Skip to main content

A day in the health of… Atlanta yogi Chelsea Jackson Roberts

Chelsea Jackson Roberts slips quietly out of the bedroom in the Atlanta loft she shares with her husband Shane and heads for the sliding door in the living room. She cracks it open for a breath of fresh air and a glimpse of morning light before sitting on her meditation mat to start her daily breathing exercises. It’s a simple yet essential routine for the in-demand 38-year-old, whose innovative summer camp uses yoga and storytelling to develop literacy skills in teen girls of color.

She hatched the idea five years ago, as a case study for her PhD dissertation in language, literacy, culture and yoga from Emory University. In 2013, Roberts expanded the study into an annual camp at her undergraduate alma mater Spelman College. Today, through her nonprofit Red Clay Yoga, the teacher-turned-yogi lectures and spreads awareness about marginalized youth.

We caught up with the Dayton, Ohio, native before she left for a workshop in Virginia to learn what an average day looks like when she’s not on the road. How does she work toward achieving her health goals?

6:30 a.m. I used to think, "I've got to get up and do yoga every day," and that was setting me up to not do it. Now my goal is a simple breathing exercise, which is both tangible and more practical. It could last just 10 minutes. It’s a way for me to focus before I log on to the computer, check Instagram and voicemail. Mindful breathing allows me to get centered, be open and grounded.

6:45 a.m. I go to the kitchen to make ginger tea and have a piece of fruit. No matter what time of year, ginger tea works to give me a little energy for the day. Plus, drinking something in the morning helps me avoid immediately getting on my computer. Otherwise, 30 to 60 minutes will pass before I eat something.

7:30 a.m. I’m answering e-mails, thinking about the week. I'm a checklist girl, so I always have notes for the week that I probably started on Sunday evening and I'm now revising and checking off. I also get back on social media. I try to streamline the people I follow.

9:30 a.m. Shane and I try to go outside early when the Georgia heat is not too unbearable. We'll go to the local community track and jog a lap. He has me going through circuit training drills. Shane was a personal trainer in his former life, and he's still very much into fitness. If I'm not training intensely with him, then I'm walking on the Belt Line [a series of trails around Atlanta].

11 a.m. Shane and I both work from home. He’s a writer but also very involved in Red Clay Yoga. If I’m not traveling, we work on that and on my blog, Chelsea Loves Yoga. We're developing a new curriculum for the camp since we’re transitioning into a year-round program. We're starting to pump it up a bit more, getting support and grants.

1 p.m. While we’re working, Shane may go behind the kitchen counter and start preparing lunch. We're multitasking for sure. After I'm done working for three or four hours, I need a break. I have my largest meal of the day in the afternoon. I'm obsessed with veggie burgers. Or I’ll have a piece of salmon and rice and broccoli or maybe a really large salad with protein. I'm balanced and mindful, but I don't restrict myself from eating the things that I really like.

3 p.m. I've started building in at least one thing for myself each day, for self-care. Whether it's getting a 30-minute foot massage or renting bikes with Shane in the afternoon. I’ll take a restorative or Yin yoga class at the studio of my camp co-director, Octavia Raheem. This is a moment to recharge and get started on the second half of the day, especially because social media is a 24-hour commitment.

5 p.m. I may start working again. I used to have a very standard schedule when I was a school teacher. Now it's pretty non-stop.

7:30 p.m. I try to eat before the sun goes down unless I have a business meeting. I love soups, like Thai curry or any kind of vegetable soup. I may have fish in the evening. I keep it as light as I can. I'm very in tune with my digestive system, and yoga supports me in that awareness. We’re also fortunate to have great restaurants in Atlanta. I love Soul Vegetarian and a tea place called Just Add Honey in the Sweet Auburn Curb Market.

9 p.m. I’m trying to practice not being so attached to social media, resisting the urge to constantly check in to see what's going on. It's about being present at home and winding down. I read yoga-centered books ― Jessamyn Stanley just released one. I read black women poets because of the work I do with the camp, and writers like bell hooks. Any anthologies focused primarily on black women and our experiences. Or Shane and I will watch our favorite shows together ― The Get Down, Insecure, Game of Thrones ― until around 10 o'clock. And then it's time for bed.

Roberts’ full life means she needs to remember to carve out time for herself. With that in mind, she uses yoga to help young girls of color understand themselves and the world they live in, while also nourishing their minds through art and literature.

Also of interest: