When most kids get out of the fifth grade, they are looking forward to spending the summer eating ice cream by the pool, biking around the neighborhood with friends and waking up just in time for morning cartoons.
For 11-year-old Tabay Atkins, his summer out of fifth grade was spent in an intensive 200-hour Vinyasa teacher training program. After completing the training, Atkins became the youngest certified yoga teacher in America.
“My mom gave me the choice to either go on a fun summer vacation to places in Europe I have never been before, or I could do the teacher training,” said Atkins. “As much as I love to travel, I knew that I wanted to become a teacher so that I could start my mission to help spread the yoga lifestyle and help people in every way that they needed, so I chose the teacher training.”
Atkins’ passion for yoga began when he was 6 years old. At the time, his mom was two weeks cancer-free and was in a teacher training program. He was able to see how much yoga was helping her heal both emotionally and physically, and he knew this was something he would love to help others experience as well.
“My mom opened up the first kid’s yoga studio in Orange County (CARE4YOGA), and she was traveling the world learning and getting specialty yoga certificates, and I would go with her to a lot of those trainings,” said Atkins. “I helped my mom teach at the schools, at homes for privates, and at our yoga studio. All the classes I teach at my mom’s yoga studio are all donation-based classes, and I give 100 percent of that money to helping kids who are diagnosed with cancer.”
According to Atkins, the best part about teaching a class at CARE4YOGA is seeing what changes occur emotionally. While a physical change can take place after practicing yoga for some time, the other benefits are seen almost right after taking a class.
“There is no judgment in yoga; you just listen to your heart, mind and body, and be in the present moment,” said Atkins. “Students say they feel happier and healthier, they feel better about themselves, they sleep better and feel more connected within themselves and others around them, and they deal with stressful situations so much differently because of a new outlook they have through my words and teachings. It makes my heart feel happy and full knowing that I am living my dream of helping everyone I can.”
While Atkins has received many accolades for being the youngest yoga teacher, his real joy doesn’t come from awards. His joy comes from seeing how lives are changed through his teaching.
“My goal was not to be the youngest certified yoga teacher in America, but to help heal people in every way I could through the practice of yoga, just like I saw it help my mom,” said Atkins. “Yoga is good for everyone: old, young, healthy, sick, stressed or happy.”