teacher interviews




Interview with Yoga Teacher Chelsea Hylton

By S. Brooke Bailey 

Name: Chelsea Hylton
Teaches at: Free To Be Power YogaReyn Power StudiosYoga Power Play
Yoga Styles: Baptiste-influenced Power Yoga, Kids Yoga

Chelsea Hylton came to New Orleans less than a year ago and has already integrated herself solidly into the yoga and wellness community. As someone who “loves to teach,” Chelsea has taken her passion to the next level teaching kids through the New Orleans non-profit Yoga Power Play, teaching adults to challenge themselves on the mat with power yoga and teaching everyone she interacts with the power of being personable. 

SBB: You have some good news to share. After being a Yoga Power Play teacher at Lawrence D. Crocker Elementary you’ve been hired as a full-time teacher for the coming school year! What benefits have you and the school administration observed from holding yoga classes for students on a regular basis?

CH: In the short time that we have been at Crocker (since September 2013) we have seen many positive outcomes amongst scholars from weekly yoga classes. Teachers along with administrators have seen improved coping skills, better peer to peer interaction, behavioral self-regulation in the classroom, and connections made in yoga relevant to what they are learning in class and vice versa.

SBB: Aside from some of the obvious differences between teaching yoga to kids versus adults, what has surprised you the most about teaching kids?

CH: I’m constantly amazed by their willingness and eagerness to teach their peers what they are learning on their mats. Whether it’s poses, connections from class or something outside of school related to yoga, they are all excited to be open and share with their classmates.

SBB: How do you make yoga relevant to kids’ daily lives?

CH: It’s all about integrating and teaching to what they experience on a day to day basis. Lessons stem from yoga themes scaled to be both cognitively and developmentally appropriate for each age group. For example, one of my favorite lessons introduces the yama “Daya” or compassion. The lesson incorporates relevant role models such as Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mahatma Ghandi and identifies them as examples of “super-heroes” of compassion. The students then share ideas on how they can generate and be super-heroes of compassion both at school and home. They then explore and create yoga poses showing compassion for themselves and partner poses to show compassion to others.

SBB: In addition to your work with Yoga Power Play you also volunteer with Yoga Kidz, a non-profit in Charleston S.C., as well as Africa Yoga Project in Nairobi, Kenya. Can you briefly tell us how these two organizations benefit people through yoga?

CH: Africa Yoga Project (AYP) educates, empowers, elevates, and employs young adults in Nairobi, Kenya through the practice of yoga. Since 2009 AYP has empowered 98 community members to complete their Yoga Teacher Training. In turn, each AYP instructor commits to 5 outreach classes a week within the community at places such as prisons, women’s shelters, orphanages, schools for the deaf and blind, and AIDS outreach. Through the outreach classes and the Shine Center, Africa Yoga Project is able to reach 5,000 people a week through yoga. AYP generates jobs for the community, which then provides income and stability for their teachers. For example, my mentee Sally teaches at an orphanage, a local school, a women’s shelter and assists in yoga classes at the Shine Center. These classes provide her entire salary ($125.00 a month) which she uses to support herself, her two year old son, her six brothers and sisters, and her mother. Her goal is to one day own her own house and create a space for children without homes to come and practice yoga, share family meals, and build a community together when they have nowhere else to go. Africa Yoga Project provides new hope and opportunity, not just to AYP teachers, but to the entire community.

Yoga Kidz is a non-profit organization bringing the tools of yoga to Title One schools in the greater Charleston and Myrtle Beach areas. The mission of Yoga Kidz is to empower and ground students. Daily classes, taught by volunteers, strive to cultivate self worth, self control, and self awareness in students so they can thrive at school, at home, and in their community. Yoga Kidz integrates the tools of yoga sustainably into the classroom by providing tools and resources to teachers as well.

Photo Credit: Patrick Niddrie

SBB: As a mentor for Africa Yoga Project, you support a young woman in Nairobi who is teaching yoga to her community. How has this relationship influenced the teaching you provide your own students in New Orleans?

CH: Sally, my “mentee”, is my wonder woman. She is a fearless, audacious, and such a bright light. She fully embodies the idea of truly “living your purpose.”  She inspires me to teach authentically from the heart. It’s easy to get wrapped up in a space of teaching based on what I think people want to hear, what I think sounds good, or my perception of what I think other people want me to teach. That makes it impossible to teach authentically. When you teach from your heart, you can show up and hold space for your students that gives them the opportunity to grow, explore, and get curious. Sally reminds me that when you teach from your authentic self and stand your ground in greatness, you allow your students to do the same.

Sally’s inspiration extends far beyond the mat. Sally has come face to face with adversity more than the average human and met it with resilient grace to bring her where she is today. I am so excited and humbled to have the opportunity to watch her grow into all that’s possible for her as our mentorship continues.

SBB: Finally, what is the biggest impact you hope to have on the kids at Crocker Elementary next year?

CH: I hope to help empower scholars with the tools of mindfulness and self awareness. They can use both of these tools inside and outside of the classroom. If they can learn to incorporate mindfulness into their daily lives it will be a crucial, life-long tool that will help them establish self-worth, compassion, and self-empowerment now and down the road.

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