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13-Year-Old Yoga Teacher Raises Spirits and Eyebrows

in YD News


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 



15 comments… add one
  • I’m sure this is just a language slip, but let’s be clear: Yoga Alliance does not “certify” anything. Schools on the registry merely have to represent they provide the required number of training hours in each category. A teacher registered with Yoga Alliance has merely completed the number of hours of training (and teaching, for the “E” registry) required for each category. All Yoga Alliance does is vouch that you’ve put in the right number of hours in each category. It is possible to be a registered yoga teacher and not have any ability or skill to teach yoga.

    Certification implies a credential where there is a test or exam involved. Yoga Alliance does not require a teacher training program to provide any exam. Yoga Alliance does not require prospective registrants to take an exam. (Some individual yoga schools DO issue certifications, but Yoga Alliance DOES NOT.)

    • YD

      You’re totally right. Little booboo with the wording. Fixed now…thanks!

  • S.

    Teaching yoga. So easy, a 13 year old can do it.

  • Asananine

    Bet she teaches a great child’s pose.

  • This is a wonderful story. I wonder what my own life would be like if I started my yogic path as a young teen. I salute her parents for supporting their children in such a positive way.

  • vq2

    When I’d weighed 150, would the kid have yanked on my heavy lower body parts in the adjustment-crazy style (I avoid it now like the plague) I’d been taking?

    Hoping the style she teaches is hands-off, for everybody’s sake …

    It’s almost as crazy as the 12 year old Zumba instructor. Back in the day, Jazzercise always vetted their music and rejected songs with suggestive lyrics or disturbing rhythms for what they’d called their “dances”, first-out-of-hand.

    As far as the philosophical and life-experiences aspect of being an 8-limbs oriented yoga teacher (as opposed to an asana leader). In a comfortable American suburb such as Encinitas, could there really be a Dr. Doogie Howser of yoga, with a so-old soul?

    It’s up to the populace concerned to decide.

    • skrab

      Have you been to Encinitas? Or, are you assuming it’s a suburb? It’s really more of an old school beach town. Sure, east of the 5 there are some housing tracts, but that part of San Diego County is really not very suburbam. Also, please note that the Self-Realization Fellowship is in the heart of Encinitas. Paramahansa Yogananda lived there. There are still monks there today. Encinitas has long been a center for yoga and healthy living.

  • sarah

    The same criticisms could be made of any new teacher. I took a 500 hour teacher training course and have been teaching for a year and a half, do I: “have an in-depth understanding to tell if my students actually can move a joint safely or not?” Nope, but I’m learning, same as her. And I’ve had many, many young, lithe, bendy adult yoga instructors who certainly don’t know what it’s like in my body.

    • I agree with Sarah. This could be said of any yoga teacher. There are only a few child teachers but yet people are still getting injured….so……

  • Melissa

    I think to automatically assume she is unqualified because of her age is dangerous and discriminatory, just as bad as the reverse. As a mother myself I have long since learned that it is foolish and egotistical to underestimate children.

  • There is a new breed of children being born on the planet at this time. Those that will help usher in a new era on planet Earth. When we put all “children” in a box we just define our own conditioned thinking. Kids have much to teach us adults. Especially in the area of jealousy.

  • Wondering

    Maybe she n the Smith kids could do a workshop or exotic local retreat together.

  • Dan Irvine

    Hats off and hearts out to this young lady! Wish my path would have started at 13 instead of 53. Experienced yoga teachers and new customer forms often ask about injuries or compromised body parts, I have lots of both, and then the class is conducted as planned without regard for what was said or written. Long experience as a yoga teacher, unless there is further more specific training, is not going to qualify you to say anything other than “don’t go so deep” or “pay attention to alignment” or “ease up if it hurts” or “respect your limits”…and yes a thirteen year old can respond in that fashion. You go girl!

  • Cheers, great stuff, I enjoying.

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