I recently had the pleasure to attend the Kroger’s Wellness Your Way Festival (WYWF). I had the opportunity of interviewing Dr. Chelsea Jackson Roberts an internationally celebrated yoga teacher and Lululemon global yoga ambassador. Chelsea is the founder of Yoga, Literature, and Art Camp for Teen Girls at Spelman College Museum of Fine Art and has appeared on the covers of Yoga Journal and Experience Life Magazines. Chelsea is passionate about teaching others how to use yoga as a tool to cultivate community and has shared her work on the main stages of MAKERS Conference and Global Citizen Festival. Chelsea was born and raised in Dayton, Ohio and currently resides in Atlanta, GA with her husband Shane Roberts who co-founded Red Clay Yoga with her in 2014. You can learn more about Chelsea by visiting chelsealovesyoga.com.

Thank you so much for joining us Chelsea. This festival is about “Wellness Your Way”. What does the term “Wellness Your Way” mean to you?

For me, wellness your way means defining what wellness looks like for yourself. I think that because we are all very unique in these bodies and these experiences in our backgrounds, it’s important that we not try to imitate or carbon copy what we see. Wellness for someone else, it may be completely different. Wellness may look like an evolution over time. Wellness to me can only be defined by unique individuals and what it means for themselves. But for me it means to be aligned with how I feel, what I do. And how that aligns with my purpose in this world.

Was there a story that inspired you to get involved with WYWF?

I’m currently an ambassador for Luvo foods, if people aren’t familiar with Luvos it’s a frozen food. And typically frozen foods don’t have as many nutrients, but Luvo has figured it out. It was important to align with a company that not only provided premium nutrients, ingredients and whole foods, but also one that collaborates with a lot of other companies. You can find Luvo at Kroger, you can find it in so many different stores that are situated in communities that may not have access to Whole Foods and health food stores. So I was invited through Luvo to represent because they are a part of “Wellness Your Way” festival as well.

Can you tell me about a wellness challenge you’ve had and overcome?

The way that I started practicing yoga was because I felt very out of touch with my body. I didn’t feel very connected. By definition, yoga simply means to unite, to yoke, to connect. I graduated from Spelman college in Atlanta. I’m originally from Dayton, Ohio. I’m an only child and I went away, and the way that I handled stress at the time was not to be conscious of what I was eating, how I was eating. And that took a toll on my body. I ended up gaining a significant amount of weight to the point where it was difficult for me to go on a walk with my mother. Whereas I used to have more energy than she did the tables were turned and she’d walk laps around me.

I was diagnosed with high cholesterol at the age of 22. I felt very defeated until I found out about this thing called yoga. I saw people who practice yoga, they always looked at peace. They always looked happy. And a challenge for me was to be happy in the body that I was in in the moment. It wasn’t to necessarily change it, but to accept it. And it was my yoga practice that allowed me to accept who and what this body was experiencing. Then later on it became this tool that I use to get through both small and large traumas in my life.

What’s your current wellness mantra or life quote?

My teacher, Ma Jaya, she actually transitioned in 2012, so she’s been physically gone for quite some time now, but her words will always stick with me. She always would say, Chelsea, “you must remember to drink as you pour.” When I’m out in the world doing community service, through our organization, I can burn out. I was a school teacher for eight years and I left because I’d reached the point of burnout. It’s essential for us to remember that we have to feed ourselves, whether that’s through yoga, meditation, spending time with our family, taking a walk, whatever it is that feeds us we must make time for.

What’s one wellness product/routine you can’t live without right now?

The sister science to yoga is Ayurveda and within Ayurveda I’ve learned so many things that if I don’t do it, my day is kind of shot. For example, right now I’m drinking hot water. I typically will drink hot water, just straight hot water, no tea, no lemon, nothing, just straight hot water before I go practice or teach. This stimulates the digestive system and also flushes the lymphatic system. Today I’m feeling a little congested. I just came from Paris then went to Atlanta where I live, now I’m here (in Cincinnati) and then I’m on my way to China. So my immune system relies on these routines.

Before I go to sleep I practice Abhyanga that’s also from Ayurveda. It’s simply self-massage where you use your favorite oil. Sometimes I’ll use avocado oil because it moisturizes my skin, and you just go through every muscle group in your body and massage it. It can take about 15 or 30 minutes or however you want to indulge. Just go through and you literally massage your joints, you’re massaging your face, you’re stimulating all of the blood vessels, the capillaries and then you can take a bath or shower or get into bed. Whatever feels good.

Those are some of the routines that I can’t live without and they’re pretty accessible. You don’t have to go out and get a lot of products or spend a lot of money to try them.

What projects are you currently working on?

One of my passion projects for the last seven years has been Yoga, Literature, and Art Camp for teen girls. We’re at Spelman College Museum of Fine Art. It’s a tuition free program for young women who self identify as women of color. It’s for the girls ages 13 through 17 and I specifically targeted young women of color because as I was growing up and as I was starting my yoga practice, I didn’t see a lot of my reflection in terms of who was considered a wise teacher or who was considered knowledgeable of sharing understandings about wellness and health.

It was important for me to center those experiences that may not be seen or are dismissed at times. It started out as my dissertation. I have a PhD in educational studies. I graduated from Emory University, then went to Teacher’s College, Columbia University. I had no idea that all of my different experiences would come together to create Yoga, Literature and Art Camp.

We’re going into our seventh year now. I had no idea that this was what my life’s path was gonna be, but I’m open to it. We’ve been able to sustain the program through the work that I do as a global ambassador for Lululemon and their Here To Be program which makes donations so that we can sustain the work that we’re doing.