CHICAGO — As yoga studios pop up all over the country, the certification process for teachers has become more and more stringent. But that didn't stop 10-year-old Meka Leach.
"I just felt really connected to it; I felt it was my purpose," Meka said.
At 10 years old, she's the youngest certified teacher of Bhakti yoga in the U.S.
"She's the youngest... but it's not about the age, but about the maturity of the soul," said Soderworld Yoga instructor Shakti Divi.
Ask her mom, and she'll tell you Meka has always been driven to accomplish things well beyond her years. At first it was fencing, and Meka has been winning national competitions since she was eight years old.
In fact, it was the fencing that brought her to a yoga mat.
"My coach started to say that I should do yoga for flexibility because I was getting really stiff," Meka said.
There she found something bigger than gold medals. Something she calls "centering." So a month later, she announced she wanted to get certified.
"I was like, 'no, are you crazy? You don't have time. You have school. You have fencing,'" her mom Shannon Leach said.
It required 200 hours of training, a commitment that left her friends scratching their heads.
"They don't understand why I'd rather get certified in yoga than play with them," Meka said.
Not only did Meka complete the Bhakti certification, but also found a second love in the calming instruments.
"If you're playing the gong it feels very intense versus the singing bowls, which is very calm," Meka said.
The student is now a teacher to a room full of adults. And some of her friends are signing up for her "Mindfulness with Meka" classes too.
"She's very soulful, and as you can see the sound healing, the gongs and the bowls and the didgeridoo," said student Mike Rodgers.
Meka also went on to win gold in the nationals for fencing this summer, and she credits what she learned from those 200 hours on the mat.
"She was so calm and so centered and so confident," Shannon Leach said. "This is just her calling."
Meka is already making plans to start her 500-hour yoga certification.