Walking into a yoga class can be a pretty intimidating experience for your average exerciser. The practice is everything you’re told to bring to a regular fitness class or weight room — intensity, focus, and good form — and yet, even though it’s as popular as it’s ever been, yoga is still seen as an otherworldly, alternative workout for the affluent and trendy.
Usually the quiet mix of fervent novices and gregarious instructors with limber, lean muscles (male instructors are called a yogis and women are yoginis) gives me the appearance of an ideal space for me to build my body in a communal environment, even if the class is held within the sterile walls of a commercial gym. For me, unfortunately, yoga classes still make me feel uncomfortable mainly because I’m usually the largest person in the class, but all the more disconcerting, I’m usually the only black male in any particular class I attend.
So while perusing the internet for a class to attend in Atlanta with an instructor who is black, hoping this would help mitigate my apprehension, luckily, I find a talented yogini named Chelsea Jackson, who has a blog, Chelsea Loves Yoga, which is an online community that highlights yoga practitioners of color. I read a couple of Chelsea’s entries, and a few interviews, and I was hooked.
Practicing and instructing at Kashi Atlanta, which is nestled inside of Atlanta’s quaint Candler Park neighborhood, I learned that, in order to help her continue on her path, Chelsea sometimes finds herself reflecting on her inspiring journey from a dewy, overweight Spelman College undergrad to a confident, veracious Emory University Educational Studies PhD student — no one’s journey is ever over.
Her story is one that led me to her Sunday morning “Beginner’s Yoga” class. The melodic drums of contemporary R&B classics and traditional, relaxing yoga music helped push me to a place where I had never gone before, opening what I believed was my third eye, a chakra that many feel leads some to a higher consciousness. Although there was no other black men in the class at that time, Chelsea’s class was as diverse as I had ever witnessed, and I felt comfortable and left feeling recharged and happy.
Once you go to her website and read her story, you’ll quickly understand why her work online and in communities of color is paramount to the growth and expansion of yoga and healthier lifestyles in said communities. She is a true FITSPIRATION!
Not to long ago, Chelsea carved out a little time in her busy schedule to talk with Frugivore and expanded upon topics ranging from her website and her weight loss journey to her love for yoga and its troubling lack or perceived lack of diversity. Here are some of the highlights from her interview. Enjoy!