She’s blonde, she’s cute and she’s your 80-lb yoga teacher. No, she’s not another yoga cover model, she’s Jaysea DeVoe, a 13-year-old eighth grader and one of the country’s youngest official yoga teachers. She is, in fact, a legit and Yoga Alliance approved yoga teacher, if that still indeed means anything to anyone anymore, with a 200-hour five-month yoga teacher training under belt as well as experience instructing students from 4 to 60-years-old every week at her local Encinitas, CA studio.
We were introduced to the young lady earlier this year when we learned about Jaysea’s special affinity for “the moon and nature” and her parents’ unusual take on education (Jaysea and her brothers attend school only three days a week so they can have time to form their career path, according to rules set by their dad, a manager of surfers and musicians).
DeVoe, just barely a teenager, has already carved out a niche for herself: the inspirational youngster yoga teacher wise beyond her years. A recent profile in the New York Times describes J. DeVoe’s rise to yoga semi-stardom within her community.
She has also become something of a minor celebrity in her local yoga community, appearing at charity events including the Children Mending Hearts benefit in Los Angeles and Uplift Yoga Bash in Orange County.
“Jaysea is going to change the world with her kindness and brilliance,” said Kim Bauman, 39, founder of the One Love Movement, a yoga nonprofit that Ms. DeVoe has volunteered with. “We look up to her for being a leader in the community at age 13.”
Little lady DeVoe calls her vinyasa flow class Sea Vibes Yoga because, “I’ve lived by the ocean my whole life so I’ve really liked just going with the flow and incorporating that into how I teach,” she says.
Described as having “a very focused, calm energy” the phenom is making a positive impact on yogis of all ages. “She tells you to let go and be in this moment,” says 14-year-old Kendall Israel, a ninth grader from Houston spends summers in Southern California.
That’s all lovely and sweet, truly, but behind the inspirational speak and impressive teenage composure, some people are wondering, is a 13-year-old qualified to be teaching yoga to adults?
A few people think no.
One in particular is Glenn Black, well-known and respected NY-based yoga teacher who has been vocal about yoga-related injuries. “I can’t believe that a 12-year-old would have an in-depth understanding to tell if her students actually can move a joint safely or not,” he told the NY Times. “It takes years of experience to gain that kind of insight.”
Yoga “star” Sadie Nardini also steps in, somewhat surprisingly, as the voice of caution: “Adults often have a very different set of needs than a child,” she said. “[DeVoe's] lack of experience in any other body but a child’s uber-flexible body may cause her to become desensitized to the body she is actually teaching.”
It’s one thing to be inspirational and a positive influence on your students through your presence and words, and Ms. DeVoe is clearly doing a bang up job of that, but it’s a legitimate question to ask whether or not a vinyasa flow class should be led by a young lady, who is no doubt lovely, but questionably qualified.
Or perhaps another question might be: How can we support the youth in their yoga exploration and education while keeping all yoga students and teachers safe?
image credit John Francis Peters for The New York Times
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