Meet Natalie Asatrayn: America’s Youngest Yoga Teacher
“There is no age limit for changing the world.”
Natalie Asatrayn, certified yoga teacher at 12 years old
Meet Natalie Asatrayn, she is currently 15 years old and is the youngest certified yoga teacher in the United States. Dallas Yoga Magazine is honored to have the opportunity to interview Natalie. We found her authenticity to be heartwarming. Natalie is a huge inspiration to all ages and is a sparkle of light shining brightly. She is a fascinating, young lady who is insightful beyond her years. Let’s get to know more about her.
Dallas Yoga Magazine (DYM): Where do you currently live and what grade are you in?
Natalie: I live in Los Angeles and will be a 10th grader this fall.
DYM: Tell us about your beginning adventures with yoga?
Natalie: The first time I tried yoga I had so much fun! I remember doing breath work and being told to use our imagination. We would inhale and exhale envisioning igniting fire and blowing up hot air balloons. We would get stickers if we relaxed with “Spaghetti Legs”. Every Tuesday night was yoga with my mom, and it was more intense, but I found myself always wanting more.
DYM: What other activities have you been involved in?
Natalie: I’ve been very busy with many activities like volleyball, soccer and gymnastics, but I always kept going back to yoga after each one. I still do dance and musical theatre and love it! I take voice lessons and have been in choir since the 2nd grade. I have practiced ballet the longest. It’s contemporary with a flow of movement and jazz with amazing music.
DYM: Were you living close to the fires in Los Angeles?
Natalie: Yes! Up in the hills there were over 80 houses that caught on fire. It was very close to our house and there were 3 major fires while I was in yoga teacher training.
DYM: WOW! That’s scary! Tell us more about your yoga teacher training? How old were you when you were first certified?
Natalie: I was 12 years old and in the 7th grade when I was certified. The training lasted 12 hours each day most of the summer and it was really intense. Since it was going on during the fire, at the end of the day, we would go home and check on our house to make sure it was alright. That’s when I became interested in the Red Cross and knew I wanted to help them. I also saw the firemen working so hard and we wanted to do something for them. So, we took lunch to them at the fire department.
DYM: It is wonderful how you want to give back and help others. You were recognized for your volunteerism with a global award. Tell us about it.
Natalie: Yes! I received the Global Youth Award by Round Table Global for Education Innovation. It was recognition for my philanthropic leadership.
DYM: Congratulations! That is wonderful. How did you balance your teaching training with school?
Natalie: I did the teacher training during the summer and it took several weeks. I always work on balancing my schedule, but school is very accepting when I have to teach or do community service. It’s good to be busy and my mom helps keep me organized and encourages me.
DYM: You look very petite….how tall are you? How do kids your age react to you being a yoga teacher?
Natalie: I’m only 5 feet tall! I have very accepting friends who support me. I spoke at an upper classman’s assembly and they said they were inspired. They could relate to what I was saying. I believe you can change the world no matter what age you are. I believe students relate more and it hits them differently when it’s someone their own age sharing.
DYM: When kids ask you about yoga what do you tell them?
Natalie: They think yoga is what they see on TV. Often, they see it as only asanas and they don’t understand the philosophy and the whole practice. I explain the importance of pranayamas (breath work), and yoga means to unite the mind, body and spirit. Then you learn how to take what you have learned on your mat into your daily life.
DYM: Have you taught yoga classes at your school?
Natalie: Yes! I was asked to teach a yoga class the week of finals to get students calm and centered before their tests. I gave them breathing exercises to do before their test and the teachers also encouraged them to use the techniques.
Before dance class, I lead the other dancers with yoga. The coach of the football team also asked me to teach yoga to the players to help them with their flexibility, balance, and agility. The players have a lot of injuries and need to know more about stretching. They took it seriously and one even commented, “She’s stronger than any of us!”
DYM: How do adults react when they find out you are a yoga teacher or their instructor?
Natalie: I like to surprise adults. (Smiling) They think it’s really cool and I’ve never had any negative reactions. Teenagers can do anything!
DYM: What have you learned as a teacher over the last couple of years?
Natalie: Breath work is so important. Learning to breath properly can change someone’s yoga practice for the better.
DYM: What style of yoga do you practice?
Natalie: I teach Hatha yoga. There is a required age for Hot Yoga and I’m not old enough. (Laughing)
DYM: Share with us someone who has influenced your path?
Natalie: My MOM! She is a Life Coach and she tells me all the time to keep a positive mindset and you attract what you put out. She says to find a way to get out of being sad by accepting things and moving past them. Mom always encourages me to have a strong work ethic.
DYM: Tell us about some of the charities you support.
Natalie: I was inspired to help a school in Kenya. The foundation is called the Unstoppable Foundation and it funds the school with supplies and needed things. 100% of what I earn from yoga teaching goes to the school. The girls in Africa often don’t get an education and I want to help them go to school and find their passion. Sometimes the kids can’t go to school because they have to get water for their family since it’s in such short supply. I think about this when I hear students at my school complaining about something. I remember to be grateful for what I have like my family, teachers, friends, and education.
I also help other charities such as the Red Cross with special classes to raise money. I had fun teaching a class on “Red Nose Day” for donations to end child poverty…we all wore “Red Noses”!
DYM: What qualities do you think are important for a successful yoga teacher?
Natalie: Patience in training and patience with the class. Remember to be “zen” and bring yourself back to center. Also, controlling breath and understanding where others are in their practice. A loving person is able to connect with people and the outside world.
DYM: What do you find most challenging when teaching yoga?
Natalie: I speak quickly, and I have to slow my talking down while being energetic. Also, slowing down the postures is sometimes a challenge.
DYM: How important is meditation to your practice?
Natalie: It’s very, very important…crazy important! Breathing is such a huge deal…it doesn’t have to be long, 15 minutes between finals or in the car for a few minutes. Breathing expands your lung capacity and by taking 4 breaths in 30 or 40 seconds is calming and energizing.
DYM: What is your favorite subject at school?
Natalie: Theatre, dance, and Honors English class…I love reading and creative writing too. Biology is also a great class and very fun! I really like all my classes including math, geometry and doing trig.
DYM: Do you have any pets?
Natalie: I’m an animal lover! I have a dog named Milo who is a silky terrier. He’s small and is about 4 to 5 years old. He sleeps with me and only likes me. He’s not really a social dog and I love him! When I was younger, I had fish. I didn’t know it but when the fish died, they kept being replaced so I thought it was the same fish! (laughing) I also had a pet frog.
DYM: Are you a healthy eater all the time or do you splurge on foods like cookies, ice cream or potato chips?
Natalie: I am a relatively healthy eater most of the time. I do not eat red meat or fish, but I do eat chicken sometimes. I am dairy free and don’t eat pasta. My favorite food is salad.
DYM: What advice do you have for a beginner yogi?
Natalie: When you start practicing yoga your body is not flexible and everyone’s bodies are very different such as our bone structures and muscles. It doesn’t matter what the person next to you is doing. Focus on yourself and don’t worry about being self-conscious or embarrassed. It’s your own journey and it takes place in the mind. The mat is just the physical version of what’s going on in your mind.
DYM: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Natalie: I have a video series with a different topic each month, so I hope everyone will check it out! It’s so important to build empathy and compassion and to take care of not only ourselves but also others. In order to be the leaders of tomorrow, we need to be compassionate.
DYM: It’s been such an honor and pleasure meeting with you. Keep being an inspiration and light in our world.
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