11-year-old From San Clemente Becomes Yoga Instructor After Seeing Mom Recover From Cancer

Could Larry Tabay Atkins IV be the youngest yoga instructor in America?

It was the feel-good story heard round the news—San Clemente child becomes certified in yoga after seeing how it helped his mother recover after treatment for cancer. Between juggling interviews, Tabay still teaches several times a week to raise money for kids with cancer.

Photograph by Priscilla Iezzi

The first interviews in January and February were with local news programs. Then came national shows: CNN, “Good Morning America,” and “The Doctors,” where he shook hands with Dr. Travis.   

“It’s really cool that all these people want to interview me. We went to True Food Kitchen (in Newport Beach) and this family walked up and asked, ‘Are you the yoga person on TV?’ I said yes. I signed their napkin.”

He got interested in yoga at age 6 after noticing that his mom, Sahel Anvarinejad, gained strength from the practice after debilitating chemo treatments to fight non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Mother and son were inspired to become instructors, and Tabay has earned a 200-hour Vinyasa training certificate. His classes at Care4Yoga are free; he collects donations to help kids with cancer through the nonprofit SavingSophie.org.

“I like all the news about us because I get to share my goal to help heal as many as I can through yoga. I have students all over the world, and hopefully those people will teach it to other people, and so it will spread.”

Anvarinejad recalls when they went to Paramount Studios for “The Doctors.” “Tabay was very nervous. When they told me and his dad to take our seats, I thought maybe he’d come running into my arms. But he walks out and waves to us—and then just killed it. It was like, ‘Give me the mic, I got this.’ ”

After a few months of attention, Tabay was ranking higher on Google than his father, retired Oakland Raiders linebacker Larry Tabay Atkins III. The proud dad doesn’t mind. “As far as inspiring people, he can do a lot more than I did. What I did, that was temporary. What he’s doing, that can last a lifetime.”

Tabay also does regular kid stuff, of course. “I like to do Legos, and I collect coins. The wheat pennies were made between 1909 and 1958. There’s this coin store in the Mission Viejo mall; they sell old coins.”

And the not-so-great part of fame? Makeup. “On ‘The Doctors,’ I snuck away before they could get to me. I went in the dressing room and stayed there until I was ready to go up on stage so I didn’t have to put makeup on.”

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