Nestled in the heart of one of Southern California’s many beach towns is a yoga studio called Care4Yoga. While it’s among many yoga studios in the area, there’s something significantly different about this particular spot: one of the youngest yoga instructors in the world teaches there.
Tabay Atkins was just seven years old when he completed his first yoga certification. His dedication spurred from his mother’s success with yoga following her battle with cancer. Seven yoga certifications later, Tabay is teaching all over the world. Read on for more on this heartwarming story about an incredible mother-son bond and a life-changing commitment.
A Momma’s Boy
Tabay loves to praise his mother, Sahel Anvarinejad, on his Instagram account for being the “nicest” and the “coolest” mom around. Their bond is easy to see in their many photographs together. Their connection made it all the more devastating when Sahel was diagnosed with stage 3 non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
Tabay stuck by his mother’s side, showing her copious amounts of love and support. The six-year-old even shaved his head when his mother lost her hair. Fortunately, Sahel’s body responded to chemotherapy, and in less than a year, she was declared cancer-free.
Regaining Her Strength
The road to recovery was a rough one, as Sahel spent months in the hospital. By the time she was in remission, her body had put all of its strength into fighting the cancer. The active mom was determined to get back into shape.
Since she could barely walk, Sahel wasn’t sure how she would regain her strength. She happened to know a yoga teacher who was starting a teacher-training course. After some convincing, Sahel agreed to complete the 200-hour course.
He Helped Her Stick It Out
Sahel was just two weeks cancer-free when she began her yoga journey. She told ABC 7 News, “After chemo, I was knocked down both physically, mentally, emotionally – and yoga is what helped me.” Sticking out the course was no easy feat.
One thing that helped was having Tabay by her side. Without a babysitter, Sahel had to take Tabay with her to the two and a half months-long training. Seeing him there pushed the strong mother to keep going. Tabay watched his mother keep getting better; she healed before his eyes.
Inspired To Heal Others
By the time Sahel had finished all 200 hours of the yoga teaching course, she was hooked. She began teaching at schools and in homes before opening up her own studio. Meanwhile, Tabay was equally moved by the discipline. He decided right then and there that he would follow in his mother’s footsteps.
Tabay told ABC 7 News, “I wanted to do yoga so I can help heal others. Just like how yoga helped heal my mom.” He didn’t waste any time. At seven years old, Tabay became one of the youngest certified yogis in the world.
The Youngest Yogi In The Room
At ten years old, Tabay completed the same 200-hour training course that his mother had done after battling cancer. The intensive class is not easy, as it is intended for adults who aim to go into the field of yoga instructing.
The surrounding adults pushed themselves harder as they watched a kid do what they struggled to. Upon completing the class, it was clear that Tabay’s desire to do yoga wasn’t a passing phase. His mother’s yoga practice may have initiated Tabay’s interest in the discipline, but his commitment was all his own doing.
Athleticism Is In His Genes
It isn’t a coincidence that Tabay was able to withstand such extensive training at a young age. His father, Larry Atkins, spent five years as a linebacker in the NFL. The former Oakland Raiders star discovered how challenging yoga is when Tabay put his father through a session.
Larry told ABC 7 News, “He took me through a one-and-a-half-hour session, and I would say halfway through the session, they’re bringing me towels and I’m just sweating profusely.” The athlete admitted that football players would be wise to incorporate yoga into their training plan.
Becoming A Young Instructor
Upon getting certified, his mother allowed Tabay to start teaching at her yoga studio, Care4Yoga. He was and still is the youngest instructor at the facility. The young instructor has admitted that people are sometimes taken aback by his age.
Adults in the class will often wonder where the instructor is while Tabay is setting up. Once they realize that a child is leading the class, judgments sometimes form. However, shortly after beginning, the attendees realize that the class is no joke. Despite being young, Tabay is a professional.
Refining His Craft
According to the Care4Yoga website, Tabay currently holds seven specialty yoga certificates, including Airfit Aerial Yoga and Circus Yoga Ring. Another one of his certificates is in restorative yoga, which he is performing on a woman in the photograph.
In this form of yoga, props are used to support your body rather than your own muscles. This enables participants to deeply relax into a stretch without straining. The style is less about pushing the body and more about achieving inner peace.
He Changed Their Minds
Care4Yoga offers kid classes and birthday parties for youngsters. Tabay is certified to teach children and has a particular certification to instruct those on the autism spectrum. One of the most impressive moments in Tabay’s career so far was when he went to San Francisco to teach at a school designated for children with autism.
The school staff stressed that the children couldn’t have their eyes closed or make contact with others. The staff was shocked to see that, by the end of Tabay’s class, they were meditating with closed eyes and doing partner poses.
Honoring His Mother
Tabay is now 14 years old and has spent half of his life doing yoga. He recently celebrated his mother’s seventh year of being cancer-free. While the mother and son have come a long way from their days in the hospital, neither has forgotten to pay their fortune forward.
At Care4Yoga, Tabay teaches some donation-based classes and uses all of the money earned to donate to those fighting cancer. The two also are happy to instruct anyone recovering from cancer since they’ve been there themselves.
Tabay’s social media presence has enabled him to support those battling cancer through more than just donations. With more than 55,000 followers, Tabay’s influence has become a driving force in fundraising and awareness.
This image shows Tabay participating in the Team Negu challenge. A donor agreed to donate $25 for each person who wrote “I Negu” on their hands and posted it to social media with a certain hashtag. The post received 150 likes, which would translate to almost $4,000 if each person who liked the photo participated.
A World-Wide Following
Though his mother’s studio is in San Clemente, California, Tabay has taught all over the world. He frequently holds classes at or near resorts in Hawaii. He’s also taught in France, Australia, New York, Mexico, and the UK.
This photograph shows Tabay leading a massive group of yoga enthusiasts at The Shops at Wailea. He stands before dozens of people as he instructs them all by speaking into a microphone. Not many freshmen in high school can say they’ve done that before.
One of the reasons Tabay has been able to travel the world teaching yoga is because of who he’s partnered with over the years. He was eleven years old when the media first caught wind of his amazing talent and has become a sought-after name ever since.
His appeal is so great that lululemon, one of the most highly-regarded yoga apparel stores, has recruited the adolescent to teach at various store locations. His ability to manage an impressive turnout is a testament to his skill.
Fame and fitness take a backseat to the driving force that’s at the heart of Tabay’s yoga practice: inner peace. He told ABC 7 News that “[Yoga] helps calm you down, and it helps heal you. Most people think it’s a workout but it’s a work-in.”
The term “work-in” is not one you may have heard before, but it effectively describes the inner work that’s at the forefront of Tabay’s mind during his practice. Where many exercises aim to rev you up, yoga can be effective at building strength while soothing the mind.
Further Changing His Lifestyle
With how much yoga has revolutionized Tabay and Sahel’s lives, it’s no surprise that it also influenced their diets. The mother-son duo has chosen to stick to a vegan diet, which is common among the yoga community.
Becoming the youngest professional yoga instructor in America is one thing; being a growing teenage boy and a vegan is another. While Tabay isn’t very verbal about why he became vegan, there are many beneficial aspects of the lifestyle that could have attracted him.
Becoming A Vegan Chef
If there’s one thing that we’ve learned about Tabay, it’s that when he’s passionate about something, he follows it all the way through. This was first exemplified in his incredible journey with yoga and is again showing up in his appreciation of vegan food.
Rather than stopping shy at going vegan, Tabay decided to produce a vegan cooking series. Here he holds a large tray of mushrooms that he plans to utilize in a dish. The young entrepreneur has his own website where fans can subscribe to his yoga and vegan cooking instructional videos for $5.99/month.
Paying Homage To His Culture
Since Tabay’s mother is of Persian descent, he was sure to highlight his vegan, Persian food video on his Instagram account. He wrote in the caption, “I love it more and more each time I make it.” Once again, he’s following in his mother’s footsteps.
True to his adventurous nature, Tabay has also created vegan cooking series that highlight Italian, German, Chinese, and Indian cuisine. Whatever your taste preferences, Tabay has an option for you.
A Kid Of Kashi
The same way that lululemon supported Tabay’s yoga instruction, Kashi has become a part of establishing the young man’s chef aspirations. Kashi by Kids is a collection of cereals co-created by kids. While Tabay isn’t listed on the website’s Kashi Crew yet, he does work with them as a promoter.
Here, Tabay is wearing his homemade Halloween costume: a Kashi by Kids Berry Crumble cereal box. He’s also sporting some of the company’s merchandise– a tote bag and a hat.
Plans For A Bright Future
These days, Tabay and Sahel spent much of their time split between California and Hawaii. In either setting, the tropical aesthetic and inspiring ocean act as muses to their expanding yoga practice.
The setting seems to exemplify their peaceful lifestyle. The two even created a 2020 New Year Intention Meditation that Tabay shared on his Instagram. Leading by example, the mother and son pair aim to inspire others to embark on a healthy lifestyle.
Making The Most Of A Situation
Sahel and Tabay turned the surprising diagnosis of a terminal illness turned into a lifestyle-promoting business. Sahel’s reluctant agreement to try yoga became the root of her and her son’s career. The two are spreading inner peace to everyone from autistic children to recovering patients.
In conjunction with yoga, they also have committed to a vegan diet. Tabay aspires to continue teaching yoga and to one day become a professional vegan chef. We’d bet that his future yoga studio/ eatery will be a hit someday.