|Tao Porchon-Lynch as photographed by Robert Sturman
On Sunday, May 13, 2012 a woman by the name of Tao Porchon-Lynch was inducted into the Guinness Book of World Records as the Oldest Living Yoga Instructor. Tao is currently 93 years old and will turn 94 in August. She was born in 1918 in a French territory in India called Pondicherry. Her mother died in childbirth and her heartbroken father immigrated to Canada and left her with his brother and sister-in-law. Her uncle and aunt raised her and his work in helping to create railroad systems throughout Africa and Asia offered her early cultural experiences with meeting Masai tribesmen, Singapore merchants and even Mahatma Gandhi, who became a great friend of her uncles.
At age 8 Tao wanted to learn yoga. At that time in India girls did not study yoga and when she was told it was unladylike, her response was that if boys could do it she could too, and so she did. Writer Dr. Terry Kennedy shares this about Tao in an article entitled 7 Steps to Crafting An Amazing Life “She went on to study with Indra Devi, and became one of the first women to study under yoga masters B.K.S. Iyengar and Pattabhi Jois. She gave informal classes to friends and associates for free throughout the 1950s and early 60s. Her first paying job teaching yoga was in 1968 when fitness pioneer Jack LaLanne hired her to teach in his Hollywood studio. In 1982, Tao founded the Westchester Institute of Yoga, and has since trained and certified hundreds of yoga instructors. She has also made over 20 pilgrimages to India with her students because she believes that such visits offer enlightenment about the true spirit of yoga.”
Her life journey included marching with Gandhi, working in the French Resistance under Charles de Gaulle and even marching with Martin Luther King Jr. She also did some modeling and acting in Europe and eventually moved to the United States where she also worked as a contracted actress with MGM in Hollywood during the 1940’s and 1950’s.
In 1995, she was one of the invited teachers to participate in Yoga for Peace in Israel. In 2011, she shared the stage with His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama at the Newark Peace Education Summit.
In 2002 she took up ballroom dancing and has won more than 300 first-place trophies in national and international Fred Astaire competitions.
What does Tao share about living such a healthy and vibrant life into her 90’s? According to Porchon-Lynch, the first step to harnessing one’s optimal energy is learning to breathe properly. “I show my students that breathing deeply is not just a physical act but a tuning into the power behind all things which can renew and recycle our bodies. She also shares in various interviews that she does not procrastinate and that if there is something she wants to do she does it. She stays positive and begins and ends each day with positive thoughts. She recommends that we all rid ourselves of fear. She has been a vegetarian all her life, eats a very simple diet and credits her years of yoga practice at keeping her strong and healthy.
Writer Dr. Terry Kennedy shares what she has learned personally from Tao and breaks it down into these 7 Steps:
1) Play Your Cards Right ~ Tao is a living example of how to tap into our human potential. We each have the ability to craft an amazing life. As Tao says, “Smile. Don’t look down. Don’t look backwards. Don’t procrastinate. Do it today!”
2) Follow Your Heart ~ Follow your dreams as did Tao in learning yoga even if it was unladylike when she was 8 years old.
3) Find Someone Who Inspires You ~ The insuppressible spirit of Gandhi is felt in Tao’s own work. One of Tao’s favorite sayings is: “It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness of ignorance. If you light just one, you’re already on an enlightened path.”
4) Take Care of Your Body ~ Tao believes we all can overcome the effects of aging and control our bodies and minds through yoga and diet.
5) Stay Positive ~ Tao is very adamant about controlling her mental atmosphere. It is one of her secrets to staying young. She believes that whatever you put in your mind starts to decay in the body. She says, “Don’t let fear enter your mind. When someone starts to talk negative, I switch it right around.”
6) Be the Change ~ Tao cares deeply for others and the world. Instead of sitting on the sidelines, she gets involved.
7) Do it today! ~ Tao believes that time is a jewel for us to use and not waste.
Does reading about Tao inspire you?
Is there anything you might do differently in your own life? Something you might adopt from what she shares about living a vibrant and healthy life?
Here is a wonderful video of Tao speaking about living a vibrant life: