Tabay Atkins Inspiring Millions
Tabay Atkins is the youngest certified yoga teacher in the United States, and probably the happiest. After witnessing his mother, Sahel, survive cancer and find healing through yoga, he was determined to help others heal as well. The mother-son duo teach yoga at their San Clemente studio, Care4Yoga, and they also travel the world to “spread the yoga seed” as Tabay calls it. We had the pleasure of talking with them to learn more of their story and find out what’s next for Tabay.
LINDSAY: Tabay, I know some of your story, but can you tell me, in your words what got you into this?
Tabay: I started yoga when I was six years old. My mom had cancer, and she had never done yoga in her life before that. When she had cancer, she did intensive chemotherapy, which broke her body down. She couldn’t walk on her own, she was sad and stressed. When she beat cancer, after two weeks cancer-free, without ever practicing yoga in her life, she accidentally got into 200-hour Vinyasa Yoga teacher training.
Sahel: (laughing) That’s a whole other story!
Tabay: Yeah. I noticed that after two months of the training, she was able to walk on her own, she was healing quickly, and she still had stress but she knew how to deal with it. I told her that I wanted to teach yoga so I could help heal others the way yoga healed her. I got my first yoga certificate at seven. I kept asking mom if I could teach yoga and finally when I was 10 years old, she gave me the choice to either travel to Europe, or do an intensive 200-hour Vinyasa teacher training. So, without hesitation, I chose the training.
Sahel: He was like, “I got this, Mom.” I told him, this is not a five-hour, 10-hour, 30-hour training, this is a 200-hour training, and it’s intense. Mine was spread out over two and a half months, whereas his was 16 days back to back, 10-12 hour days. I knew he was serious but I thought, maybe he’ll pick the trip. Maybe he’ll want to travel this summer and then do the training next year.
LINDSAY: Tabay, that happened when you were 10. How old are you now?
Tabay: I’m 12 right now, and I have seven specialty yoga certificates.
Sahel: He was on a mission. He told me, “Mom, I want to start doing donation classes.” And I told him that was good and asked what he wanted to save his money for. I told my dad, jokingly, it would probably be Legos because Tabay is obsessed with Legos. But he said he wanted to give all his money away to people with cancer. And a day later he said, “You know what I was thinking about? I want to donate to kids who have cancer.” Tabay has been inspiring millions of people around the world. He doesn’t understand, really, how much light he has around him that people are feeling. It’s not just the physical practice. He embodies the true meaning of what yoga is. I’m in awe. I mean, I’m his mom and everyone says, “My kid’s the best,” but he really is. He’s like the greatest person on earth.
LINDSAY: Tabay, you said something interesting before. You said, even when your mom had stress, she knew how to deal with it. Can you talk a little bit more about that?
Tabay: A lot of people in the world have stress, but they just don’t know how to deal with it. They get angry at people when they’re stressed, and they can make the wrong decisions. Yoga gives you the tools to deal with stress, like breathing exercises that help you calm down. It also helps with depression, anxiety, fatigue. It helps with muscle strength, flexibility: the list goes on and on.
LINDSAY: What kinds of people have you been able to work with so far?
Tabay: Kids, teens, adults. I’ve helped kids with severe to mild autism. I actually have a certificate for that: Yoga for Autism Spectrum. I also have a certificate for Circus Yoga Ring One and Two, Aerial Yoga, Teen and Tween Yoga, Restorative Yoga and Vinyasa Yoga.
Sahel: He teaches everyone. He teaches cancer survivors, A-list celebrities. He teaches at huge events. He’s taught for Deepak Chopra and 400+ of his guests. He’s had young and old students. He’s had students who’ve done yoga for 20+ years, as well as first-timers. One of his newest students has rheumatoid arthritis, and she was so intimidated by and afraid of yoga. But she saw Tabay in the paper and wanted to try his class out. She left crying. She was in awe of his patience. She’s a 50-60 year-old woman who thought she couldn’t do yoga all this time. She told us when she heard him say, “Everyone can do yoga” she thought, “I’m gonna give this kid a try.”
Tabay: Yeah, and my grandpa started practicing yoga with me in my classes. At first, he couldn’t reach down all the way (standing up and bending forward). We had to modify a lot of his poses. After a month of coming to my classes, he was able to reach all the way down, he didn’t have to modify the poses anymore, and he slept better, he noticed his body wasn’t as tight, he was more flexible.
LINDSAY: What is it like to travel all over the world and teach people yoga?
Tabay: I love to travel and I love to teach yoga and spread yoga. So, both of them combined is amazing. I help people all over the world, not just in San Clemente or Orange County or California. I love it because I’m helping plant the yoga seed in each and every person I can.
LINDSAY: What’s your favorite place that you’ve been so far?
Tabay: To teach? Hawaii. The energy is so calm and relaxing.
Sahel: A couple months ago, I was telling Tabay we can’t always be everywhere. We started talking about what’s next. I had to cancel a few events for health reasons. And as much as it’s amazing to travel, we can’t do it every day. I told him, it’s unfortunate but we can’t get to everyone. Then, he asked if I could see the “lightbulb”. I asked what he meant and he said, “Yes, we can reach everyone.”
Tabay: I can be everywhere at once, teaching people all over the world. If I do an online, subscription-based yoga class, people can practice yoga in the comfort of their very own home. I just started a GoFundMe page, so I have the funds to start this. I won’t have to rush from here to there and only be home for one day in a week. I can still travel the world for appearances, but people can also be practicing yoga from home, and I can be right there with them. A lot of people need yoga but either they can’t afford it or they don’t have time. With this series, people can do yoga at home, and I’m trying to make the prices so that anyone can afford it.
I’m sure you get this all the time, but I’m so impressed and inspired by you. You’re doing so much, in my mind, beyond your years.
Tabay: Thank you so much. My mission and my goal is to have the yoga seed planted in everyone around the world because everyone needs yoga, some more than others.
Sahel: It’s about non-judgment. The physical practice is icing on the cake. He tells all students, listen to your body. Don’t judge yourself, don’t judge others. Peace begins with you.
Tabay: I end all my classes saying (prayer-hands at forehead) “Think good thoughts,” (prayer-hands at mouth) “speak kind words,” (prayer-hands at heart) “feel love, be love and give love. Namaste.”
LINDSAY: Before we finish, what else do you do for fun?
Tabay: I like to build Legos, read my books, build with city blocks, play the guitar, skateboard. And I have a coin collection.
Sahel: If he could do that all day, he would.
A coin collection. What does that consist of?
Tabay: I have a safe as tall as I am filled to the brim with coins and dollars. I started because my grandpa has owned gas stations for 47 years. He’s looked through money and coins and chosen ones to keep. The oldest coin I have is so old the year’s not certain, but it’s from between 35BC and 5AD.
LINDSAY: Where’s it from? Can you tell?
Tabay: It’s from where Iran is – before it was Persia.
Wow. Last question: What’s your favorite thing about living in San Clemente?
Tabay: I love San Clemente because everyone is super nice to me, I love being by the beach and it’s really good weather. I love the energy here. I love everything about San Clemente.
Find out more at Care4Yoga.com or follow Tabay on Instagram @tabayatkins, on Facebook, Twitter or subscribe to his YouTube channel.