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Chelsea Jackson Roberts, Ph.D., C’2001, Diversifies the World of Yoga

May 2016

Spelman Alumna Chelsea Jackson Roberts Takes Yoga to New HeightsAlumna Chelsea Jackson Roberts, Ph.D., C'2001, is changing the face of yoga one girl at a time. Roberts, the founder of, a platform for discussion on yoga, race and diversity,  was featured in the Elle magazine article, "Do We Need Yoga Classes Dedicated to Women of Color?," where she shared her thoughts about the importance of making yoga available and attractive to diverse groups of people.

“Folks of color need a healing space where they don’t have to worry about being ‘othered.’ Because racism exists within the world and within the yoga community. Because people of color are hugely underrepresented in yoga studios, so we’re letting it be known that there’s a space for us too,” said Roberts who runs Red Clay Yoga, a non profit organization committed to cultivating environments that utilize principles of yoga to facilitate learning and teaching within communities of practice. The organization provides diversity trainings for educators and yoga teachers who are passionate about working with marginalized communities.

Chelsea Jackson Roberts Bring Yoga to SpelmanRoberts is also the brainchild behind the Yoga, Literature, and Art Camp for Teen Girls, a summer camp held in the Museum of Fine Art that affords girls ages 13-17 the opportunity to spend a week on the Spelman College campus and experience an integrated of experience of practicing yoga, exploring literature by women of the African diaspora and making connections with art.


Dr. Roberts received her doctoral degree from the Division of Educational Studies at Emory University in 2014. Relying on ethnography and narrative inquiry as her primary research methods, Roberts explores the lived experiences of individuals across multiple communities. Roberts' most recent research utilizes the lived experiences of Black teen yoga practitioners who use yoga and storytelling as mediums for critical literacy development. Working primarily within marginalized communities, Roberts seeks to understand the ways in which power and privilege impact lives at the intersection of race, class, and gender.

Training and Teaching

Chelsea Jackson Roberts Takes Yoga to New HeightsRoberts earned teaching credentials after graduating from Spelman College with a bachelor of arts in child development, and later completed her master of arts at Teachers College, Columbia University with a degree in international educational development. After returning from New York, Roberts taught in both Title I Schools and a community charter school in Atlanta. It is during her experiences as a classroom teacher that Roberts began to make connections between literacy development, yoga, and other mindful practices.

Roberts is currently a certified E-RYT and RCYT who completed her initial 200-hour yoga teachers’ training at Kashi Atlanta Urban Ashram under the guidance of her beloved teachers Swami Jaya Devi and Ma Jaya in 2007. Roberts also completed two additional yoga trainings in Atlanta and New York City, specifically for instructors who work with children and teens. It was during Roberts’s most recent training on restorative justice at the University of Wisconsin, Madison facilitated by Sujatha Baliga, that she began making connections between the value of storytelling, critical literacy development and yoga.

Funded by the Race and Difference Initiative of Emory University and sponsored by Spelman College Museum of Fine Art, Roberts created a Yoga, Literature, and Art camp for teen girls in 2013. Integrating literature, art, storytelling, and yoga, Roberts worked with a host of volunteer yoga teachers and teen girls over the course of two weeks guided by a curriculum grounded in her educational training, observations, and experiences with yoga, literacy, and youth.

Current Work

Yoga CampRoberts is developing a yoga and literacy curriculum for Atlanta area youth organizations, as well as providing trainings for yoga practitioners, educators, community leaders, activists, and students interested in expanding their awareness on issues concerning marginalized youth, individuals, and communities. Roberts conducts trainings for yoga instructors and classroom teachers at local yoga studios, community centers, and schools and continues to contribute research findings to educational journals and contemporary publications.

Learn more about her and her work at

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