, prevention is the best medicine here. Switching to a toothpaste like Sensodyne’s Sensitivity & Gum toothpaste specifically designed for sensitive teeth will help build a protective layer over sensitive areas of the tooth. Over time, those sharp sensations that occur with extremely cold foods will subside, and you’ll be back to treating yourself to your icy faves like this one!
3) Floss, Rinse, Brush. (And In That Order!): Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s not what you do, but how you do it”? Well, the same thing applies to taking care of your teeth. Even if you are flossing and brushing religiously, you could be missing out on some of the benefits simply because you aren’t doing so in the right order. Flossing is best to do before brushing because it removes food particles and plaque from places your toothbrush can’t reach. After a proper flossing sesh, it is important to rinse out your mouth with water after. Finally, you can whip out your toothbrush and get to brushing. Though many of us commonly rinse with water after brushing to remove excess toothpaste, it may not be the best thing for our teeth. That’s because fluoride, the active ingredient in toothpaste that protects your enamel, works best when it gets to sit on the teeth and continue working its magic. Rinsing with water after brushing doesn’t let the toothpaste go to work like it really can. Changing up your order may take some getting used to, but over time, you’ll see the difference.
4) Stay Hydrated: Upping your water supply is a no-fail way to level up your health overall, and your teeth are no exception to this rule. Drinking water not only helps maintain a healthy pH balance in your mouth, but it also washes away residue and acids that can cause enamel erosion. It also helps you steer clear of dry mouth, which is a gateway to bad breath. And who needs that?
5) Show Your Gums Some Love: When it comes to improving your smile, you may be laser-focused on getting your teeth whiter, straighter, and overall healthier. Rightfully so, as these are all attributes of a megawatt smile; but you certainly don’t want to leave gum health out of the equation. If you neglect your gums, you’ll start to notice the effects of plaque buildup, which can irritate the gums and cause gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease. Seeing blood while brushing and flossing is a tell-tale sign that your gums are suffering. You may also experience gum recession — a condition where the gum tissue surrounding your teeth pulls back, exposing more of your tooth. Brushing at least twice a day with a gum-protecting toothpaste like Sensodyne Sensitivity and Gum, coupled with regular dentist visits, will keep your gums shining as bright as those pearly whites.
Imma tell y’all what — it seems like not one week goes by when I don’t see some sort of so-called term that has me like, “What in the world?” For instance, when I first stumbled upon “self-partnering,” honestly, I laughed. Then shared it with some other single people as well as married folks I know. And I kid you not, every individual was like, “What the heck does that mean?” When I told them that it was yet, one more way to seemingly define single living, basically everyone’s follow-up was, “Oh, brother.”
Why can’t (more) singles just be single and be okay with that? Good Lord. Why does there need to be some sort of relational play-on-words to make it sound like we’re with someone — even if we’re not?
Now masterdating? Even though it’s not even close to being a “real” word, it’s something that also brought a laugh outta me — although it was then followed by a genuine smile. The laugh because I almost immediately caught the play-on-words. The smile was due to the intention behind it all.
If you’re not familiar with what masterdating is and you’re curious about why you should even care, take a few moments to at least skim through what it’s about and why I think participating, as a single person, is a pretty cool (and effective) concept.
Masturdate: a date w oneself
What’s Masterdating All About?
Masterdating. Okay, so let the word marinate for just a moment. What does it sound like? Yeah…exactly. And since a huge part of masturbation centers around self-pleasure, it’s cool to explore how “self-dating” could produce similar (as far as pleasure is concerned in a broader sense) results. Because masterdating is all about spending quality time with yourself, pampering yourself, treating yourself— and yes, taking yourself out on dates.
Any of you who may think that masterdating is a consolation prize — and a pitiful one at that — for not being able to go out with another human being or get that dream $200 first date that social media was all in a tizzy about last year (bookmark that) — personally, I think that you’re the demographic who needs to try out masterdating first and the most. Why? Off top, I’ll share my three good reasons.
3 Reasons To Strongly Consider Masterdating
1. It’s an intimate way to get to know yourself better. I’ve been working with couples for a pretty long time at this point and if there’s a pattern that I see arise, OFTEN, it’s that two people are oftentimes so busy trying to “find their person” that they didn’t even know who they were. As a direct result, they found themselves in a relationship with someone who only complemented the “kiddie pool version” of who they were.
That’s why it can be so beneficial to spend time getting to know yourself on the “deep end” of things: what makes you tick, what your passions are, what you want most out of life, what are your interests beyond obvious things — and masterdating can help you to discover all of this. Whether it’s traveling alone or taking out a weekend to drink some wine and journal, the more you get to know yourself, the clearer you’ll be about who complements you on a romantic and friendship level.
2. It will definitely help to boost your confidence levels. I guess since I’m an ambivert, I don’t really get why people freak out at the mere thought of going to a restaurant or movie alone. Personally, I think it requires a helluva lot more energy and gumption to wait around and plan stuff with other people (#Elmoshrug). However, whether you’re an introvert, extrovert, or ambivert, there’s no way around the fact that the more comfortable you get with doing things alone, the more your confidence levels will increase — no, soar — because of it.
One article that I read on the topic said that doing things alone can make you more creative, improve your mental health, and help you to be totally okay with being alone (so that you’re not “needy” for other people’s attention). A psychotherapist from a New York Times article on the benefits of spending time alone said, “Getting better at identifying moments when we need solitude to recharge and reflect can help us better handle negative emotions and experiences, like stress and burnout.” And when you’re able to stare negativity in its face without flinching, how could that not make you bolder, more self-secure, and hopeful about your life?
3. It will teach you to value your time more effectively. In every facet of your world, you’re gonna operate from a healthier place if you’re operating from a “full cup” rather than an empty one. When it comes to this topic, think about it — if you’re constantly waiting on someone to call you to go out or wishing for a dream date with some guy, all you’re doing is wasting precious time that you could be spending taking a cooking class or hell, hiring a chef to make you dinner at your own home.
Indeed, waiting has two sides to it: when it’s in the form of patience, it is indeed a virtue, yet when it’s wrapped up in the notion that you’re not really living life unless you have an audience…it is totally working against you. Choose wisely.
10 Solo Date Ideas To Help You To “Master” Masterdating
So, what if you’re someone who has either never considered actually masterdating before or you don’t really know what to do beyond dinner and the movies? Here are a few ideas to consider:
1. Attend a workshop or masterclass that you’re interested in. If there’s something that you’ve always wanted to learn, sign up for a workshop or masterclass. The cool thing about this option is there are probably some in your city, as well as some that you can find online (like here) that are convenient and affordable.
2. Binge-read at a local coffee shop. Aside from their coziness and oftentimes inviting scents, I once read that a lot of us gravitate to coffee shops because we can be around people without having to actually socialize with them. So, if you want to “hang out” while still being able to enjoy a bit of solitude, take a book that you’ve been trying to finish to a local coffee shop, order your favorite latte, and sit in a big-ass comfy chair. Usually, you can sit there for hours, and the staff will be just fine with it (another bonus).
3. Have a spa day in the next town. You can never go wrong with a spa day. And while going with a friend can be fun, sometimes there’s too much talking transpiring to be able to fully chill out and relax. So, go off of the grid, get a change of scenery, and hit up a spa in the next city (or town). There are lots of studies out here supporting that day trips or “daycations” can actually be really good for your long-term health and well-being.
4. See a community play. Some of the best solo dates that I’ve ever been on consisted of taking in some of the local arts in my city. What’s really cool about this particular option is, oftentimes, they are extremely inexpensive, if not totally free of charge (in exchange for making a donation or putting money into a tip jar).
5. Plan a trip. Whenever people say something along the lines of, “If you don’t expect anything, you won’t be disappointed,” I know that they low-key have some (additional) healing to do from past disappointments. There’s simply too much intel out here to support that anticipation (of good stuff) makes us more motivated and optimistic, keeps our dopamine levels up, and makes life more exciting overall.
Since traveling alone is more cost-effective, gives you the freedom to do whatever you want (when you want), and increases the possibility of meeting new people and having new experiences on your journey — why not devote a day this weekend to planning a solo trip? All the way around, it’s good for you.
6. Try your hand at your own “$200 date.” Uh-huh. Roll your eyes if you want to, but it’s real easy to talk left about how a man should be able to just drop $200 like it’s nothing…until you actually try to do it. So yes, while taking yourself out on this type of date could serve as a bit of a reality check, it can also “scratch the itch” of waiting on some dude to do it for you. It’s also way less emotionally draining because, at least when you’re taking your own self out, it’s guaranteed that you’ll enjoy the company…right?
7. DIY some pampering. When you get a chance, check out “5 Reasons You Should Unapologetically Pamper Yourself,” “Want To Love On Yourself? Try These 10 Things At Home.,” “I’ve Got Some Ways For You To Start Pampering Your Soul,” and “When's The Last Time You Actually Pampered Your Vagina?” The bottom line here is pampering is all about, not mere self-maintenance; it’s all about treating yourself to levels of EXTREME SELF-INDULGENCE. So, if nothing else tickles your fancy on this list, at least consider doing that, chile.
8. Feed your creativity. Something that I used to be really good at is art. That said, one of my goddaughters is insanely talented, so she has reminded me to tap back into it. Also, a big part of what got me into the writing world is poetry; I actually used to be a house poet at a local spot. Sometimes, my best quality time moments with myself have been revisiting these creative sides of me — and this is definitely easier to do (and enjoy) alone.
9. Try some stargazing. When’s the last time you took a blanket into your backyard, laid down on it, and just stared at the stars for hours on end? While some say that stargazing can teach you to be mindful, others say that being in that form of nature reduces stress, while others believe that looking up at the universe at night can increase your attention span. All solid reasons to give it a shot, if you ask me.
10. DO. ABSOLUTELY. NOTHING. Let me tell you something that nobody will ever be able to make me feel bad about: doing absolutely nothing. I’ve got data to back me up. Good Housekeeping shares that doing nothing can help you decide how you want to respond or react to certain things. I like howThe Guardian says that taking this approach helps you to regain control of what you give your attention to.
TIME magazine says that it can ultimately make you more productive.BBC offers up that it can help you tap into your ingenuity.Henry Ford Health says that it can make you kinder and a better problem-solver. So, if you want to invest in yourself, do nothing sometimes.
Closing Thoughts from the Lovely Javicia Leslie
While some of y'all may know Javicia Leslie from being the former Batwoman, I discovered her back in the day from the indie series Chef Julian (and yes, "Julian" was right to say that "Mo" looks like Tatyana Ali...the real ones know). Sometimes I'll hop on her IG to see what she's got going on and this story popped up within a few hours of me penning this...so, I took it as hella confirmation.
TREAT YO SELF. WAIT FOR NO ONE.
WAIT FOR NO ONE. TREAT YO SELF.
RINSE AND REPEAT.
Sooo…what kind of masterdating plans do you have for this coming weekend? While going out with others has its perks, hanging out with yourself has a ton of ‘em too. Enjoy!
No…for real. ENJOY!
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