You don’t know what you can do until you do it.”
Those words from her hot-yoga instructor inspired 48-year-old Juliet Morgan, an ultra-runner, to strike a yoga pose she’d dreaded – the bridge.
Morgan’s instructor, Skyler Dearen, is 15 – a Newport Beach resident and freshman at Corona del Mar High School. Yet, those who know her and learn from her describe the teen as an “old soul,” mature beyond her years, a motivational speaker who inspires them to get out of their minds and into their bodies.
“Most kids her age are probably in Fashion Island or on the beach,” said Morgan, of Newport Beach, who has been taking Dearen’s class for the past 10 months. “But this kid has changed my life.”
Dearen teaches yoga to adults a few times a week at Radiant Hot Yoga, a Newport Beach studio that her mother, Darlene Dearen, started two years ago. She also teaches her peers at Corona del Mar High two or three times a week, and runs a regular yoga class on campus.
A spokeswoman for the Yoga Alliance said Skyler Dearen is likely the youngest instructor the association has certified. The national organization has set 13 as its minimum certification age, she said.
Skyler Dearen started practicing yoga when she was 8 with her mother and younger sister, Savanna. They had just moved to Arizona from Las Vegas. Darlene Dearen said she and her daughters had just left her now-deceased husband.
Darlene Dearen showed a restraining order, which alleged physical abuse that the mother said all three had endured for three years. She got a divorce and sole custody of her daughters and moved away, Darlene said.
“When we moved to Arizona, we were living in fear,” she said. “My goal was to protect my daughters from danger and give them a normal life, where they could be children and be happy again.”
The girls, two years apart, were far from being in a happy place.
They had no fingernails; they were tearing their hair out,” their mom said.
They would wake up screaming at night. We would all worry someone was at the door or outside, threatening us physically. It was a very difficult few years for us, as we moved through shelters and friends’ homes, living in fear.”
It was at such a time that one of Darlene Dearen’s friends suggested yoga. At first, only Darlene Dearen took the classes. When she realized it was helping her get to a place of peace, she started involving Skyler and Savanna. They’d get on mats and do the cat and cow poses as they mooed and meowed – just being silly.
It became our way of bonding and healing,” Darlene Dearen said. “It went beyond that. It saved our lives.”
Darlene Dearen was told by therapists to put her daughters on antidepressants. But as it turned out, yoga was better than medication.
Skyler Dearen said she is not quite sure how she fell in love with yoga.
But I remember getting this clear state of mind and just being present, in the moment, and loving it,” she said. “It taught me not to dwell in the past or on people or memories.”
She said she has gone beyond shutting out her past and has forgiven her father. The family got news of his death by homicide last year.
Skyler Dearen says she sees yoga as a way to unite with everyone around her without judgment.
It taught me to love myself,” she said.
Skyler Dearen especially loves hot yoga, which is typically done in 105-degree heat and at least 50 percent humidity.
You sweat; no one can tell if you’re crying,” she said. “You leave all that negativity on the mat. It’s truly life-changing. You feel lighter, brighter and cleansed.”
Erica Schwartz, 42, of Huntington Beach, takes Skyler’s hot-yoga class twice a week.
She’s very motivating,” Schwartz said. “Her energy is amazing for a 15-year-old.”
Schwartz, who has taught aerobics classes to adults since she was 16, knows what it takes for a teenager to teach people two or three times her age.
Skyler is confident, poised and just passionate about yoga,” she said. “She speaks from her heart. You can tell that this is going to be a huge part of her life.”