Natalie Asatryan was just 5 when she first experienced the power of yoga.
The Foothills-area student attended a yoga class for kids, where the children were seated in the lotus position, asked to close down their eyes and take a deep breath.
Imagine with each breath you’re blowing up a hot air balloon, the teacher told them. Natalie pictured an enormous striped balloon with a heart on it. Relaxation followed, which for her, an irrepressibly bubbly go-getter sort, was no small feat. She was hooked.
“It was much more chill than everything else,” she said, comparing it to the gymnastics, acting and dancing she did for fun. “It was a good way to calm me down.”
As time wore on, her interest grew, and at age 9 Natalie wondered what it would take to become a yoga teacher herself. She and her mom, Stella Balasanian, looked for a program willing to accept a student so young, a process that would take three years.
“They’d tell me, ‘Wait till you’re 18,’” Natalie recalled. “Since yoga is a lot of philosophy, they said it would be harder to grasp as a kid than an adult.”
At age 12, she found a teacher willing to take her on and began the disciplined 200-hour journey toward becoming a certified yoga instructor. Today, at 14, still one of the youngest instructors in the nation, Natalie teaches for children and seniors and donates her time to a number of philanthropic efforts.
On Sunday her love of good causes brings her to La Cañada Flintridge, where she will lead a one-hour yoga session at the Crescenta-Cañada YMCA to raise awareness and funds for the annual charity campaign Red Nose Day.
The event runs from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. with the class taking place from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The cost is $25, with all proceeds benefiting the Red Nose Day campaign.
Started in the U.K. in 1988 as a telethon, the campaign has raised about $1 billion to support programs that help children in need. People now purchase and wear noses in solidarity, giving the campaign its name.
The effort moved to the United States in 2015 and is run by the nonprofit Comic Relief USA, which has raised nearly $150 million for children’s programs. The monthlong campaign began April 22 and culminates with a May 23 primetime telethon on NBC.
Lauren Spitzer, vice president of fundraising and development for Comic Relief/Red Nose Day, has been following Natalie’s campaign with interest.
“What I love best about her story is what a role model she is for kids,” she said. “You’re never too young to make a difference. You can do something you love and do it for a cause you believe in — that’s so core to who we are.”
Although she has her own red nose collection, Natalie joins hundreds of Americans whose support transcends a transaction. Her personal campaign goal this year is $5,000. She thinks helping others awaken to the benefits of yoga, and to a cause making a difference in the world, is the perfect way to give back.
“The best way to lift yourself up is to lift others up,” she said. “I feel like we can do so much, and I really, really want to get other people involved with this.”
Balasanian says guiding her daughter through this personal journey has been humbling.
“We don’t give kids enough credit,” she said. “Kids are so much stronger and more resilient than we give them credit for. Natalie’s teaching me that more and more every day.”
“Kids are really amazing,” Natalie agreed. “We can do so much more than adults think we can.”