Erica Ayisi is a freelance international journalist who covers the Black global experience. She's filed numerous feature news reports from the United States, United Kingdom, Jamaica, and Africa. Go global with her @akosua0906 on Instagram & Twitter.
What Self-Care Looks Like To Yogi Dr. Chelsea Jackson Roberts
In xoNecole's Finding Balance, we profile boss women making boss moves in the world and in their respective industries. We talk to them about their business, their life, and most of all, what they do to find balance in their busy lives.
"Drink as you pour" is Dr. Chelsea Jackson Roberts' favorite yoga mantra. Yoga is her drink of peace. After quenching her thirst, she pours the practice into others, hoping they find the same solace.
Chelsea's a certified yoga instructor. Her Yoga, Literature, and Art Camp for Teen Girls at Spelman College Museum of Fine Art just completed its 5th summer program where she taught a small group Atlanta's teenage girls positive self-care through yoga and creative arts. Chelsea is a BOSS. She has a doctorate degree focused on the impact of yoga with Brown and Black young women. "Yoga as it is practiced today, places a lot of emphasis on the body and it is important to expand the definition for what yoga is today," she explained.
Chelsea uses her Ph. D to lead and serve a community where Black owned yoga studios and practitioners are scarce. As founder of Red Clay Yoga, her faculty and staff offer trainings on yoga, community, and engagement within marginalized neighborhoods.
"My favorite response from students has to be, 'I feel at peace.' This reaction keeps me encouraged that the yoga is working."
Chelsea is currently taking her passion for guiding others through a flow of body movements, breath, and meditation across the pond as a Global Yoga Ambassador for Lululemon. We recently had a chat with Chelsea on how she finds balance while teaching others how use their body and breath to relax, relate, and release.
You're a former third grade teacher. Why did you combine education with yoga in your doctorate studies?
Anyone who knows a public school teacher knows that the profession is rewarding and extremely demanding. As a result, I knew I needed to adopt a routine that would support my wellness, so I started practicing yoga and eventually became certified while teaching school. I started to notice how the breathing exercises and moving my body supported me when I would leave school.
As a result, I wondered what would happen if I introduced the breathing exercises to my students. I taught elementary school for 8 years and decided to apply to Emory University where I earned my PhD in Educational Studies.
Is access to yoga growing in marginalized communities?
I do find that social media platforms are changing the ways in which we see who practices yoga, understand who yoga is for, and pushes back on the limited beliefs of what an ideal yoga body should be.
With this, online platforms have also offered access to practicing yoga if you don't have a yoga studio in your neighborhood, or the money to purchase monthly class cards.
How does a peaceful day for you begin?
A peaceful day looks like waking up with the sun and finding at least 5-10 minutes of deliberate conscious breathing. I don't always have time to get up and go to a studio. When I do make it to a class, I treat myself to Sacred Chill West in Atlanta. When I don't, my daily ritual looks like waking up, treating myself to a juice or smoothie, and maybe taking a walk.
How do you find balance with:
I find balance by taking time to do the things that bring me joy. My balance comes from sitting on my Granny's porch in Dayton, Ohio with my phone on silent. Being present for my partner to watch a movie without thinking about my to-do list.
Eating good (vegan) food and treating myself to a massage helps me maintain balance. My food absolutely impacts the ways in which I show up in the world for myself, my partner, family and my community. I love the practice of yoga because usually, when I am practicing yoga consistently, I am more mindful about all that I am putting into my body. As a result, I have more energy and more space to do my work in the world.
When you are going through a bout of uncertainty, or feeling stuck, how do you handle it?
I stay on course each time I look at the words the girls of YLA Camp produce each summer. I stay on course when I think about all that my ancestors had to endure in order for me to be here today. Whenever I feel overwhelmed, distractions always come up for me and in the moment I use [my] breath and sometimes meditation to refocus and recenter my vision and my goals.
Do you detox?
Yes! I practice a 10-day Ayurvedic detox seasonally. I still train with my teacher Jaya Devi in Atlanta, GA and she leads our home yoga community in 10 days of yoga in addition to a kidney, liver, and colon cleanse at the change of each season. It is amazing! Ayurveda is the ancient Indian practice that is the sister science to yoga that places emphasis on our organs, the systems of the body, and more specifically what foods are in alignment with our unique bodies.
What does a peaceful end of the day look like for you?
Depending on the time zone I am in, my bedtime can vary. I usually try and turn off technology at least an hour before I go to sleep to unwind. I also love a cup of chamomile tea and a shower or bath. I was just on the road this last week and I make it a habit to practice abhyanga, which is a self-massage, before a warm Epsom salt and lavender bath the night I return from a trip.
And honestly, what does success mean to you?
Success looks like accomplishing something I have been honest with myself I want. It is the experience of clearly stating to myself through written form, or I may speak the goal, and it can even been stated with silent intention. For me, success is a continuous process that may shift and evolve as I grow.
"I am constantly checking in and making sure that the thing I've accomplished and experienced is in alignment with my values, actions, and it brings me joy."
Be sure to follow @chelsealovesyoga for ideas on how to find your inner yogi. Check out her inspiring community with youth at chelsealovesyoga.com. Also be sure to check out some of the other amazing ladies we've featured in our Finding Balance series by clicking here.
*This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Featured image via Chelsea Loves Yoga/Instagram
How A Professional Dancer Turned A Nude Pantyhose Problem Into A Melanin-Based Solution
Erin Carpenter grew up bending, turning, and leaping across a dance studio, wearing a black ballet leotard and stretchy pink tights.
Her tiny brown toes pointed and flexed inside her pink ballet slippers. Ballet culture is European-dancers donning pink tights and slippers to give the illusion of a long, white skin leg line.
Many Black women go through the tedious process of looking for hosiery to complement their skin. Mismatched nude tights can make Black legs appear ashy. Most sheer colored nylons and tights on the market are made to complement white skin. As a former New York Knicks City Dancer, Carpenter explained that she spent hours dipping and dyeing her tights in tea bag water, hoping to get them a closer match to her nude.
"There was always this reoccurring issue where we were asked to bring nude skin toned tights, panties, and bras and they didn't have anything in my color."
Erica Carpenter/Nude Barre
Conversations with her peers about the same struggle of not being able to find nude undergarments motivated her to launch Nude Barre, a pantyhose and undergarment brand for dancers and the everyday woman. It's made with melanin in mind.
While brands like The New Nudes and Nubian Skin offer brown skin, nude lingerie, Nude Barre offers the most options with 12 shades of skin tones, ranging from fair "Lycheeteni" to dark "Licorice."
Carpenter spoke with us on why she feels "nude" doesn't always include black skin, the challenges she faced leaping from professional dancer to a female founder of her own business, and why she named each shade of her Nude Barre undergarments after cocktail bar drinks.
Why do you think black skin tones are overlooked in this industry?
Most brands were making three to four skin tone options but nude was always the beige color or tan and then other colors that were browns would be just brown and that doesn't really cover everybody.
I think it's a little bit of ignorance [and] a little bit of laziness. There is more money that has to go into it. It's not as easy. I think there's a lack of education that-that nude just isn't going to work. If I put on a white button down shirt, that beige is gonna show. It's gonna look like a white bra.
When did you know it was time to transition from a professional dancer to full-time entrepreneur to launch Nude Barre?
It was pretty early on. I just started with my little dancer savings and I was doing commercials and was getting residual checks as well and just begging my parents to help me out as well. They believed in this. Every little bit of profit that has come back has been put back into the company to make it expand and grow.
Lycheeteni, Brown Sugar, and Mocha are some of the 12 Nude Barre colors. Why are they named after bar drinks?
I spent a year figuring out the dye process and if that was something I wanted to do. I wanted it to be a bar where you come hangout so we would have these fun cocktail names.
Our colors are similar to makeup foundations and there are undertones to them. I created the colors based on makeup foundations.
How did you explain to your Chinese manufacturers you needed nude tones to mimic Black skin?
Trying to explain what I was trying to do in terms of redefining nude was like a weird concept to people. They [would] send me beige - and that's not what we're trying to do here. Even still to this day, I still have to re-educate people on we're doing and what you think nude is.
I basically sent them the dyed version of what I had been playing with and give them tips and details on what I wanted to change or fix. That was a big learning experience as far as how detailed I [needed] to be in my emails and using pictures and screenshots.
Since you're based online only, how can women find and match their nude?
[Working] with a company called Nudest, you [upload] a picture [onto our website]. You then select where on your hand represents your skin the best. It will look like a make-up foundation blot. You'll answer a couple of questions about your skin. The algorithm tells you what shade you are in the Nude Barre products. The products will crop up and you can click on it and buy it or look around.
Your products range from regular tights to fishnets to seamless thongs. How far do you want to expand into nude undergarments?
I want to make every undergarment you can think of in the different nude shades. Whether it's a slip, or shape wear or knee high, girdles. That's in the pipeline. As a foundational garment, that first layer, you need to feel good in [[it] and when you put on all your other layers, you also need to feel good so you can be your best self. Nude Barre does that for women.
*This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
For more Erin Carpenter, follow her on Instagram and check out Nude Barre.
Featured image by Nude Barre