Tao Porchon-Lynch, at 99, is vibrant, bright, and officially the oldest yoga teacher in the world. Her autobiography, Dancing Light, was previously reviewed by Parvati Magazine. She continues to lead by example in all she does. Yoga Editor Ella Isakov spoke to Tao this month about life, yoga, vitality and peace.
Parvati Magazine: You discovered yoga when you were eight years old in India and studied with some of the most notable yoga teachers. What drew you to yoga and how has it influenced you in your life?
Tao Porchon Lynch: Yoga has always been a part of my life. I was brought up believing in the Oneness behind everything. I had many teachers—Sri Aurobindo, Swami Prabhavananda, Dr. Roman Ostoja, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, B.K.S. Iyengar and K. Pattabhi Jois—who added layers of wisdom. Now my life is my meditation.
PMAG: You were recognized in the Guinness World Records as the oldest yoga instructor at the age of 93, and you are now 99 years old. How has the practice of yoga helped you cultivate peace over the course of your life?
TPL: Your breath doesn’t know how old you are. The practices of yoga and meditation help you live each moment and get in touch with the Life Force. When you feel it within yourself, you’ll feel alive and know peace, which is your true nature.
PMAG: You once said, “I am going to teach yoga till I can’t breathe anymore.” You have been teaching yoga full-time since 1967. What is it about sharing yoga that brings you fulfillment?
TPL: I love seeing students realize what is possible. I want them to feel that there is nothing they cannot do. The power is right there inside.
PMAG: Along with influencing others with yoga, you were also an activist for freedom and world peace. You marched with Mahatma Gandhi, helped people escape the Nazis in World War II, partook in demonstrations with Martin Luther King and worked with Deepak Chopra. How has this given back to you? How does helping greater causes contribute to inner well-being and peace? How does it relate to your understanding of yoga?
TPL: If we can breathe together, we can be together. This is the essence of peace. It’s the recognition that we are One. Vedanta teaches, “Truth is One, sages call it by many names.” That’s what I believe. There is so much negativity in the world but we must not let it get us down. We must keep focusing on what is good.
PMAG: You have led an incredibly rich life as a model, actress, yoga teacher, ballroom dancer and activist. What three pieces of advice do you have for others on how to move with the flow of life and do what brings them joy, vitality and fulfilment?
TPL: Tune into yourself and you will find the secret of life. It will open the door to that which is within in.
Look for the good. What you put in your mind materializes. If you put decay in your mind, you will find decay in your body. Focus your mind on positive thoughts and you will experience the beauty of life.
Stay curious and live each moment.
PMAG: Is there a phrase or mantra that guides you?
TPL: Wake up every morning and know that this is the BEST day of your life. There is nothing you cannot do for you’re not the doer, you’re the instrument!
Born in 1918, Tao Porchon-Lynch shows us what a century of mindful, optimistic living looks like. She discovered yoga when she was eight years old in India, and still leads yoga programs across the globe today. Her latest book is “Shining Bright: Quotes and Images to Inspire Optimism, Gratitude & Belief in Your Limitless Potential”.