Behind the Scenes With Chelsea Jackson Roberts, PhD

I started teaching yoga
while I was a schoolteacher. I was an elementary school
teacher for eight years. I taught mostly third graders. And during that time,
I worked in Title I schools, and that’s where the
majority of the students are below the poverty line. And I would go back and forth
to school highly stressed, and so I knew that I needed to dig deeper into my yoga practice. I started to just notice
how it was impacting me and how I showed up for the children, so the wheels started
turning, and I said to myself, “What would happen if I
started introducing some of these techniques
when it came to breathing and being in our bodies more? How would that impact the children?” And it did. Not only did I notice that
the children were more focused and more excited about coming to school, but they also started to treat each other with a lot more kindness. It was something about the ways in which they understood mindfulness
and how they had to be clear on every decision that they
made, and how they treated their friends, that sometimes
you would hear them go back to their yoga practice and say,
“You know, maybe I can take some time to think about that.” And so, it was really the
children who let me know that it was working
because they asked for it, and if we know children, they
do not beat around the bush about the things that they
need, and so I knew that yoga was essential in our classroom. When I talk about yoga
being used as a tool to dismantle systemic ways
that we experience oppression in this lifetime, it is often
met with a lot of curiosity. And I always remind people that
when you’re drawn to spaces that practice yoga, or
you’re drawn to this practice of yoga, to me, there has
to be some type of longing for connection and some
type of longing for truth, and for love, essentially. And I can’t see any better
way and any other communities that are very deliberate
about cultivating love and connection and community
outside of yoga spaces. And so, to me, when we think
about inequity and inequality and really building
bridges between communities that may have never
experienced each other before, I think that yoga is this
tool that can unite us, in this one thing that
we do have in common, and that’s the breath. And at the root of it, for me, is love. And so, yoga has been
this tool that I have used to articulate how we can
actually work together in community to understand and celebrate our unique differences in
order to come together.

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