Love perusing through social media to find out what your favorite influencers are up to? Get a closer glimpse into how they spend their time in Atlanta with “ATL Closeup,” an AJC feature that explores the leisure lives of some of the city’s most notable personalities as they go from work to play mode over the course of a typical weekend —from their favorite places to dine to the little-known spots where they find retreat.
Chelsea Jackson Roberts only knew one thing about yoga — it seemed to make people happy.
“I always thought, ‘What are they doing?’” she told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I had to check it out.”
Although she fainted during her first session (it was hot yoga), she wasn’t deterred. She kept going.
Not only did the Ohio native begin to experience the euphoria she thought all yogis had, but she also started to find ways to introduce the practice to marginalized communities not exposed to it.
Combining her passion for teaching and wellness, the Spelman alum, who also holds a PhD in education from Emory University, began providing lessons at studios around town.
She even became one of eight global ambassadors and the first African American one for Lululemon. She also built up a clientele that once included Grammy-nominated artist Janelle Monae, who casted Roberts in her music video for “Yoga.”
But one of the certified instructor’s greatest joys is her free Yoga, Literature, and Art Camp. For two weeks during the summer, teens girls gather at her HBCU alma mater to practice yoga, read and write poetry, and engage art through photography and book binding.
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2013 was one of the biggest years of my life. It was the year I founded Yoga, Literature, and Art Camp for Teen Girls at Spelman College Museum of Fine Art. I am a former elementary school teacher and yoga + meditation had been a tool I used when I felt overwhelmed. I primarily taught in Black and Brown communities in Atlanta, GA where the majority of families lived below the poverty line. The things I intimately experienced transformed me in a way that drew me deeper to my practice. In 2009, I walked away from the classroom to look deeper at the impact yoga, meditation, and just simple breathing had on my students and began my Ph.D studies at Emory University. @ylacamp is the result of my research + I had no idea the impact it would have on an entire community. Families began to write me once the camp (that started as a case study) was completed, often asking, "when is the next one?" Truth is, I didn't know if there would be a next one because I didn't think I had the financial capacity or physical bandwidth to host another. This is where community came in. I called @octaviaraheem and a host of other friends who were yoga teachers and we held our first community yoga class at my alma mater, #spelmancollege 💙 folks showed up. Sometimes donating $1 because that's what they could afford. The following years, interest grew and I became an Atlanta @lululemon store ambassador. Three local stores gathered their money for community support together and made sure @ylacamp made it two more years + added on more sessions and I was able to compensate Women of Color yoga teachers for their skill + wisdom. In 2017, I became a #lululemon global yoga ambassador + later in 2018 @redclayyoga was the recipient of the #heretobe International Women's Day grant and we started our first year round programming, graduating a cohort of #ylaleaders We are moving into our 7th year of providing tuition free experiences for young women of color and we couldn't do it alone. It takes community to keep @ylacamp alive. I'm deeply grateful for all of the components, individuals, and collectives that support + value our space. It truly takes a village. Won't you celebrate with me!
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“We’re going into our seventh year,” she exclaimed. “We’re providing spaces for young women of color to breathe. I know what challenges come with just walking the world in this body, so people see the value in this.”
When Roberts isn’t demonstrating poses or sharing her global adventures with her 46,000 Instagram followers, she’s carving out time to hit up some of her favorite places in the city. Here’s where you’ll find the Inman Park resident on any given weekend in Atlanta.
Finger-licking good meal
For 12 years, Roberts lived a vegan lifestyle. Although she became a pescatarian a few years ago, she still loves a good plant-based meal from Soul Vegetarian Restaurant. It’s been one of her favorites since her college days.
“Soul Veg was my go-to. I was going there almost everyday, getting a small salad plate with three toppings and extra French dressing,” said Roberts. “It’s still staple for me. Some of the people who were working there when I was in college are still there.”
The eatery, located in the West End, has a bunch of dishes to choose from, including the Country Baked Steak and the Barbecue Cauliflower, but Roberts’ order hasn’t changed.
“I have not reinvented the wheel. I still get the same salad plate,” she said. “It’s really dope to go back to places I felt really raised me. Now I’m a grown woman providing spaces for teen girls similar to who I was when I first came to Atlanta to find my voice and body. Soul Vegetarian had a big hand in that for me.”
Her top dining pick:
Soul Vegetarian Restaurant, 879 Ralph David Abernathy Blvd. SW, Atlanta. 404-752-5194, soulvegetarian2.com.
The yogi is typically sporting athletic gear, and for her, no place has a better selection than Lululemon. The clothing chain, which has four locations in Atlanta, offers tights, dresses, body suits, accessories, and so much more.
“I love shopping there, because they have such a variety of outfits, from working out to going to work to going out on the town,” she said. “Because of the area we live in, I like to walk the Beltline and go down to the one in Ponce City Market."
She’s always picking up a new fit, but during her last visit, which was at a store in London, she bought a rain jacket with a paint splatter design.
“It took my eye. It’s so cute. It’s wild. It’s funky,” she described. “It hasn’t rained much in Atlanta though, but I’m not complaining.”
Her top shopping picks:
Lululemon, 675 Ponce De Leon Ave NE Suite C187, Atlanta. 404-817-0583, shop.lululemon.com.
For years, Roberts only used yoga as a form of exercise. More recently, she’s been having a lot of fun challenging her body in new ways.
Thanks to her trainer at Snap Fitness in Inman Park, she’s discovering just how strong she is.
“As I grow into an adult I find myself having less and less opportunities to play. So for me, play looks like discovering things I didn’t think I could do,” she said. “Just doing sprints outside is new for me. You can not tell me I’m not Flo-Jo [Florence Griffith Joyner].
She also likes to make her way to TopGolf in Midtown. She enjoys meeting up with her friends for a couple of games and some yummy bites and drinks.
Her top party picks:
Snap Fitness, 245 North Highland Avenue Northeast #250, Atlanta. 404-584-9669, snapfitness.com.
TopGolf, 1600 Ellsworth Industrial Blvd. NW, Atlanta. 404-475-4000, topgolf.com/us/atlanta.
The wind down
Atlanta has tons of nature trails throughout metro area, and Roberts takes advantage of them.
During the weekends, she calls up her girlfriends or husband for a hike or walk.
“I really like places that embody yoga, and for me that means freedom and spaces to just breathe.”
The Cascade Springs Reserves in southwest Atlanta has a gorgeous hidden waterfall, making the strenuous journey totally worth it.
“Sometimes we just go to take photos, and that’s really cool. I don’t want to tell too many people, because everybody will be there,” she joked. “But no, you should definitely check out the waterfall out there.”
Her top relax destination:
The Cascacde Springs Reserves, 2852 Cascade Rd SW, Atlanta. 404-546-6744, atlantatrails.com/hiking-trails/cascade-springs-nature-preserve.
Looking for a cool place to try out yoga? Roberts recommends Sacred Chill West near Smyrna.
The studio has a wide variety of classes, including Energy 101, Pranayama Immersion, and Science of the Breath. Instructors also go there for trainings and certification programs.
“It’s a pretty young studio and the beauty in it is that it brings in a lot of people of color who are not often elevated in the seat of being a master teacher,” she said. “It’s definitely a hidden gem.”
If you go:
Sacred Chill West, 2030 Bolton Rd Suite 400 Atlanta. 678-705-3448, sacredchillwest.com.