At 98, Tao Porchon-Lynch had her third hip replacement. After the doctor fixed her hip, he said she would no longer be able to do the Padmasana, the signature lotus pose in yoga. In a few months, she sent him her lotus position picture. The doctor put it up on the hospital bulletin board with a tag — “The miracle woman”.
This year Porchon-Lynch entered her 11th decade, and by all evidence she is going strong. New York-based Porchon-Lynch is the world’s oldest yoga teacher and living testimony to the celebration of life. Her determination and sheer to will to live life to the fullest has rendered her age into a meaningless number. With her yogic discipline, she can afford to waltz through her life, literally, when a lot of people of her age find mobility to be a big issue.
At 87, she took up competitive ballroom dancing and went to win hundreds of titles. She even performed on America’s Got Talent with a male dancer 70 years younger in 2015, dancing to Pitbull’s ‘Fireball’. The YouTube video of her performance has more than one million views.
“The boys don’t mind dancing with me. They twirl me around their necks, lift me up. At a recent West Side Swing in America, they lifted me, and I soared so high, I crashed into the ceiling. There was a bit of damage. They’ve promised to leave it as it is in memory of what I’m capable of,” she said in an interview in 2012.
Porchon-Lynch was born to a French father and an Indian mother on a ship in English Channel. After her mother’s death when she was just seven months old, she was brought up by her uncle and aunt on a French settlement in India. That’s where she got started learning yoga when she was barely eight years old. She trained with legendary yoga gurus Sri Aurobindo, B.K.S. Iyenger, K. Pattabhi Jois and Indra Devi.
However, before Porchon-Lynch turned into a yoga teacher, she spent decades in Europe and the US as a model and actress. She worked under a contract to MGM in the 1940’s and 50’s, wrote screenplays and made documentaries in the 60’s and 70’s. She started teaching yoga in Hollywood and later set up her own institute in Westchester, New York, where she still teaches several classes every week besides travelling round the world to teach and popularise yoga.
Porchon-Lynch has seen what is history to many of us. She marched with Mahatma Gandhi as well as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. She worked with the French Resistance during World War II, helping Jews escape to safety. She performed nightly during the Nazi bombing Blitz in London. Porchon-Lynch loves her heels and doesn’t like being seen without them. Ten years ago she set off on a trek to Machu Picchu, wearing three-and-a-half-inch heels.
Porchon-Lynch is a wine enthusiast too. In 1967, she helped form the American Wine Society (AWS) and was selected in 1970 to be the vice-president of the Southern New York unit. She has been on the judging panels in wine competitions and also published the wine appreciation magazine, ‘The Beverage Communicator’.
Porchon-Lynch’s favourite yoga pose is the shoulder stand, the Sarvangasana. According to her, it is the queen of asanas and has many physical benefits. “All day long the blood is going down to our feet. It is good to reverse it and allow the energy to flow. I also like to do shoulder stand when my thoughts get noisy. It clears my mind,” she said in an interview. Another pose she likes is the peacock, or the Mayurasana. She loves the peacock because it moves into the extremities of the body and touches the creative energy power within us. She says when correctly performed, the beauty of the outer posture reveals itself, the inner power glowing from within us.
Tao’s Instagram channel — taoporchonlynch100 — is an unfolding inspiration, showing her laughing, dancing, striking pretty poses and, of course, doing yoga.
“I don’t feel any different now that I’ve turned 100. I’m not even scared. And I’ll never stop practicing yoga—it’s the dance of life! The breath is the breath eternal, which makes all things possible,” she said in an interview after she turned hundred in August this year.
Porchon-Lynch has written an inspiring autobiography with Janie Sykes Kennedy and Teresa Kay-Aba Kennedy, Dancing Light: The Spiritual Side of Being Through the Eyes of a Modern Yoga Master. Read it through if you too want to say ‘no’ to growing old.