BURBANK, Calif. - A Burbank teen is on a mission to change the world and be a positive force on and off the yoga mat.
Natalie Asatryan, who just celebrated her 16th birthday, is the youngest female certified yoga instructor in the country. Recently, the young entrepreneur was featured by Forbes.
Her yoga journey began in kindergarten when she was just 5-years-old.
"That was when I first fell in love with yoga, the teacher was so incredible," she recalled. "She gave us stickers and everything and 5-year-old Natalie was sticker motivated only. I was like 'this is it. I will be doing everything for stickers.' That’s how I personally first fell in love with yoga," said Asatryan.
"I tried volleyball, basketball, soccer, cheer -- I tried everything but I always kept going back to yoga. One thing I loved about yoga was that was our time to be able to settle down and to try to quiet our little kid minds," she said. "With everything else, it was team sports and there was always a sense of competition -- and you were always trying to be better than everyone else instead of competing against yourself and bettering yourself."
She added: "Yoga is about you --- and your journey. That's the beauty of yoga."
At age 9, Asatryan decided she wanted to teach yoga. Without hesitation, her mother encouraged her to go for it.
"We were calling yoga studios and my mom would say my daughter wants to be a teacher-- they were are like 'yeah, how old is she?' The age limit was 18...you had to be an adult to become a yoga teacher. We pretty much called every yoga studio in LA in the course of three years," said Asatryan.
For three years, she was constantly told no, but when Natalie was 12, she finally got a yes.
"There was this one teacher— we called her and she was like 'ok I will make you a deal. If I meet her at a Starbucks and we decide she is mature enough to take the class she can, but I have to meet with her first,'" explained Asatryan.
Asatryan proved her maturity.
Now at 16, Natalie says she wants to make a positive difference in the world, beyond the yoga mat. She is involved in a number of charities including the American Red Cross, Red Nose Day and the Unstoppable Foundation.
"I am working with the Unstoppable Foundation to build and fund a school in Kenya. There are 57 million children around the world that don’t get an education and that is so baffling to me. School is such a normal thing that we take for granted," she said.
What Natalie is not taking for granted are the opportunities yoga has given her.
"One thing I live by is that there really is no age limit for changing the world -- what I wanted to do was to help people- and I wanted to help people through yoga and people said that's not impossible and that's not true. I was like that's easy, what we need to do as a society is differentiate between what's impossible and what's hard -- I have noticed we connect those two so often -- we think if it's hard, it's impossible and it's not," she said.
For her Sweet 16, instead of gifts, she asked for people to donate to COAF- Children of Armenia Fund.
Asatryan plans to hold a series of ongoing yoga classes with all the proceeds being donated to COAF. She will teach virtual classes to children in the villages of Armenia, until one day she is able to visit and teach in-person.