When did you start teaching yoga?

I started practicing yoga — really was introduced to it — around the end of my college (undergraduate) time here at Spelman. And then I practiced a lot more and was a lot more committed to my practice as the years went on, and I ended up becoming a certified yoga instructor. I took a course in 2005 and completed the training in 2007. So I’ve been teaching yoga here in Atlanta since ’05 really.

Your journey towards where you are now is so inspiring, so please can you share what was the catalyst that helped you start your weight loss journey.

I started reading books on yoga. Really I just wanted — I knew– there was something more. I had been up and down with being concerned with my weight and my health for some time, and I was tired of having these quick fixes. I’d lose some weight, and then I’d gain it back. I just wanted something more and deeper. So although I realize that yoga is so much more than just a physical practice, I do want to say that, it was something that contributed to me having an overall awareness of myself, both physically and spiritually.

So how can a person cultivate that type of awareness?

Well, I think it looks several different ways for several different people. It just happens to be that yoga was the thing that worked for me. And I feel like all people have their own yoga, their own form of yoga.

The word yoga literally means to unite, to yoke, to join. And so I feel like anytime you have a community that can support you, even though we can do a lot of things on our own, I think it’s very helpful to have a supportive community, whether it’s a spiritual community or a bootcamp. So as long as you have a community of support and people who can also hold you accountable with a lot of compassion — and I stress that more than anything — because I know there were times during my journey that I’m on that I can often be a little bit harder on myself.

As a yogini, how has your perception of yoga changed, if at all, and what are your thoughts about the state of yoga?

With yoga, it’s so complex. It’s so simple yet so complex in a way. I may learn something different about myself through my practice each time I approach it but the way that I see yoga — even though it has changed my life tremendously — I have to be careful not to force it upon people.

There was an article in The New York Times about how yoga can wreck your body, which I don’t think gave the full picture of a healthy yoga practice. And then you have the issue with the lack of diversity in yoga in terms of who you see practicing yoga. I think, initially, when I saw yoga, I didn’t necessarily see images that were reflective of who I was — a woman of color, a full-figured woman of color as well, in these magazines or advertisements. So it has really transformed my notion of yoga to be so much more than these beautiful physical postures that often attract people, aesthetically. It’s so much deeper than that.

Chelsea Loves Yoga

Can you speak on the lack of diversity in yoga communities around America? and was that the reason you felt impelled to create Chelsea Loves Yoga?

It catches someone’s attention when you do see multiple people of color in spaces where one practices yoga, so it’s very clear that the issue does exist … People of color who practice yoga do exist, but I don’t know if that is necessarily something that is reflected in the mainstream.

What inspired me to create my blog Chelsea Loves Yoga was because I love yoga, and there is so many other people that are silenced in our community, whether it’s intentional or not, that also share this same love. And what I’ve learned through my interviews, so many people approach the practice [of yoga] because of some type of obstacle they were trying to overcome.

What do you think the yoga community can do to overcome the lack of diversity in images, in classes, and in its discourse?

I think that an obstacle that the yoga community has to overcome, which has been my experience, is that this mantra or this discourse of oneness is constantly repeated but not really looked at on a critical level of to think deeper of what oneness truly means and that there is diversity in oneness and that you can’t think that just because we are all one that means that we ignore all of the realities that we all face in our own lived experiences.

During your numerous volunteering and teaching experiences, is there any concerns communities of color express to you about yoga, and what do you do to alleviate any concerns?

It is a concern for a lot of people. I’m a very practical and realistic person, so I often think about the community that I work with. I taught in Title 1 schools and the majority of the students that I meet are coming from below the poverty line and are under-resourced, so I have to remember, as this person of coming in, presenting this activity to a community, I can’t go in with this missionary mentality.

There may be times when I don’t even call it yoga because of the separation between religion and schools … So I might call it mind and body awareness; it may be [called] movement.

But at the end of the day, whatever you want to call it or label it, it’s moving with the breath and moving the body in coordination with the breath, and being reflective, and taking a moment to just let go of all the obstacles, the chatter. Just to really tune-in to what’s going on in the moment, so I have to be creative in how I present [yoga].

* For a transcript of the entire interview, please e-mail your request to info@frugivoremag.com

To contact Chelsea, hit her up on Twitter: @chelseajaya and on Facebook: Chelsea Loves Yoga

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  1. very nice article. I’m happy to see women of color working to liberate their minds, bodies, and souls. God Bless

  2. The Birth of Cool

    Yoga in the black community is long overdue and it’s exiting to read about a black woman taking the lead. I live in San Diego and we have a vibrant community of black yogiand it’s not a stretch to see blacks leading a class but not as a majority in a yoga class. Yoga has so much more to do to permeate the black mainstream. Kudos to you Chelsea

  3. Very inspiring

  4. Thank you so much Frugivore !!! I am loving how the community here is growing and connecting with multiple pockets of conscious communities. Special thanks to those of you who took the time to read the article. Would love for you to join the Chelsea Loves Yoga Community! You can find us on Facebook: Chelsea Loves Yoga, the blog: http://www.chelsealovesyoga.com and I am also on twitter @chelseajaya. One Love!

  5. I think it’s very helpful to have a supportive community, whether it’s a spiritual community or a bootcamp. So as long as you have a community of support and people who can also hold you accountable with a lot of compassion — and I stress that more than anything — because I know there were times during my journey that I’m on that I can often be a little bit harder on myself.


    Such a powerful quote. I’ve been on a weight loss journey for the last 3 years and I couldn’t lose the weight I knew I could because I didn’t have anyone holding me accountable. I went about it by myself. I was scared to workout in front of people so I’d wait too late or wake up early but that led me to never stay true to me. It wasn’t until I joined a wonderful group of women who had similar goals that I started and WANTED to lose the weight. Thanks for what you do Chelsea

    • @Tannis: Thank you for sharing your story! There is so much power in telling OUR stories, we have no idea sometimes how much it inspires others. I am so happy you have found a community to support you and your goals! Please keep us posted via the FB Chelsea Loves Yoga page if you can. Peace and Love!

    • @Tannis: I agree. Support is key. A level of compassion that can’t be duplicated.

  6. Nice post.

  7. Congratulations SiStar Chesea!

    Truly a Beautiful story!

    We must continue to tell our ‘Her’story and live our lives as authentically as possible. I am from Los Angeles and my Aunt taught me Hatha Yoga at Santa Monica Beach when I was six years old (I just wanted to play with the other kids…:-), she planted a seed that would take root years later as I now teach Kemetic Yoga to a knowledge ‘thirsty’ audience and it enlightens my Soul…!

    Continue to Live Life Vibrantly!

    In Light,


  8. Right On! Chelsea. As an old collegiate runner I fell in love with yoga last yr. Its been totally transformational. I wanna see more women of color exploring yoga for mental and physical health. Onward and upward Chelsea 🙂

  9. I love Chelsea’s site. It is so motivating. i practiced yoga about 6 years ago seriously, and i moved across the country. i would love to find a yogi (especially one of color) that i can develop my practice with. Chelsea’s site led me to so many other sites that have inspired me!! Thank you SIStar for your motivation and inspiration!

  10. Wow! What a beautiful interview. Honest

  11. It makes her more beautiful?

  12. Thank you for this! Loved the article! I just started yoga two weeks ago in a New to Yoga class. I am really enjoying it and plan to continue after the introductory session. This will be my new journey!

  13. I live for positive stories like hers. @frugivoremag thanks

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