An MIT Alumni Association Publication

The road from clinical medicine to starting a meditation podcast was not linear for Anikia Nelson ’10. While working as a physician, she came to a crossroads, wanting a change in her career trajectory. As she tried to figure out her next move, she also discovered yoga and meditation, which she says helped her cope with the stress and anxiety of such a big life change and helped lead her to her next step.

These days, Nelson works as a clinical product manager and physician consultant, and she is also passing on what she has learned about meditation through a podcast. “One of the reasons that I went into health originally was to address health disparities,” explains Nelson in the first episode of her podcast, which aims to make meditation more accessible for people of color. Although she proactively sought out inclusive spaces for her practice—joining Trap Vinyasa, described as a “body positive, underground hip hop yoga community”—she was struck by the lack of diversity and inclusion she had encountered in the yoga and meditation space.

 “When you walk into a yoga studio as a person of color, there is certainly a feeling of otherness that comes along with it, just because of how yoga has been consumed and how it’s offered in the US,” says Nelson, who is also a certified yoga instructor. “Oftentimes if you go to a traditional yoga space as a person of color, you’re the only one, the only nonwhite person.”

This problem extends to guided meditation apps, which have very little black or Latino representation, she says. “People of color face a lot of issues and trauma that are different from what a white person would face, whether that is seeing people who look like you being affected by police brutality on such a regular basis on the news…to facing microaggressions at school or at work.”

Meditation can help people deal with these kinds of issues, she points out, but “if we don’t have people of color guiding meditations, then that whole subject of racism and racial-based trauma and microaggressions gets excluded from the guided meditation space. If we would like to extend access to this type of healing to everyone, then we really need to have their issues on the table as well.”

To address this gap, Nelson started the Peaceful Loving Vibrant Podcast. Her first four episodes—as well as an intro episode sharing her own story—feature people of color talking about their meditation journeys. Among these early guests are Abiola Akanni, the founder of Trap Vinyasa, and Julio Rivera, founder of a meditation app called Liberate. Even though she didn’t have any background in audio or video production, Nelson attributes her leap into podcasting to an MIT education that taught her to never be afraid of technology.

As we all continue to navigate life during a global pandemic, Nelson says that this is a great time to start or refresh a meditation practice, which she says “can be an invaluable anchor in uncertain times like those we face right now. It can help us to sit with the many different and difficult feelings and questions we all have and allow them to pass. It can help remind us that this crisis is temporary and we always have our breath to ground us.”

Are you celebrating the anniversary of your MIT graduation like Anikia Nelson?

MIT Virtual Tech Reunions, on Saturday, May 30, will feature special online events for reunion-year classes, plus fun and insightful programming for all MIT alumni. Learn more about Virtual Tech Reunions and save the date.