MEET 11-YEAR-OLD Tabay Atkins, the youngest certified yoga teacher in the United States.
Tabay discovered yoga at age 6, when his mum, Sahel Anvarinejad, began practicing as part of her recovery from stage 3 Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and intense chemotherapy.
“In September 2012, I was just two weeks cancer-free, when I connected to yoga teacher Carolyn Long, whose mother had just passed away from cancer,” Sahel told Yoga Journal. “Yoga was a foreign language to me – I didn’t even know what Downward-Facing Dog was – but I did it, even though it was hard for me to walk on my own, and I had never even taken a yoga class before. I had no hair, and I was weak and scared. I got stronger and stronger [thanks to yoga]—physically and emotionally. After two and a half months of training, I could walk on my own again.”
After witnessing his mum’s recovery, Tabay decided on his vocation.
“I wanted to [become a yoga teacher] because my mom had cancer,” he told the publication. “She did yoga and she couldn’t walk at the time; she was really stressed. I saw how yoga was healing her, and I told her I wanted to teach yoga to help people heal the way yoga helped heal my mum.”
In 2013, after Sahel got certified and opened her yoga studio, Care4Yoga, in San Clemente, California.
Tabatha would often pitch in as her helper, but went on to become the youngest person ever to complete the 200-hour YOGAthletica teacher training—and seemingly the youngest certified yoga teacher in the country. In 2014, then 12-year-old Jaysea DeVoe was heralded as the youngest teacher.
He currently teaches three popular classes a week—including two teen-adult vinyasa classes and a Lego meditation class with his dad, former NFL player Larry Atkins. “His classes are the most full classes we have at the studio,” Sahel said.